Review: 2017 Jaguar F-Pace

The Globe and Mail
October 2016

At the first hint of a red leaf in the trees each fall, I feel a magnetic pull from the north. In the sleepy Southwestern Ontario towns hemmed by Georgian Bay, cooler nights are setting in, apples are ripening across a broad swath of orchards and at roadside farm stands, the scent of pie practically clouds the highways, which have been branded locally as the “Apple Pie Trail.”

I set out gleefully for that trail in a Jaguar I’ve been waiting decades for (as has every other space-seeking fan of the storied British brand): the F-Pace, a five-seat luxury crossover SUV.


There is a marathon conquest playing out in the theatre of automotive retail, a story unfolding as though its script was torn from the pages of Looney Tunes. Specifically, those featuring an aggressive, lovesick skunk.


Proof that there is a payoff for those willing to give up something dear to get something better in return is cloaked in glossy Lava Orange sheet metal and purring as it eats blacktop.

As Porsche’s new 718 Cayman pours itself through the first of a dozen corners that carve out the tight, two-kilometre track here, its sound widens to a satisfied growl that fills the cabin and urges the driver to push more at the next turn – more gas, more brake, more speed on the stretches. The result is a thrilling spiral of a ride you never want to wind down.


My cheeks are flush, my breathing is shallow and, to be honest, my armpits are sweating, probably right through my light denim button-down. My brain is buzzing with alertness and yet I can’t think straight. My hands betray me, letting off a slight tremble. I eat, but don’t really taste the food.

These are first-date jitters.

I’ve been anticipating this day for months, playing out plausible versions in my mind, grinning to myself, losing sleep to a heart hammering with hope and excitement. But none of it has much to do with the tall, dark Italian brushing elbows (and let’s be straight, also a very sinewy arm) with me.


Weaving around the sharp asphalt curves that carve through the eucalyptus groves leading to the seaside here, there is not a sound to be heard in the engine-less car.

The storybook magic of Northern California’s landscape has made us forget to breathe; the concentration that flows when you’re trying not to blemish a car on loan has compounded the quiet. A pin dropping would have smashed the silence. Instead, it was pierced by a “meep-meep!” frantically bleated by an oncoming Chevrolet Bolt driver. He was elated to slalom past our cartoonish convoy – a shiny rainbow of new Bolts in orange, blue, black and white – as we wound up and down the hills en route to the coast.

We all grinned as we sailed merrily, quietly along. Of course, we did. We were driving the future of driving, which has finally begun to arrive on Chevrolet car lots across North America.


On his computer, Hugo Jeanson has a growing list of more than 175 important deliveries he hopes to start making in early 2017, if not sooner.

Rather than elfin-wrapped gifts from the North Pole, the recipients have their fingers crossed for a special made-in-Michigan delivery. All of them, registered with Jeanson’s car dealership in Rawdon, Que., are clamouring to own the newest automotive game changer: a new Chevrolet Bolt. Unveiled for the first time in January, 2015, the all-electric Bolt is one of the most highly anticipated cars in recent history.


It was a loving text message exchange not initially intended for public consumption.

“I adore you, Mme. Brochu,” Mathieu Fortin typed to his girlfriend, Emy. From her car, she pinged him back a smitten text. “I love you too and I will do all I can to make you happy,” she wrote. Fortin replied with a smiley face and a string of ‘xxes’ meant to signify kisses.

It’s not clear whether Brochu saw that sweet message before her car slammed into the back of a transport truck as it merged onto a Victoriaville, Que., highway. But Fortin’s subsequent texts show he quickly grew worried by her lack of reply. He tried to tempt Brochu to call, requesting to hear her “beautiful voice.” A few hours later, he tried again to no avail. “Is everything going well, my love? I’m a bit worried.”

He was right to be. Brochu, a gorgeous 20-year-old, was dead.