► New Jaguar F-type SVR tested
► Upgrades include aero tweaks
► 568bhp V8, 0-62mph in 3.7sec
The new Jaguar F-type SVR, a 200mph-capable super-coupe, is the second product to sport the performance-oriented SVR badge – the first being the Range Rover Sport SVR. Its hefty price propels Jag’s sports car into contention with the likes of the Audi R8 V10, Porsche 911s of various guises, and the hot rod that is Mercedes-AMG GT S. Serious competition, but then the Jaguar packs some serious potential.
This is as a result of mating the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 we know and love with all-wheel drive and a reconfigured chassis designed to deliver more fun and added compliance. Active aero features too, in an effort to keep the F-type tracking straight and stuck to the tarmac. But can that little lot live up to a £126k price tag?
I don’t get it. What exactly is SVR? And for that matter what’s SVO?
Special Vehicle Operations is an organisation charged with building the ultimate JLR products, honing them to within an inch of their lives to improve their performance in key areas – at a cost. It comprises three distinct pillars: SVR (Racing), SVA (Autobiography, for luxury cars) and soon SVX (no, not the Subaru), which will build cars designed specifically for off-road use. Think Dakar-style Discoveries and the like.
So, sporting the SVR badging, what we’ve got here is the best the company believes the F-type can be. Don’t think of it as a GT3 RS, though: it’s not meant to be a stripped-out racer. That fact is borne out of the modest weight savings on offer here – you won’t benefit from the mooted 50kg mass reduction unless you’ve ticked all of the options boxes that matter – carbon-ceramic brakes, carbonfibre roof panel, carbon everywhere. Otherwise, it’s 25kg lighter than an R – but that’s not going to make much difference out on the road.
It’s how much?
With that in mind you’re probably wondering why this car is so much more expensive than the regular F-type, but further investigation reveals a raft of tweaks that add up to a big difference. Take the new titanium and Inconel exhaust system that has been specially designed for the SVR, for example. It features a flap that opens earlier than ever to give you more bark for your buck. It also makes room for a rear venturi nestled between the tailpipes that reduces lift and drag.
In fact, a lot of work has gone into aerodynamic improvements to keep the car stable and planted at speed. There’s a flat floor, tweaked bumpers and of course that rear wing, which automatically deploys at 70mph or when you’re in Dynamic mode.
Out on the road the SVR feels absolutely planted, yet remarkably compliant at any speed. Its electric power steering, with revised mapping to amplify response around the straightahead, lends you a huge amount of confidence in corners. It still feels like the relatively heavy car it is, but the front end is especially communicative for an EPAS set-up and the all-wheel-drive system delivers masses of traction.
If we can level any criticism at the way the SVR drives, it’s that the chassis doesn’t feel as playful at lower speeds as a rear-driven F-type’s, which tends to try and swap ends at the merest glance at the throttle.
A different type of F-type to drive, then?
You’re still able to have fun, however; the secret is in your steering inputs. The more you rely on the torque-vectoring system to deliver your desired line, the more entertainment comes to the fore.
This is because Jaguar’s IDD (effectively a centre diff controlling how much torque goes to each end of the car) is programmed to send twist forwards only when it’s required, and the F-type uses steering angle as a reference here. Fool the car into thinking rear-wheel drive will do just fine, by keeping steering inputs to a minimum, and that’s where the fun begins; this car just loves to four-wheel drift, and while it’s possible to get the back end out and the lock wound on if you poke it with a big enough stick, it’s more fun to let the car’s clever systems do the work for you.
On the road you’re simply going far too quickly to properly explore the SVR’s talents, but luckily we had the Motorland Aragon circuit just outside Barcelona at our disposal to level the playing field and really explore this top-spec Jag’s chassis.
Softer but a lot quicker than a regular F-type
What became clear is that there’s a whole lot of talent bubbling away just under the surface. The track featured lots of elevation change and blind apexes galore, which made confidence in the car a crucial part of driving quickly. There are revised anti-roll bars at each end – stiffer at the rear and softer at the front for a more user-friendly balance – while lightweight 20-inch forged wheels are smeared with wider Pirelli rubber.
The F-type impresses, turning in positively and – to begin with – alarmingly sharply. You need to get a feel for how the torque-vectoring and electrically controlled rear diff work together to tighten your lines, but give it time. Work with it and you’ll discover a new way to kill your tyres.
When you first jump in the F-type, it’s more fun on the entry to a corner than the exit, often seeming to get out of shape as the car’s electrical systems tweak the line to your steering. It’s mastering this that will allow you to steer less with the wheel and more with your right foot. Set the car up with minimal angle and get on the power early.
There’s plenty of traction on hand, but overcoming the limits of the 305-section rear rubber is easy with this much grunt on tap, allowing you to get the rear end moving without disabling the traction control. It’s devastatingly quick once you’ve mastered it, and the very fact you have to is an endearing trait to us.
Switch off the nannying and things can get lairy, but such is the pace this car can muster that’s probably best left for the circuit. On the road the systems feel unobtrusive and sensibly judged – you don’t feel like you’re being held back at all.
Retuned engine but it’s still a monster
The supercharged V8 gets a few tweaks borrowed from the Project 7, boosting power output by 25bhp and torque by 15lb ft. It’s bolted to the same eight-speed ZF gearbox we’re familiar with in the F-type, but its software has been tweaked for even quicker ratio swaps up and down the ‘box.
All this adds up to some startling performance figures, including a headline 200mph top speed for the Coupe. For reference, we hit managed 165mph on the back straight at Aragon after the bus stop chicane, and on the original F-type R launch it was 5mph slower.
Removal of that speed-sapping chicane elicited 180mph before we had to stamp on the brilliant carbon-ceramic brakes – an £8k option but frankly a must-have. Few manufacturers manage the blend of low-speed manners and high-speed braking quite so impressively.
Nothing’s perfect, though
The cabin’s been updated, with the introduction of a set of smartly finished SVR-specific front seats and steering wheel. We found the paddle-shifters nestled on the back of the ‘wheel a little cheap-feeling, though, with some odd burrs in the + and – shapes, detracting from the F-type’s premium appeal.
We couldn’t get on with the relatively slow and outmoded multimedia system at this price, either. Other companies do this far better – take Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche as prime examples – and we think you should expect more here, too.
The F-type SVR is a very likeable car. There’s no denying it feels and sounds very special indeed, and it’s still undeniably a looker. Make no mistake: this is the best Jaguar F-type currently on sale.
The only sticking point is the price. It’s a lot of money for a car whose range starts at a comparatively lowly £57k, a fact that can’t be avoided when looking more closely at some of the materials and finer details.
Is the SVR worth almost twice the entry cost of the F-type range? It’s better than any other F-type before it, but we don’t think it’s twice as good.
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