The 2017 Jaguar F-Pace fits right into the middle of one very important luxury-crossover battleground that now includes just-right mid-sizers like the Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3, Cadillac XT5. and even the Lexus RX 350.

Yet what makes this luxury vehicle quite different is that it neither starts as an existing car that’s been made more rugged nor a rugged vehicle that’s been given more carlike attributes.

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In short, the F-Pace is what it is, and it was created as a vehicle that feels like a sports car inside, yet has some of that additional capability on the outside.

The brand has gone so far as to market this model as “the ultimate practical Jaguar sports car.”

Earlier this fall, at the Frankfurt Auto Show, we caught up with Jaguar Cars Design Director Ian Callum about what makes this model from the British luxury maker different than the rest of the rivals from Germany, Japan, and the U.S.

Callum, who can be credited with the more modern look of Jaguar that the brand has developed over the past decade, with models like the XF and XJ sedans, and then the F-Type sports car, appreciates simplicity and elegance. It speaks volumes that, unlike many designers, Callum doesn’t dream of the day when instrument panels have been retired for touch screens; he’s a big proponent of simple functionality, in physical buttons and tactile switchgear.

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From our walkaround and chat, here are some Q&A insights from Callum on why the F-Pace looks the way it does, and how this model fits right in as a Jaguar.

You’ve said in the past that an SUV wouldn’t be a good fit for Jag. What makes it different now?

The first time I was asked was 16 years ago. My answer was no, we have other things to do that were more important to me. We have to build a sedan range, we have to fix the family, we have to build a sports car range. We had lots of things to do... so it wasn’t a priority. And then as the years went by and we fixed the priorities, we got that right and the world was telling us on no uncertain terms this is what they wanted—especially in the U.S. and China, where in the next two years this segment is expected to grow another 40 percent.

So not to be in this sector would be a little naive, for the sake of purity. But once we got the notion that we had to do this, we did it in a manner that suited us—as opposed to something that felt like just another truck, rather something that feels like a Jaguar—that has a sveltness, a romanticism, and an elegance to it.

2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe

2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe

Dealing with these proportions, that’s not an easy thing to do. It runs against you all the time. I’m happy when I see this car on the road, I know it’s not an F-Type, but it feels very much in the family. And that was deliberate; you see F-Type cues all over it.

The F-Pace uses a completely new platform. Why this packaging and this size?

The nice thing is that it was a blank sheet of paper. We didn’t have a given platform or floorpan to work on. We didn’t have a wheelbase or track to work on. We sat down with the first principles, and amongst us, the engineering team and myself, we worked out what we wanted out of this car dimensionally, and how the wheels would sit. And how the car would generally look. We’ve never had that before.

It was a great opportunity to do exactly what we needed to do. Our mission was to create something that was clearly packaged a certain size—the dimensions of the car were something we all agreed upon—and my mission was to create the most elegant SUV I possibly could, given those dimensions. As I said to the design team, we’re not going to negotiate those dimensions—we often do on sedans, and especially sports cars, because our mission is to get everything right. But we had to meet particular dimensions, that’s what these cars are like.

The F-Pace is less rugged-looking than most utility vehicles. Is this to help differentiate it from Land Rover?

It wasn’t the intent. The intent was to make it look like a Jag. And if the consequence of that is that it doesn’t look so rugged, then so be it. But I think it looks quite tough.

The primary attribute of this car is really on the road use. I’m sure it’s very capable off-road—in fact I know it is. But it’s not the way we want to pitch this; we want to pitch the car as most sport utility vehicles are driven, in urban situations.

Primarily it has to be elegant. It has to have a sense of beauty about it. The proportions are challenging, because beauty’s usually about lowness and sleekness, but we’ve transferred that to something that’s a bit more utilitarian, a bit more practical. And packaging this car... you can’t deny it, it’s something that has to be done. It’s not like packaging a two-seater sports car.

The sheetmetal is remarkably smooth and uninterrupted. Are the aggressive sculpting and creasing on some models' side sheetmetal things that you find unattractive, or just not Jaguar?

It’s not Jaguar; I think it’s unattractive, and it’s confusing. What I try to do is create lines and forms that people can understand easily.

Some cars I look at and think there are so many lines in them you don’t know where the emphasis is anymore. If you can confuse them with other ones, you just dillute the strength...of the design, the car, the marque. Every new line has to complement the other one rather than destroy it.

I look at a lot of cars and think that there are lots of lines here, I don’t know what is the focal point. And I do believe here I have a focal point; it’s in the creases and the haunches and the surfacing. You know a lot of young guys in the business add a lot of lines to the cars. It’s my job to say, “That one’s good; take the other ones off.” Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, maybe they think the same as well.

2017 Jaguar F-Pace

2017 Jaguar F-Pace

Were floating rooflines, added trim, or vertical air extracts considered?

A Jaguar’s about the whole shape. You introduce a floating roof and it becomes something different. We had a bit of a floating roofline—cantilevered roofline, we called it—on the XJ. But there’s no way I’d consider blacked out pillars in the front or anything like that; that’s very much Land Rover’s.

That movement between the wheel and body is very important. The relationship to the body is very important, in terms of width to the outside of the car. We also make sure that the overall diameter of the tire is kept as close as possible between wheels. Of course the advantage is that when we get to 22s it looks phenomenal. But if you want 20s with more rubber it looks just as good, in proportions.

We just decided with this range of cars we’d have a horizontal vent. Possibly because there’s this much room between the wheel arch and the door. And here the reason for horizontal, actually, was that we wanted to bring forth this line on the door—like F-type—it needs a starting point, it needs a reason to be. We’ve also gone to horizontal air extracts in the XE and XF. Primarily they’re there for beauty reasons, but they do actually function as well; it helps compensate for the corner not being square.

Did you develop the sound of the car as you developed its form and driving character, as was the case for the F-Type?

We did...we did on an everyday basis. The F-Type is the first investigation of this; you see an F-Type, you think you’d better get a great sound out of this—and you do. The chief program engineer for F-Pace...their want was that the sound of the car was interesting enough.

Though the first prototypes of this car were a lot louder. And we realized for people sitting in the back of the car it might be a little too much. So we have actually toned it down.

2017 Jaguar F-Pace

2017 Jaguar F-Pace

Tell us what you’ve done with the interior and materials to make the F-Pace feel more like a Jaguar than just another SUV.

One thing we did do was to keep the center console at a pretty high level. Although it’s a command position—you’re sitting higher than you are in a car—I still wanted people to feel like they were sitting inside a car rather than an SUV. The center console’s rather high, so you feel cosseted by it. I feel that’s important—it’s a subtle thing—but you do still feel like you’re in a car, although the visual lines are better than they are in a standard car.

The wood alternative is available for customers who want it, but I’m quite keen especially in the XF that we have a metal-finish dashboard. I just think it looks more technically correct. It makes that technical sophistication a lot easier to express. It modernizes. The main thing for me is that we’re capturing some of that sportiness. The F-Type doesn’t have any wood in it, and neither did the E-type. But we do offer wood—you can have it; it wouldn’t be my choice.


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