A prototype version of the 2016 Jaguar F-Pace will act as an official support vehicle for Team Sky in this year’s Tour de France cycle race.
The car is still camouflaged, but it gives the clearest indication yet of the look of the upcoming SUV.
This prototype will only act as the support vehicle for the first stage of the Tour, the so-called Grand Depart. This stage is short by the Tour’s standards, as it is a 13.7km time trial. It starts in Utrecht in the Netherlands on 4 July.
The F-Pace will not be following the team through the rest of the Tour, around France and into the mountains. It will, however, carry four team members and equipment to support the likes of British rider Chris Froome of Team Sky.
The F-Pace is due to go on sale in early 2016, following its debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September. The car's first appearance was confirmed in April by the firm's brand director, Steven de Ploey.
Other recent spy shots have caught what appears to be a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 version of the F-Pace out on the roads. Although the prototype is still heavily disguised, several elements mark it out clearly as a performance version of Jaguar's new SUV. It features red brake calipers, two large tailpipes and chunky alloy wheels.
The supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine is set to be the most powerful version of the F-Pace when it goes on sale, although there is a chance that the supercharged 5.0-litre petrol V8 that's used in many of Jaguar's high-performance models will also make it into the F-Pace.
The staple engines in the F-Pace are expected to be the new four-cylinder Ingenium petrol and diesel units that will make their debut in the Jaguar XE saloon and Land Rover Discovery Sport from this summer.
The spy images confirm that, as expected, Jaguar's first production SUV – which the manufacturer is referring to as a 'sports crossover' – will share its overall design and shape with the C-X17 concept car unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show in 2013.
The size and dimensions are said to be near identical to the C-X17, which is 4.72m long – 400mm longer than a Range Rover Evoque – and 1.65m tall.
The F-Pace has a more upright stance than Jaguar's typically rakish car designs, although the plunging roof at the rear means it retains a sleek profile. The bluff front end treatment suggests the SUV will follow the C-X17's lead in that the driver will look over the bonnet, rather than down it.
The concept had what Jaguar called “an assured driving position” set at “a low height”, similar to that of an Evoque, and this is likely to be a staple part of the F-Pace driving experience.
The C-X17 concept also featured a muscular ridged bonnet. This hallmark of other Jaguar models appears to have been retained under the camouflage of the F-Pace prototype.
The spy pictures also offer a glimpse at the cabin and dashboard of the Jaguar F-Pace. Aside from the data-collecting apparatus, it bears little resemblance to any current JLR production model, suggesting the Jaguar F-Pace will reach production with a fresh interior look.
The launch of the new F-Pace marks the first time the 80-year-old manufacturer has entered the SUV market. The F-Pace name is understood to have been chosen to emphasise both its relationship in style and character with the F-Type sports car and to recall Jaguar’s famous 'Grace, Pace, Space' slogan of the 1950s and 1960s.
The new car is expected to become one of Jaguar’s two best-selling models, performing strongly in major markets such as China and the US and rivalling the volume of the upcoming XE compact saloon.
Once established in the market, the two debutantes should push total Jaguar volume beyond 200,000 units a year, up from last year’s figure of about 80,000.
JLR’s global operations director, Andy Goss, says the emergence of the F-Pace is a direct result of the company’s plan to spend more than £3.5 billion a year on product development over the next few years.
The F-Pace’s styling was created in-house by design boss Ian Callum and his team at the beginning of 2013. It is a relatively long car for its compact billing, nearly 40cm longer than a Range Rover Evoque and about the same height.
These generous dimensions allow the car its curvaceous exterior (“If you want form,” says Callum, “you need space”), which includes muscular haunches, classic Jaguar bonnet lines and strongly raked front and rear windscreens.
Callum admits it took time to shape a convincing SUV in the image of the F-type. “This was our first crossover design,” he says, “and, yes, it was hard. We found the initial results quite difficult and disappointing. The profile, the 200-metre view, was the hardest bit, and that’s what sells cars. But I reckon we cracked it in the end.”
The F-Pace will be built in Jaguar’s new Solihull plant.
“We’ve been talking about a product onslaught for a quite while,” says Goss, “and now it’s beginning.”
Although the F-Pace will be Jaguar's first SUV model, it might not be the only SUV for long. Jaguar is understood to be eyeing up a whole family of SUVs to follow on from the F-Pace, with one of the most promising ideas being a smaller model to rival BMW's X1.
Jaguar has also produced a short film for the launch of the F-Pace.
Q&A with Andy Goss, Jaguar Land Rover global operations director
F-Pace is an unusual name. Why did you choose it?
"There was plenty of discussion about it. We wanted to emphasise the car’s relationship with F-type, which we view as our emotional fulcrum. And 'pace' implies performance, which the car certainly has. Besides that, it’s a word we own; we started using it in the famous 'Grace, Pace, Space' slogan many years ago."
How important is the F-Pace to your range?
"It could be the biggest seller we’re going to have, similar in size to the XE. The sector volume has tripled in five years, and all predictions say it’ll expand by another 30 per cent in the next five. These cars sell well in all the big markets: China, the US and Europe. It’s really important for us."
Are you worried about a clash with Land Rover?
"Not at all. The F-Pace’s exterior design and its obvious reference to the F-type is one huge point of differentiation. And whereas Land Rovers are focused on off-road performance, this car is very definitely aimed at highway use. Frankly, the real surprise is that we haven’t done it before."
Even without the F-Pace or XE, you’ve had a good year at JLR, right?
"Yes. Total sales were up nine per cent to 462,678 units and Jaguar had its best year for a decade. We have 12 new product actions planned this year and anticipate retailing 500,000 cars for the first time in the company’s history."
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