2017 Jaguar F-Pace: Design Chief On Why SUV Fits Right In With F-Type

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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

Enlarge Photo

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.

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