A couple of hours away from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, lies Amby Valley, a quiet and beautiful city built to be an ideal retreat. The city also has its own airstrip, which on our arrival had a few tents, some marshals and a while lot of cones around the airstrip. Soon the silence of the valley was shattered by a crackling exhaust and in moments a red Jaguar F-Type R blitzed its way across the runway to a point where it wasn't visible but it was satisfyingly audible. This was the start of our day at the Jaguar Art of Performance Tour at the Amby Valley airstrip, where the entire range of Jaguar was present to be experienced. An airstrip and a bunch of leaping cats to play with! It doesn't get any better than this, does it?
The Art of Performance Tour is a series of drive experience events held by Jaguar across different locations and is aimed at providing potential customers with a chance of pushing Jaguar cars to their limit in a controlled environment. For FY 17-18, Jaguar has planned 32 such events across different cities in India, with the Amby Valley one being the first.
Since the location we were at involved a runway, space wasn't much of a concern, allowing for larger tracks and longer straights. The area was split into three areas – Acceleration, handling and braking. Cars available on the track included the XE, XF, XJ, F-Type (Coupe & Convertible) and the newest F-Pace SUV.
We were first asked to negotiate the slalom course, which involved acceleration, sudden lane change and hard braking, quite similar to the conditions we might encounter in India. I first go through the course in the XE, which flicks hard with ease towards the right and turns back in with the ABS working overtime to bring the car to halt without any drama. The same exercise is followed in the XF, XJ and the F-Pace and the standout performance came from the F-Pace. Despite its tall height and a heavy weight, the SUV changed directions with ease and remained in control at all times through this course.
The second run for us was the most exciting one as it involved an acceleration run in the F-Type R coupe! With its forward-inclined design and pouncing stance, the F-Type is one of the most theatrical sports cars around. Once having found my ideal driving position in the airplane-like cockpit of the F-Type R, I start to build up the revs a bit and the sound from the exhaust pipes is nothing short of a rock concert, all this from a standard exhaust!
On getting a go-ahead, I slot the drive selector into 'S' and mash my right foot to the floor. Instantly, the F-Type leaps ahead with a loud roar from the exhaust and pushes me firmly into the seat. With the V8 engine letting its 550 horses free, gears change almost instantly close to the redline and within seconds the speedo needle swings past 200 km/h. Thereon, the rock concert from the tail pipes continues to get sweeter and we manage to go a nudge above 220 km/h, before the instructor in the shotgun seat indicates to start braking. With gentle braking and pops and crackles from the exhaust, the F-Type R comes to a rest. Now it's time to get into the F-Type S convertible and drive back to the start of the runway.
The S is lesser powerful with a 3.0 litre supercharged V6 engine developing 380 hp but that doesn't take away the fun factor from it. Repeating the sequence followed in the R, the F-Type S too lunged forward with aggression and went on to hit a top speed of a little above 200 km/h before we had to brake.
The last drive for us involved driving the cars through a series of sharp turns and braking hard in the end. This run was aimed at showcasing the handling abilities of Jaguar vehicles and we started off with the F-Pace. The SUV tackled the series of directional change with comfort but on the second run, which was bit quicker, body-roll became evident and the vehicle felt struggling for grip. Immediately, the traction control system came to rescue and pulled back the huge vehicle back on the intended line.
Next up was the XJ and there was no way I could imagine the XJ going through the course with its massive length without any drama. To my surprise, the traction control kicked in mildly at all turns and there was some tyre screeching sound but that was it! The XJ went through the course as if it were at least a metre short and a few hundred kilograms lighter. The XF and XE as expected, performed the best on this course, owing to their smaller dimensions and lighter weight.
During our time on the track, we got to drive all cars multiple times but one that really stood out after a long and hot day was the XJ with a 3.0 litre V6 diesel engine. The luxury car is adorned with a presidential cabin, especially at the rear. The reclining rear seats with massaging function turned out to be a bliss after a long day. All other cars too proved that they are right up there with the competition in all aspects but it's the driving part that separates Jaguars from most of its competitors. There aren't many companies in the world today that make limos that feel good to drive and luxury SUVs that drive almost like a sedan.
If you're wondering how you can be a part of the next edition of this event, just head to Jaguar's website and the details are mentioned there.