I APPEAR to be becoming Jeremy Clarkson’s stand-in for this publication. Frankly, there are worse jobs so I’m not complaining. I could be the person responsible for explaining, in short words, to Katie Hopkins what news stories are about. Or, I could be employed regularly to clean and feed the poor animal that sits on Donald Trump’s head.
I could even, should things get really bad, be a 48-year-old man who makes his living by dressing up as a squirrel and harassing innocent members of the public. Hang on a minute, I am. Even appearing on Trigger Happy TV, fun as it is, is no match for testing cars. Clarkson really does have the best job (pause) in the world.
And it’s particularly good when you can test new cars such as the one pictured here. I suppose it was only a matter of time before Jaguar decided to launch itself into the lucrative SUV market. Now, for those of you who don’t know (it’s this sort of knowledge that’s made me Clarkson’s understudy), this means sport-utility vehicle.
The problem with most SUVs is that while they may have some utility and are usually vehicles, they are hardly ever sporty. The Jaguar F-Pace (especially the 3-litre V6 S version I had) changes all that. This thing is amazing to drive and handles like a sports car that just happens to have enough space for the annoying other parts of your life that have stopped you from driving an actual sports car.
A good test of any new vehicle is the reaction in the car park at school pick-up. I was collecting my boy after a cricket match and his coaches started salivating over my ride. One asked to be allowed to have a look inside and rubbed his hand lovingly over the detailed leather stitching in an almost fetishistic manner. I actually found the interior a bit underwhelming. It’s beautiful but it looks like any other Jag; there’s nothing extra special to shout about but maybe I’m getting a little spoilt.
The kids were big fans. They raved about the room in the back and started asking whether this would be replacing our “smelly Land Rover”. I pointed out that the reason said Land Rover was so smelly was because of the multifarious rotting items of food and clothing they had secreted in unreachable cavities of the vehicle. There was silence from the back — headphones had been put on and the wi-fi accessed.
We drove on, up and out of Cheltenham, and I concentrated on enjoying the ride. I got several admiring glances from passing dad drivers and several death stares from ramblers. This should not reflect badly on the F-Pace, however. Ramblers give all motorised vehicles death stares and it’s why they are never employed as car reviewers.
“Even as a passenger I was starting to think that this might be my favourite car of recent times”
Once the children were dropped at home I took the F-Pace out on an expedition. I headed towards Clarkson country — “the Flatlands”, as I call it. I drove through a couple of fords, idled in some light town traffic in Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, and bumped up and over one of my favourite semi-off-road tracks.
The F-Pace didn’t falter once. I started to realise I was falling a little bit in love with the thing, which was annoying because despite being senior executive Clarkson substitute (or Secs), I am not gifted endless free vehicles by the company. I am consulting with employment lawyers as to how to change this ridiculous situation — but I digress.
Back in the F-Pace I now had a remarkably good cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark by Tom Odell playing on the Meridian audio system. The sound was good, the drive was good — life was good. So good, that I decided to pop in and see some friends who lived nearby.
Four hours later we had consumed several bottles of rather splendid red wine and I was in no state to continue my review of the F-Pace. Sheepishly, I had to ring my wife and ask her whether it might be possible for her to come and drive me home. I sweetened the pill by offering her the temporary position of junior assistant Clarkson substitute for The Sunday Times. She appeared less excited by the prospect than I had anticipated but eventually agreed. On the way home there was not much chitchat between my junior assistant and me.
I think my wife was tired and possibly nervous as to the responsibilities of her new position. Despite this I could see that she was enjoying the drive if not the company. She has a BMW M 135i with all the bells and whistles but insists on pootling around in Economy mode.
She did nothing of the kind with the F-Pace. Perhaps it was because she wanted to get home as soon as possible. Maybe it was because Jaguar was paying for the diesel. Who knows? She whacked the vehicle into Dynamic mode and veritably Colin McRae’d her way home. Even as a passenger I was starting to think that this might be my favourite car of recent times. I wondered what my alternatives might be. The Audi Q7? Not for me. I mistrust anybody in one of those. There is no rational reason for this view but it’s one I stand by.
The Porsche Macan S could probably hold its own against the F-Pace S, and it’s a tad cheaper, but it’s a Porsche and this is a Jag. Do I need to say more? Go on. Treat yourself. It’s nearly Christmas.
Jeremy Clarkson is away