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Jaguar Design Director Ian Callum explains how our new performance SUV still looks and feels quintessentially Jaguar – and why Sir William Lyons would love it.

Model shown: F-PACE S AWD

F-PACE feels like a true Jaguar. Where do you start when designing a new car in a new segment for Jaguar?

It was quite challenging, because we’d never done an SUV before. We started creating a car around the dimensions we knew we had to apply to the car, but I didn’t feel we were building the right momentum towards the “Jaguarness” of it… so I thought, ‘begin with the essence of F-TYPE’. Let’s start off there and see how it feels. I told our design team I wanted this to be a Jaguar with the dimensions of an SUV, not the other way around. It’s a subtle thing – but psychologically it kicked into play all the visual attributes and the visual cues you have in something like the F-TYPE.

How much did the F-TYPE influence the design of the F-PACE?

I think in a car like the F-PACE that is so fundamentally determined by dimensions, you have to find another extremity to offset that. So the F-TYPE became an inspiration, rather than the XF or the XE. And the F-PACE picked up the F-TYPE’s style pointers, but with the dimensions we had to meet for a practical, performance SUV.

How did you manage to ensure F-PACE is so true to the Jaguar design DNA?

It was a challenge, but a great opportunity for us. The idea of something tall and functional is not in our natural way of thinking, and so we had to adopt those givens, wrapped up in a way that was still unmistakeably Jaguar.

What we did with this was take the essence of Jaguar’s design DNA and apply them relative to other SUVs. For instance, the F-PACE still has a greater exaggeration of its silhouette in comparison to other cars in its class. It’s not as low as Jaguars traditionally are, but it’s still sportier than other SUVs. So the core design principles are still there.

How did the modular structure of the lightweight aluminium architecture aid the design process?

One great thing with this car was that we had the opportunity to influence the overall stance and proportions of the car in a way we felt was right for Jaguar. In other words: the positioning of the front wheel relative to the bonnet, relative to the cabin, relevant to the front overhang. Getting this right just adds so much more excitement to the vehicle. Normally when we get a profile to work with, it’s predetermined, either because it’s come from something else, or it’s been set up by other parameters. But in this case it’s entirely new.

You’ve previously said “my point of judgment is always ‘what would Sir William Lyons think of this?’” – what would he think of F-PACE?

I think he would have thought: ‘it’s about bloody time!’ We change our minds in life; five years ago I’d have said ‘no way’ about designing a Jaguar SUV. Why should we do a Jaguar SUV when we have Land Rover? But reality sets in and the world changes. There’s a generation growing up who hardly know anything other than SUVs, especially in some parts of the world. And not to be part of that is foolish, just for the sake of protecting what you think are the brand values.

Does F-PACE uphold Jaguar’s values, then?

Absolutely. It looks like a Jaguar, it drives like a Jaguar, so therefore it is one. I think Sir William would be a huge fan – he’d admire the fact it looks and feels like a Jaguar but it meets the needs and requirements of a modern day family.

You’ve said you think there’s a natural Britishness about crossovers – what do you mean?

I think it’s a combination of practicality, style and restraint. The British character is not regimented. We like to do things that are different. F-PACE will support your sporting lifestyle, whilst also providing that all-important Jaguar driving experience. There’s a Britishness to the ability to do both. We live in a beautiful country with beautiful countryside and it’s the perfect car to enjoy that, in many ways.

F-PACE is very true to the C-X17 concept. How do you make this happen, and do you try to ensure a concept vehicle shows what we are truly capable of?

Basically, C-X17 and F-PACE were being developed at the same time. The reason I wanted to do the concept car was to use that as a catalyst to develop something exciting, and let the F-PACE follow directly off the back of it. As the reality of the F-PACE was coming into maturity, we could then match this with the concept car.

It’s always important to me that we produce something as a concept which is not over-promising on the final car. It’s tempting, because it’s easier to express yourself in a concept than it is in reality. But you never want to disappoint people with the final model. And with the F-PACE we’ve certainly delivered.

How does F-PACE rank among what you consider your finest design achievements?

One of the most challenging and one of the best. But that question’s a bit like asking who your favourite child is – you can never choose one as they all have their characters. I love the F-TYPE and it’s an obvious car to love. I’ve got a huge fondness for the XF, because it kicked Jaguar off in a new era, and I’m very proud of that. The F-PACE likewise – it’s taken us into a completely different segment of cars, which I think the world will notice us for.

What’s your personal favourite design cue on the F-PACE?

It’s a very obvious one, but I love the rear of the car – the typical Jaguar haunch, with the F-TYPE tail-lamp on it. I think it works very well, and to have something that dramatic work on an SUV is a nice combination.