It’s no surprise that Jaguar chose Montenegro and male supermodel David Gandy to launch its first-ever SUV – the all-singing, all-dancing F-Pace. With its cloudless sky and turquoise sea, the small Balkan country, whose name means ‘black mountain’, made the perfect backdrop to both the car and Gandy, writes IoD member Celia Stewart
Swooping in for landing at Tivat airport, we were eye-level with the Adriatic and our first aerial view of the country was a vertiginous landscape with vast crystal-clear lakes. Our hotel, Aman Sveti Stefan, stands on its own private island, linked via a causeway to the mainland.
It feels very private and very exclusive. Rooms (if you can call them that – I have seen smaller flats) are rustically furnished in the original fisherman’s cottage style, with natural materials, exposed brick walls, authentic ceiling beams and handmade pottery containing the beautiful herbal-infused bath salts, oils and shower gels etc.
My room had two picture postcard views of the sea and bay across the water. The temperature in April was a perfect 25 degrees and breakfast was a lavish affair, taken on the roof terrace which also boasts a swimming pool.
The main spa is housed back on the mainland in a standalone building, reached via a short walk across the causeway and beach or by courtesy car.
We were treated to a delicious signature facial at the spa and each given a whole area, including a small thermal pool, private bathroom and changing area, larger than most city centre apartments, to relax and get ready.
Aman has developed its own chemical-free range of spa products using honey from local bees which is blended with medicinal plants and pure essential oils. The whole place feels natural, easy and relaxed.
The lawn was the setting for yoga – a location which allowed us to breathe in the scented aromas of cypress trees while the sea gently lapped onto the private beach a few metres away.
Local cheeses feature on the menu and include a particularly tasty smoked goat’s cheese, delicious fresh breads, plus green and black olive tapenades. We also tried fresh sea bass, expertly griddled or baked in salt.
Take a scenic drive up through the mountains (ski resorts in winter) but be warned – it’s one of the world’s 25 most dangerous roads, littered with hairpin bends and a rally car circuit… though you can take it slowly. Speed limits are strictly adhered to in Montenegro and it is worth the trip to see the views.
You literally feel as though you are on top of the world, with planes coming in to land below eye level. You may encounter a herd of cows congregating on one of the bends, a stray dog or children playing – all part of the driving experience in Montenegro.
The sea is calm and picture perfect and makes for particularly good kayaking. My companion could not swim but wanted to kayak and, reassuringly, was told it is practically impossible to tip the boat over.
So we rowed out from the beautiful fishing town of Perast to Our Lady of the Rocks, a man-made island created several hundred years ago in homage to the Virgin Mary, protector of local fishermen.
With its perfect climate, Montenegro is home to a large wine region and produces some fine whites and reds. Expect to pay around €2 (1.57) – although Montenegro is not yet a full member of the EU, the euro is its main currency – for a glass of wine or large beer in a local restaurant. I am already planning to return in autumn….
Now back to the devilishly handsome F-Pace [read Tiff Needell’s review here], created by Jaguar’s director of design, Ian Callum, also responsible for the Jaguar F-Type and the Aston Martin DB7. The F-Pace is a premium SUV with a sports car feel; even in left-hand drive on the wrong side of the road, it felt light, easy to handle and, most importantly, safe.
Although we didn’t need to use it, it has a built in safety mechanism (pedestrian detection function) – a Jaguar first – which spots a pedestrian ahead and automatically brakes for you. It was probably tested out in Montenegro on the many unflappable stray dogs, who were not afraid of a big Jaguar approaching.
We even drove up and down a ski slope. Or rather the car did – I just had to steer, the speed regulated itself. One tap of the accelerator puts it back into normal mode.
The interior is spacious and luxurious, with the back seating and cabin height roomy enough for even the tallest passengers (my sons are both six-foot-four and I asked someone of similar height to test it out) and the windows, including a sliding panoramic roof, give an expansive view. The heated rear seats recline electronically. The infotainment system is a particular joy with superb sound.
When we tired of Adele, we blasted out Bruce Springsteen in surround sound and, if you need to, you can connect up to eight electronic devices to the car’s WiFi system.
Key information such as vehicle speed and speed limits can be projected directly into the driver’s line of vision by the laser head-up display. The satnav is easily the most intuitive I’ve experienced, with up-to-the-second information. It can even advise friends of your arrival time.
It’s gadgets galore with this car and the all-new F-Pace also brings the world debut of Jaguar’s Activity Key. A waterproof, shockproof wristband with an integrated transponder, which allows the key fob to be securely locked inside – invaluable if you’re going surfing, for example, or kayaking, as we did. The Activity Key reassuringly has no battery, so you never have to worry about changing it.
To celebrate the launch of the F-Pace, a special model called the First Edition will be available in strictly limited numbers – just 2,000 worldwide. So if you want to get your paws on one, get your name down fast.
The First Edition is distinguished by two unique metallic paint colours – caesium blue and halcyon gold – both of which I loved, struggling to choose between the two.
Chatting to designer Ian Callum, he said he wanted to create a car that finished with a sweep, as a pencil lifts off the paper when ending a drawing, and this is certainly the flowing effect the car gives, from the interior to the outside. All in all, a fabulous car.
Gandy was invited along as a Jaguar ambassador and certainly put the car through its paces, overtaking on hairpin bends (he obtained a racing licence in 2012) and managing to arrive at every destination ahead of everyone else, without a hair out of place and as cool as a cucumber, despite the heat.
Chatting during the flight home, I discovered that modelling is only a small part of his work. Not one to lounge around, dandy Gandy can’t be dismissed as just a handsome face. As well as developing a hugely popular range for M&S, he is an ambassador for a children’s charity, Achievement for All, and Battersea Dogs Home.
He’s currently in the process of overseeing a new sock range for our beloved high-street institution. People always need underwear and you can’t beat M&S knickers, said I, momentarily forgetting that those sapphire blue eyes are gazing out of the front windows of most of their branches wearing nothing but his own-brand underpants….
Celia Stewart is a member of IoD South West
The Jaguar F-Pace range starts at £34,170. Celia Stewart drove the First Edition, which has a 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel and all-wheel drive.
Aman Sveti Stefan
Aman Sveti Stefan rooms start at €1,433 per night for a typical week in September.
easyJet, Montenegro Airlines and Ryanair fly to Montenegro