Road trippin’ aboard Jags and Rovers

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Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila

LATE in November last year, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Asia Pacific Importers signed a contract with Coventry Motors Corporation (CMC), appointing the latter as the official Philippine importer of the Tata Group-controlled British auto brands.

Taken together, Jaguar and Land Rover manufacture the most vehicles among UK-headquartered companies, and many here had rightfully raised concern when Jaguar Land Rover Philippines shuttered shop in May 2017 — ostensibly in anticipation of the new tax measure that was widely expected to significantly jack up automobile prices locally, particularly those of luxury vehicles.

Auto industry players and observers heaved a sigh of relief when the hammer finally dropped because, well, the new tax scheme was a substantially watered-down version which, though causing price hikes, reflected much lower rates than originally anticipated.

That said, Jaguar Land Rover decisively demonstrated that it is not quite ready to yield what it considers to be a “market that holds remarkable promise and potential for quality premium cars that will meet the needs of a sophisticated and developed consumer base,” JLR Asia Pacific managing director Robin Colgan had declared, and continued that “it was a very easy decision” to have chosen CMC as JLR’s local partner, describing the company as being “head and shoulders above many other candidates… [displaying] a really deep understanding of the premium customer in the Philippines — their expectations in terms of service and facilities, and overall customer experience.”

Indeed, a “fully functional service workshop facility” was swiftly established and opened at JLR’s new home along EDSA in Greenhills — seamlessly providing authorized service on “all Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles… regardless of whether the units were bought from the current or former distributor.” And even as JLR’s showroom has opened, more good news is forthcoming.

According to officials, this present display will be replaced by a 450-square-meter facility set to open in May or June. Additionally, the Mercedes-Benz dealership on 32nd in Bonifacio Global City is set to close shop and move to a CATS Group (the Philippine distributor of Mercedes-Benz, among other brands, and to which CMC belongs) facility on the corner of 5th and 24th Streets. This new location will also feature a JLR showroom that can house four or five cars. The Mercedes-Benz portion should be open by the end of the year; the JLR display will be in business about six months later.

All this information we gathered exclusively at the sidelines of the first ride-and-drive of the new establishment — meant to “dovetail on the brand’s re-entry to the market.” Hosted by All British Cars, the exclusive dealer of Jaguar and Land Rover in the Philippines, the drive took off from the JLR EDSA dealership and ended in Tagaytay City. On the menu were the Jaguar XE, XJ, and F-Pace; the Land Rover Discovery and Discovery Sport; and the Range Rover Evoque, Velar and Sport.

For the drive up to the other summer capital of the Philippines, we were handed the keys to a Land Rover Discovery Sport SE. An attractively designed sport-ute priced from P4.39 million, the vehicle is a good introduction as any to this premium marque. Motivated by a 2.0-liter diesel engine developing 148 hp and 380 Nm, this Land Rover is equipped with a lot of tech niceties which conspire to make negotiating (and enduring) chaotic city traffic a lot less painful. A nine-speed transmission system makes the most out of the supplied grunt.

The interiors are classy as expected, although the front console design might be a little too understated. Its two-zone climate control system is robust, and a welcome feature for finicky individuals who can’t agree on a temperature setting. The second-row, pillar-mounted vents are also a thoughtful touch.

Afterwards, we moved to a diesel-powered Jaguar XE. Priced from P3.69 million, the sedan is considered by Jaguar as the “most advanced, efficient and refined sports sedan [it] has ever produced,” bestowed with “lightweight construction, streamlined styling, and outstanding ride and handling.” We found it compliant and enjoyable to drive even in the throes of traffic. Acceleration (thanks to 178 hp and 430 Nm) is sprightly and rewarding.

As with the Discovery Sport, the XE boasts a convenient engine stop/start button, and the driver gets to shift gears via a rotary knob. But while the Land Rover is a picture of muted luxury, this Jaguar serves up more obvious hints to its pedigree — from the twin-needle leather stitching on leather surfaces, generous, comfortable seating, to satin chrome air vents, to woodgrain accents.

These are but two treats in the JLR’s pantheon of rarefied chariots, but definitely typify what the brands are about. One thing’s certain; there should be consensus as to the wisdom of staying put in the country’s exciting, vibrant automotive market. JLR is out to give the competition a run for its money.