While many enthusiasts would happily opt to be behind the wheel of cars such as the Porsche 718 Spyder, global sales figures of sports-SUVs suggest the demand for stirring performance allied with usable levels of versatility and practicality remains high.
Launched in South Africa nearly three years after the debut of the impressive standard car, the F-Pace SVR carries Jaguar’s hopes of capturing lucrative market share ahead of the imminent arrival of its biggest rivals, the new BMW X3/X4 M twins and updated Porsche Macan Turbo and Mercedes-AMG GLC63 derivatives.
A distinct and suitably lithe-looking package to begin with, adding a level of muscular presence to the fastest F-Pace was surely a task welcomed by JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations division. The heavy-hitting result introduces larger intakes in the front bumper, bonnet ducts atop and deep vertical air vents aft of flared front wheelarches. There are more vertical slashings at the rear, where slim reflector blades bookmark a revised bumper housing a set of signature quad exhaust tailpipes. If standard 21-inch alloy wheels aren’t purposeful enough, an upgrade to 22-inch items (as per our test unit) is a R21 600 tick away.
In contrast to the brawny exterior stance of the F-Pace SVR stand a pair of slender front bucket seats that add both a touch of sophistication and purpose to the cabin; their slim backrests simultaneous increases the roominess at the rear of the car.
Three years into its lifecycle – and with a range update likely to reach us during the course of 2020 – it’s to be expected the F-Pace’s interior treatment, especially its infotainment technologies, isn’t quite as modern as the likes of its current Range Rover stablemates. That said, the configurable touchscreen unit fitted to the SVR offers clear and concise functionality.
Another area where the F-Pace shows its relative age compared with newer rivals is in the richness of its standard trim. Not immediately obvious based on the of the plush fit and feel of the finishes ahead of your eyeline, closer inspection of the door pockets, lower transmission tunnel and B-pillars reveals a firmness to touch jarring with the SVR’s asking price. (On the subject of value, an item like keyless entry really should be standard in this league.)
While “meshed” aluminium trim bits can be upgraded to mimic carbon inlays, the SVR’s interior is distinguished from its less powerful siblings via the inclusion of a pistol-grip transmission lever (with metal steering wheel-mounted paddles) where, for the time being, the rest of the range features Jaguar’s rising rotary item.
It wouldn’t be an SVR-branded product if it didn’t feature the brand’s mighty supercharged 5,0-litre V8 beneath its bonnet. Offering 405 kW and 680 N.m of torque, this engine impresses once more with its effortlessly linear nature. In the F-Pace application, this includes sending torque to all four wheels via a slick ZF-sourced eight-speed transmission and (a first for Jaguar) torque vectoring active E-diff position between the rear wheels.
With such an impressive drivetrain setup, it remains a mystery how all the touted aluminium work within modern Jaguar-badged products doesn’t translate to significantly lower mass. While the 2 148 kg F-Pace SVR was able to blast from standstill to 100 km/h in just 4,58 seconds, imagine what could be achieved were it to shed around 200 kg and so more closely matching its modern rivals.
Styling aside, where the F-Pace wins immediate favour even among diehard fans of its rivals is with its exhaust note. Able to just about blend into the background while driving in (tamest) eco mode, the ever-present V8 burble remains constant, anything but the gentlest of throttle inputs awakening the beast once more. With more aggressive driving modes (normal and dynamic) available, as well as a sports-exhaust function at your disposal, it’s safe to say that – as with most SVR-branded products – driving the top-of-the-range F-Pace is anything but a subtle experience. Some testers savoured every moment; others mentioned growing a little tiresome of “the bark”, notably while dropping their young offspring at school. Regardless, all admitted to smiling broadly at some stage during their respective commutes.
Smiles eased somewhat once fuel consumption figures were displayed, although a fuel-route average of 12,1 L/100 km proves the SVR does, in fact, possess a (relatively) frugal side to its personality.
With coil springs stiffened by 30% at the front (and 10% at the rear) compared with the standard car’s, as well as uprated adaptive dampers all-round, it’s a tribute to the well-engineered underpinnings of the F-Pace that the default ride quality (even on 22-inch rubber) of this most focused derivative is one of the highlights of the package. Combined with superbly weighted steering and body control belying this vehicle’s mass, there’s an impressive level of composure in everything the SVR does, from heading to the local mall or setting course for a mountain pass.
With its mass distributed perfectly over both axles, the fastest F-Pace makes optimal use of its ZR-rated Pirelli P Zero rubber (265/40 ZR22 at the front and 295/35 ZR22 at the rear) to offer impressive levels of grip and near sportscar levels of mid-corner balance, allowing you to blast out of corners with more verve than any of your four passengers might anticipate.
An uprated braking system, including 396 mm ventilated front discs, adds a welcome level of stopping prowess to the package, recording an average of just 2,80 seconds from 100 km/h to standstill on our test day.
That awkward moment at a JLR dealership when a salesperson is about to close the deal on an ultra-efficient and stealthy I-Pace and the workshop engineer on the other side of the room fires up an F-Pace SVR …
While Jaguar should rightly feel proud of what it’s achieved in terms of establishing a strong foothold in the all-electric future of the automobile, it’s simply impossible not to get excited by the bark, burble and raw character of the brand’s mighty supercharged 5,0-litre V8 petrol engine. The heartbeat of any SVR product, in the F-Pace it complements a package that (while remaining inexcusably bulky) boasts myriad endearing features, not least a relatively convincing dual personality (when driven in eco mode) and a welcome level of overall comfort.
Faced with a looming onslaught of box-fresh rivals, including from within its own ranks (the Velar is also available with this drivetrain), the F-Pace SVR offers an almost old-school level of grit and charm which is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of both its owner and passengers … as well as enthusiasts stationed a few suburban blocks away.
ROAD TEST SCORE
See Full Jaguar F-Pace price and specs here