A diesel performance SUV and a petrol-electric hybrid sedan…Diverse as they may be, Gaurav Nagpal enjoys a thrilling experience with both luxury vehicles
In the world of luxury automobiles, you are typically spoilt for choice. The best of materials, the coolest interiors and the most advanced exteriors are typically on offer here. One of the most exciting aspects is what lies under the hood i.e. the engine and the technology it uses. I recently had the chance to experience two luxury automobiles that are as different as can be in terms of their motive force; yet, both make for excellent motoring choices.
My unique experience of diversity in luxury began with the Lexus ES 300h. The ES 300h is the first sedan launched in India by Lexus, the luxury vehicle division of Japanese car maker Toyota. What grabs your attention when you cast a glance head-on at the car are its sharp LED headlamps with daytime running lights (DRLs) on either side of the signature Lexus spindle grille, making for an attractive face to the car. From the top of the grille, a smooth crease runs over the headlamps, along the window lines and all the way to the rear. Coupled with the long wheelbase, this creates a nice silhouette that heightens the luxury feel.
The rear, though, is a bit of a letdown. The taillamps are Lexus’ signature L-shaped combination lamps; however, in a parking lot with all cars nose-first in their slots, the overall sedate look of the rear means this car is unlikely to stand out to the eye of an onlooker. This may not be all bad, though, as for many luxury car buyers, sedate is the name of the game, and this could well be what their doctor – or their banker – ordered!
Step inside to a world of comfort. Make yourself comfortable in the driver’s seat – fully power-adjustable for all manner of parameters, of course – and the moment you click the seatbelt into the buckle, the seat moves closer to the dashboard, and the steering wheel comes further out of it. Voila – you have perfect ergonomics and comfort! This is an extremely useful feature that distinguishes this car from many others.
Time to experience some under-the-hood magic, then. Thumb the start-stop button, and you hear nothing! No – the car has not conked off, but the electric motor is at work. Take-off is silent, smooth and quick, with the petrol motor kicking in (and out!) automatically at preset speeds. The car picks up pace rapidly, with nary a stutter when shifting between gears; you can switch between Normal, Eco and Sport modes to finetune your driving experience further. And the ride is oh-so-smooth – as low-slung as a typical luxury sedan is, the ES 300h glides over most imperfections in road surfaces without you needing to rein in your velocity. Impressive!
Next came another luxury car with the “first” tag in its description: the F-Pace, the first SUV ever bearing the Jaguar logo and, in the R Sport variant, powered by a thumping diesel engine. Yes – diesel, not often associated with performance motoring, but we will get to that in a bit.
This is a car that grabs your attention and does not let go! The signature J-blade DRLs with the stunning adaptive LED headlights on either side of the unmistakeable Jaguar grille, the bulging bonnet and muscular sides, the pronounced rear haunches and angular tail lamps – this is clearly not just a cat waiting to spring, but a big cat just about to pounce with oodles of power.
Inside, it is the familiar Jaguar environment with contemporary British craftsmanship, supple leather and a sophisticated finish to every surface you lay your hands on. Ten-colour ambient lighting is available; in Dynamic mode, though, it stays in red! Ingress and egress is an issue, however, even with my none-too-tall frame: courtesy the tapered roofline, there was scarcely an occasion when my head and the roofline did not exchange sweet nothings.
The horses under the hood were begging to be unleashed, so it was time to thumb the start-stop button and go pedal-to-metal. And it can go like not much else can! Suffice to say this behemoth belies the manner in which it picks up pace: knife-through-butter gearshifts, barely a giveaway that a diesel V6 is at work, and that engine roar – you would be hard-pressed to find a soul that is not elevated by driving this SUV, or one that does not turn to see what just blew past. It is an SUV, so it indeed can take the more-than-rough patches and not-too-rocky surfaces without a whimper, all whilst you are ensconced in comfort and whispering to the wind.
What an experience! Chalk and cheese is a fairly apt description for both cars, with their own particular set of charms. Wish to be whisked along sedately, quickly and supremely comfortably, away from the arc lights? The Lexus ES 300h does it perfectly, with no cause for complaint. Want to flex your muscles, love all the attention, and enjoy blowing everything away as you whiz past? The Jaguar F-Pace R Sport is more than up for the task. Oh, for the love of diversity!