Editor’s Note: In light of the Jaguar F-Pace finally hitting the road, we thought we’d look back at the chat we had with its storied designer, Ian Callum, at the official unveiling during last year’s Frankfurt Auto Show. This interview originally took place in September, 2015.

15 years ago, when Porsche, one of the world’s most iconic sports cars manufacturers, introduced the Cayenne, the brand’s first SUV, there was a collective gasp from the automotive world. Doubts were cast and purists wept. But in the decade and a half since, the Cayenne has become Porsche’s best-selling car in company history, outselling even the 911 — and its success opened the floodgates to an entirely new segment, the luxury performance SUV. Now Jaguar, having just unveiled the all-new F-Pace at this year’s Frankfurt Auto Show, is joining the big-body party.

Around the time Porsche unveiled the Cayenne, Jaguar “floated the idea of doing an SUV,” said Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Director of Design, but it “wasn’t a priority. We had to fix our sports car lineup first.” So the idea was put on the back burner and with the help of Callum and his design team they set about reinventing Jaguar’s identity in a similar way to Cadillac, who, by producing segment-defining sports cars, has shaken their reputation for making lumbering land yachts for an aging demographic. Using the same “begin again” philosophy that went into designing the XF, the now-dead XK line and the F-Type, Jaguar engaged a carte blanche approach when creating the F-Pace.

“When we decided to pen an SUV, we quite literally sat in front of a blank sheet,” explained Callum. But that didn’t last long; the reinvented Jaguar now had a new standard to keep, and Callum knew what he wanted to achieve with the SUV. “We needed car-like lines. We needed to create lines people will understand.” So Jaguar drew on their recent successes — hence the heavy influence from the F-Type. The SUV is powered by a range of engines hoisted from the F-Type, including a 380 horsepower supercharged V6. A simple, light-handed design is a welcome break from the brash and bulbous lines so common among SUVs, making the F-Pace one of the best-looking cars at the Frankfurt Auto Show. And with the F-Type as an engine source and an inspiration for handling, Jag’s latest may be set to upset this newly established order of luxury performance SUVs. If so, it’s also because the timing is right.

Jaguar's Director of Design Ian Callum has been largely responsible for some of the most beautiful cars on the market today.

Jaguar’s Director of Design, Ian Callum, is largely responsible for some of the most beautiful cars on the market today.

Stuart Schorr, VP of Communications at JLR, noted that “Jaguar has reinvented itself in the past five to 10 years, and in that time the compact SUV has taken off. Why wouldn’t Jaguar want to be in that game?” But the biggest question isn’t why a traditional luxury sports-car maker like Jaguar decided to make an SUV, but rather, why would Jaguar field an SUV when their roommates, Land Rover, already make quite capable SUVs (and have the segment in a firm headlock)? Although the team did weigh the possibility of the F-Pace cannibalizing sales of the Range Rover Sport, Schorr argued that it wouldn’t matter: “Though we live in the same house, Jaguar and Land Rover are two separate brands that stand for different things.” Where Land Rovers start life as capable off-roaders and then are tuned to be more street- or track-capable, the F-Pace was designed from the ground up to be a streetcar first, an off-roader second. Callum acknowledges this — though he did concede, “When your neighbors make damn good off-roaders, you’re going to borrow some of the electronics, aren’t you?”

This is the balance of inspiration and innovation. For the F-Pace, Jaguar has pushed forward with their reinvented personality, inspired by the styling and success of the F-Type. And, pulling from their neighbors at Land Rover, they have infused a streetcar-performance-based machine with off-road capabilities. Pulling it all together, as Schorr points out, is the Jaguar, and Callum, terroir: “It’s a true Jaguar SUV: it performs, it’s luxurious, and it has a signature Ian Callum design.”

Now Read How The F-Pace Drives

jaguar-f-pace-gear-patrol-feature

Jaguar’s F-Pace SUV is a formidable entry into the most popular, largest growing automotive segment in United States. Read the story