► Jaguar F-Pace SVR review
► A two-tonne 542bhp rocketship
► A blunt tool? Or a slick sporty SUV?
The Jaguar F-Pace SVR sprinkles some of the Special Vehicle Operations skunkworks performance gold dust across Jaguar’s big-selling SUV range. It’s been a full year since we saw this continent-crushing crossover launched at the 2018 New York auto show, and numerous delays have pushed back the launch until now.
The question is: has the wait been worth it? Although we’re living in a world where high-powered, large and heavy cars like this are being increasingly marginalized by the chattering classes, sales continue to blossom as enthusiasts cotton on to the idea of owning a dual-purpose car that will perform all the family and commuting duties, but still do the adventurous, fast-forward performance SUV thing when there’s just the driver inside.
But we’ve finally driven it, so read on for our full Jaguar F-Pace SVR review, to see if Coventry has created a worthy rival to the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, Porsche Macan S, and Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 sledgehammer SUV set. They’re a tough pair of rivals to topple, but the F-Pace’s undoubted dynamic talent and fluid steering make this a decent starting point on which to build a full-blooded ballistic SUV.
Tech specs and power
They’ve followed an age-old performance recipe to make the SVR: squeezing in the familiar 5.0-litre supercharged V8 from more sporting Jaguars means there’s a stonking 542bhp and 502lb ft of torque on tap, driving through the eight-speed Quickshift automatic transmission and an electronically controlled rear differential.
Performance is predictably banzai for one so bulky - Jaguar claims 0-62mph sprint in just 4.3 seconds and, if you find a stretch of derestricted autobahn long (and empty) enough, v-max is 176mph. Yes, you can buy a Range Rover Sport similarly powered, but design supremo Ian Callum quickly pointed out that this is a Jaguarengine, and that’s why it works best here.
Obviously, there is a raft of chassis mods to keep this SUV on the straight and narrow. Springs and dampers at each corner have been uprated to cope with the extra muscle and bigger brakes (measuring 395/396mm front and rear) are fitted to wipe off speed when you reach the end of that straight and need to slow down in a hurry.
And the cosmetics? How does the fast F-Pace look?
It’s Q-car subtle in here, and we like it for that. It’s purposeful enough foe the cognoscenti to know what it is – and there’s more than enough eye candy to satisfy the braver buyer but without going OTT enough to warrant a spot in the chamber of horrors at the Geneva motor show. Those quad exhaust pipes and dramatic strakes in the rear valance distinguish the rear end (and deliver a comely burble, it has to be said).
The SVR aerodynamic package includes a mini pop-up spoiler, enlarged front air intakes, vented bonnet and the striking alloy wheels are at least 21 inches in diameter (you can option 22s). If you listen to Ian Callum wax lyrical about the changes he’s overseen to create the F-Pace SVR, then you’ll go with the larger option. Either way, it’s a pretty mean-looking package, all in.
What about the interior?
Jump inside and you’ll find a cabin dominated by striking, slimline sports seats upholstered in lozenge-patterned leather. They’re comfortable and supportive during faster cornering, but these GT3-style seats are mildly perverse in a two-tonne SUV, it has to be said. Front and rear room are competitive enough to warrant its choice as a people mover, and the SVO package of trim upgrades lift it enough to take your mind off the lack of deep-seated material quality you’d rightly expect for this money.
Elsewhere it’s stock F-Pace interior, with the latest improvements to Jaguar’s touchscreen tech and wifi streaming for up to eight devices. We’re disappointed to see that the twin-screen Touch Pro Duo infotainment set-up you get in newer cars (including the recently-facelifted XE saloon) isn’t here, and that alone makes this feel seriously off the pace these days. Note also the stick shift gearchange taken from the F-Type, in place of the more humdrum rotary controller in cooking F-Paces. Expect that to make its way across the rest of the Jaguar range soon.
How does it drive?
Really well, truth be told, if you like big. Bruising SUVs that can do the dual-purpose thing supremely well. The F-Pace SVR does things a full-sized SUV shouldn’t be capable of and the performance on tap from that 5.0-litre supercharged V8 is very impressive. Your brain struggles to keep up with the ability to haul 1995kg up to speed with such ease. It’s not quite as top-endy as an Alfa Romeo Stevio QF, and given a long enough straight, the Italian will haul gently away from the Brit, but few will complain about how the SVR goes.
Being powered by that Jaguar V8, the theatrics are well and truly taken care of, too. There’s a bark from the engine when it’s fired up, and the exhaust burbles purposefully at idle. Once you’re up and running, it’s not quite as snap-crackle-and-pop as an F-Type SVR, but you still get an engaging tenor roar and some surprising bangs and pops on the overrun. These are exaggerated appealingly in Race mode, and calm down agreeably when running in Eco in town. However, you won’t mistake this for a 2.0-litre diesel.
Straight-line performance is easy, of course, but to make a giant crossover handle and turn and steer sweetly is no easy feat. On this first evidence, we’d say that Jaguar has done a fine job juggling the twin demands of keeping the body under control during fast cornering and providing a comfortable, compliant ride as befits a £75k range-topper. As you’d expect, there’s a fair amount of body roll and pitching when you’re completely on it, but it’s nicely supremely well-damped, as you’d expect from a Jaguar.
This is the first time Jaguar’s used an active electronic differential on its SUV and it metes out power to the wheel with the most traction with imperceptible ease. Happily, the driver has to worry not one jot about what’s happening or fiddle with settings, just point, go and get pinned into the back of your seat. The steering is accurate and delivers just enough road feel to keep you in touch with your inner race driver, but it lacks the ferocious turn-in and sheer sportiness you get in a Stelvio.
To be honest, a car like the Jaguar F-Pace SVR may prove a massive turn-off for some traditionalists and it’s hard not to see this as a profligate, rather wasteful dinosaur if you’re of that persuasion. But this is a global car, remember - and markets such as the USA, the Middle East and Asia lap up SUVs and love performance cars, too. This is the result of that research. If Jaguar has its maths right, there will be sufficient demand for this model to make it a commercial hit, as well as a technical flag bearer for its brand.
Dynamically, there’s not much to complain about. The brakes just about keep up with the epic performance on offer, but we felt the anchors lacked the over-engineered polish of the rest of the hardware - and that’s not great news on a car as fast as this.
We’ve already touched on the interior issues, which come down to personal taste and preference. But the fact is that after the cool, precision build of its German rivals, the F-Pace feels a down market and cost driven. The dash and switchgear are not even that good to look at – the Alfa Romeo Stelvio at least manages to counteract its sub-Audi/BMW levels of quality and tech with a great looking interior. Jaguar, take note.
The Jaguar F-Pace SVR is a seriously desirable car, and one that brings out the inner-child in you. It reads Newton’s laws of physics, laughs as it shreds the textbook and tosses the scraps over its shoulder as it roars off into the distance, V8 bellowing like Brian Blessed on the mother of all nights out, driver smiling naughtily as they take the long way home from the school run.
The SVR won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and is undoubtedly a niche product. But in an increasingly sanitised world full of three-pot econo-boxes and mains-powered supercars, we’re glad that cars like this still exist, and still manage to deliver such a knock-out punch. It’s flawed, largely irrelevant, outdriven by the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, and out interiored by anything from the Porsche/Audi/BMW stable. Despite that, we love it.
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