This doesn’t feel like an SUV. It’s far too much flipping fun. Pop, snort, burble. Quick turn-in, followed by a long sweeper on some epic roads through the mountains from St. Tropez to Nice. Life is good behind the wheel of the 2019 Jaguar F-Pace SVR.
When Jaguar showed its first SUV, the F-Pace, at the 2015 Frankfurt auto show, the compact utility vehicle quickly garnered fans. It proved to be a business-savvy move in an SUV-crazy world, quickly becoming a best-seller for the British brand. Since then, the bloom has come off the rose a bit. Sales in the U.S. fell to 14,752 in 2018 from 18,946 the year before, but there has been an uptick this year.
Happily, the Special Vehicle Operations team got its hands on the F-Pace. Its 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 snorts to the tune of 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque. That’s 44 percent more power than the F-Pace S with a 380-hp supercharged V-6. The team says the SVR will go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and do the quarter mile in 12.3 seconds with a top speed of 176 mph. All-wheel drive is standard, and it has an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The team nicknamed their creation “the magnificent beast.” After a day behind the wheel, the moniker fits. SVR variants may be less than 10 percent of F-Pace sales, but the halo effect can’t be understated. This is an exercise in how to amplify the core qualities of a vehicle and deliver grins.
Visually, it is instantly recognizable as a beast. It has new bumpers, bigger air intakes, and vents in the hood and side wings. In back, the new bumper incorporates the quad tailpipes, and there’s a bespoke rear spoiler.
Audibly, switching to SVR’s unique Dynamic drive mode makes the SVR roar like a beast. The new Variable Valve Active Exhaust System amps up the volume and increases the exhaust gas flow. It gets loud enough that we were asked to refrain from activating it while driving through the city center. Conversely, we were encouraged to press that button before entering mountain tunnels. We can attest to the amplification having a natural sound and producing the kind of soundtrack that puts a good stereo system to shame.
The specially tuned electric power-assisted steering was responsive with little input needed. The SUV followed like an excited puppy dog, devouring corners like a rawhide bone. This is a meaty vehicle from its acceleration to exhaust notes and delicious downshifts. The acceleration isn’t neck-snapping, but it’s oh so satisfying in delivering power.
The lightweight but larger 15.5-inch front and 15.6-inch rear disc brakes, with two-piece construction, keep the beast under control. There were no signs of fade on a drive where you wanted to push it. Many performance vehicles have touchy brakes that grab with little provocation—not so with this SVR.
The F-Pace SVR has a double wishbone front suspension and integral link rear suspension. Continuously variable damping is standard on the SVR. A road up to an incredible vista that was little more than a single-lane, paved, cow path showed the vehicle’s ability to sop up any road conditions—in Comfort mode, of course. The stiffness of Dynamic mode would have tested the tailbone, but the overall stiff suspension is what this performance vehicle demands. The SVR team made the springs 30 percent stiffer up front and 10 percent stiffer in back.
Lead engineer Ross Restell said an anti-roll system reduced body roll by 5 percent. That made us laugh—there was so little body roll, we had to wonder what the original reference point was.
The standard rear electronic active differential enables torque vectoring when cornering. The all-wheel-drive system was retuned. A full 100 percent of the power is directed to the rear wheels (especially noticeable in Dynamic drive mode), and the system never sends more than 50 percent up front.
Forged 21-inch wheels and optional lightweight 22-inch alloys are almost an inch wider in the rear. The vehicles we drove had Pirelli P Zero summer tires, which are standard in Europe; in the U.S., the standard tire will be Scorpion All Seasons.
The rotary gear shifter has been replaced with a pistol-style SportShift gear selector for some manual rowing, and the driver grabs a sport steering wheel, sitting in performance seats. Just don’t look at the dated touchscreen and switchgear, which are showing their age.
The SVR has the usual suite of safety and driver assist systems, including standard emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane keep assist, forward traffic detection, parking aids, a system to monitor the driver for signs of fatigue, traffic sign recognition, and an adaptive speed limiter. A $3,600 optional Driver Assist Pack adds blind-spot assist, adaptive cruise control with steering assist, rear traffic monitor, and enhanced park assist. Another option is trailer stability assist, which alerts you if the trailer starts to sway dangerously.
The F-Pace SVR is on sale now, starting at $81,015. We drove one optioned up to $90,480.
The SVO team has been in operation less than five years. They created an SUV that was more fun to drive than a raft of recent sedans we’ve been in. It was created for the buyer who wants F-Pace room and utility but F-Type performance. Our advice to the SVO team: don’t disband and continue to work your magic. More is more.
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