Driven: F-PACE SVR

Carlton Boyce drives the Jaguar F-PACE SVR in both France and the UK. The on-paper specification is strong, but can it live up to the hype?

The chief vehicle dynamics engineer told us that he and his team referred to the Jaguar F-PACE SVR as ‘The Magnificent Beast’, which is quite the boast, eh?

Absolutely bloody accurate though.

But let’s wind back a bit. Regulars readers will know that I’m not the greatest SUV fan in the world, generally believing that an estate car is the better buy for 99% of the public. But, if you have to go super-size, then the Jaguar F-PACE isn’t a bad way to do it. It’s a looker, obviously but it also drives very well, rides even better, and is sufficiently up-market to take you seamlessly from central London to the wilds of middle-class Devon without drawing so much as raised eyebrow; the liberal elite may hate 4x4s but they’re generally happy to make an exception if there’s a Jaguar at the front…

So, if you’re going to create The Magnificent Beast, then the F-PACE isn’t a bad place to start. It utilises the same aluminium D7a modular platform as the XE and XF, as well as the Range Rover Velar; this kind of platform sharing is common throughout the industry, and when it’s done well – and few do it better than Jaguar Land Rover – it brings economies of scale with no loss of individual identity.

The F-Pace also lost its Ingenium engine in favour of a 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8 engine that develops 550PS and 680NM of torque. Which is a lot. Enough, in fact, to slingshot the SVR to 60mph in just 4.1 seconds. Which is ridiculous. Utterly bonkers. But quite, quite wonderful. My co-driver and I found a deserted stretch of mountain road and did a full-bore standing start that left me momentarily lightheaded. Only a Tesla Model S (in ‘Insane’ mode) has shocked me more. It’s just that it’s fast – although it would be well within proper supercar territory only a decade or so ago – but that it is so unexpected. And accessible: just mash the throttle and hang on.

It sounds rather nice too, with a deep bass note that is supplemented by a delightful series of crackles and bangs on the overrun. Not that we did this time-after-time as we point-and-squirted our way from roundabout to another.

Oh no, that would have been childish…

Body-roll is well contained, as well it might with uprated dampers and springs that are 30% stiffer on the front and 10% stiffer on the back. The wheels are 21-inch as standard, although 22-inch jobbies are on offer.

Aero aids abound too, including deeper front and rear bumpers, sculpted side skirts and a rear spoiler and the (uprated) brakes are simply epic.

The ride is firm, but not Audi-firm, which means it is perfectly acceptable and a small price to pay to be able to throw this two-tonne SUV around like you used to with your old Golf GTI. Of course, you never forget its size – Jaguar employs engineers, not wizards – but it’s mightily impressive and enormous fun.

And yet, when you don’t want to play, the F-PACE SVR is happy to tone it down, put on a sombre suit, and play nicely with the civilians. You can mute the exhaust, and pop the chassis setting into Comfort. Thus set, it’s not even close to being in traditional Jaguar territory with regard to NVH, but it’s close for you to be able to pass through St Tropez without drawing a second glance.

The interior is, if anything, even nicer than the exterior. Slimline, bucket seats finished in a quilted leather design clasp your firmly in place, and yet they are infinitely adjustable and as comfortable as any I’ve sat in this year. They look stunning too, which is just as important, isn’t it?

The interior is liberally sprinkled with other jewellery too, all the better to cosset and impress – and help justify the £75,000 price tag.

But, the truth is that the Jaguar F-PACE SVR is beyond justification, and all the better for it. Like the Range Rover Sport SVR, it is gloriously and wonderfully OTT and designed to do nothing other than impress and enthral and bewitch those lucky enough (and, let’s face it, daft enough) to buy one.

UPDATE: 10th July 2019

The review you see above was written after having driven a left-hand-drive model in the South of France. Keen to see what a right-hooker would drive like here in Blighty, I seized the chance to drive one through The Cotswolds. After all, it’s easy to be impressed when you’re swanning around St Tropez in someone else’s hyper-SUV.

And, you know what? Winding French mountain roads and stunning seaside scenery aside, the F-PACE SVR still stacks up. True, you might want to turn the open exhaust switch off when you’re wending your way through the villages and towns that stud this part of the world, hustling your way along open country lanes with the windows down, the exhaust blatting and popping, and the steering wheel writhing through your hands is still one of life’s great pleasures.

Like the Range Rover Sport SVR, no-one needs an F-PACE SVR but By God that 5-litre supercharged V8 engine isn’t half addictive – and deploying the full 550PS and 680Nm of torque brings starship acceleration thanks to four-wheel-drive traction and almost instantaneous throttle response. You’ll hit 60mph in just 4.1 seconds, which was supercar territory only a decade or so ago, and the top speed of 176mph means that Germanic autobahns can be despatched in the blink of an eye.

And then, when you turn it all right down, you can potter through Broadway without turning a single head, which gives you time to enjoy those amazing front seats and the ride, which is surprisingly supple.

Seventy-five thousand pounds is a lot of money, but if you want to go very fast and make a lot of noise – and then go slowly and be quiet – the Jaguar F-PACE SVR is worth a look.

 

Carlton Boyce @motoringjourno