It’s easy to get enamored with the Jaguar F-Type SVR’s deadly-beautiful design. Wrestling with the car’s complex personality and 575 horsepower is a far greater challenge. But the SVR’s learning curve is perfectly graded to be fearsome and fun at once, and that’s what really makes this machine special.
(Full disclosure: I begged Jaguar’s people to loan me the meanest F-Type. They obliged, and let me put 500 miles on it.)
The F-Type’s gorgeous shape has graduated from refreshingly striking to gracefully aged since its 2012 debut. The ultra-fast SVR version’s wing, carbon fiber treatments and titanium exhaust significantly disrupt the car’s sleek serenity for better or worse. But there’s certainly no mistaking the most hardcore F-Type model for anything less.
I loved every minute of driving the more modest, V6, rear-drive manual-shift F-Type S and was actually a little lukewarm on the V8 R’s practical advantages over its lesser-powered little brother. So, frankly, I was not expecting very much out of the SVR besides a lot more noise.
But the top-tier F-Type has a uniquely active personality, which is a depressingly rare trait in modern luxury performance vehicles. Especially ones with all-wheel drive.
The F-Type SVR is easy to learn, difficult to master. And that’s exactly the kind of car that can mess around and make you addicted to the drug of driving.
What Is It?
The F-Type is the hero car that reestablished Jaguar as something worth giving a damn about, after our eyes had all pretty much glazed over from years of weaksauce, dated sedans wrought under Ford’s ownership.
The SVR pushes that halo concept even further, taking the crown of the F-Type model range with all the farkle and attitude of a tuner car in the body of a supercar. Jaguar claims the SVR’s 5.0-liter supercharged V8 turns out 575 HP and 516 lb-ft of torque.
The exhaust, which is switchable from loud to physically painful (I measured 108 decibels on a hard charge through a tunnel), is the car’s signature song and it’s... stirring.
Here’s a test our man Dale Lomas did a while back:
According to the brochure, all that energy put down through the SVR’s eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive system can propel the 3,759-pound vehicle from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and on to a top speed of two-freaking-hundred.
According to my guts, the SVR is capable of putting you through the kind of sickening straight-line acceleration that leaves you quivering, nauseous and questioning physics.
Why Does It Matter?
For a very small and lucky portion of the population, the F-Type SVR is an intriguing rival to a turbo Porsche 911 or a Mercedes AMG GT. For the rest of us, it only matters in our fantasies and video games.
But if you’re looking for a car to look up to and all your friends have Porsche posters already, you need more than a spec sheet to decide if the SVR is worthy of your wall. Spoiler alert, pun intended, it is.
What Stands Out
We talk about the “slow car fast” phenomenon a lot on Jalopnik- that’s the concept that you can have maximum fun in a low-horsepower high-involvement machine like a Mazda Miata or Toyota 86 because those cars make you work. As a result, they can be more fun to move slowly than a more capable car at speed.
Conversely, I drove the Porsche 911 GTS and bitched that it was hard to have fun in despite its incredible abilities and precision. That car’s kind of clinical efficiency is ideal for setting lap records, but can obscure the sensation of speed in spirited street driving.
What makes the SVR unique among modern extreme machines is a distinct absence of anything like an autopilot attitude. The Jag sucks you into chaos and throws you around as soon as you’re moving above parking lot speed, despite the fact that you can’t order this car with a manual transmission. Of course the SVR’s epic noise adds a healthy dose of drama to driving it, but the way the car dances around corners and rockets off a stop is, simply, satisfying.
The SVR is full of theatrical accessories that make it as much a character as it is a car, too. The titanium exhaust burns to a beautiful oil slick hue and, as you’ve heard already, it sounds like the unfettered roar of a wild lion. Interior lighting fades to red when you put the car into its aggressive “Dynamic Mode” and the start/stop button gently pulses with, I’m told, the resting heart rate of an actual jaguar as you lower yourself into the cockpit.
The car’s confined quarters take some getting used to. With a dark selection of pseudo-suede and leather surrounding you, you’re liable to feel a little like the smallest matryoshka doll buried deep in layers of heavy materials. And even with blind-spot warning lights and careful driving, I nearly cut a few people off in traffic that I simply did not see.
The interior is stylistically on point but some of the switchgear and plastics felt sub-par. The “center” marker stitching at the top of the steering wheel in my test car seemed every-so-slightly askew and it drove me insane once I noticed it.
The infotainment system, however, is just a goddamn mess. The back-up camera’s resolution is vintage flip-phone quality, the software’s reaction speed will take you back to your first AOL internet surfing days and the satellite screen between the car’s main gauges is frustratingly complex to program and annoyingly limited in its actual capabilities.
The menu skin and graphics resolution is fine, but seriously, entering inputs happens like: push button, [beat], reaction. This is not acceptable in 2017.
That said, I lodged this complaint with a Jaguar representative who told me “all model year 2018 cars will get InControl Touch Pro” which is supposedly a revised system that will address my beefs. So I guess you’re crazy not to wait another few months to buy this Jag.
“SVR is about everyday usability,” Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations Director Mark Stanton told EVO when the F-Type SVR was brand new. “It’s about taking the basic traits of a Jaguar and amplifying them appropriately. We wanted to dial up the performance without losing the duality.”
I don’t know if Stanton believes that malarkey or if he’s just got a tougher hide than me, but as far as I’m concerned daily driving the F-Type SVR sucks. Even without engaging “Dynamic Mode,” the car is so stiff that LA highways feel like tidal waves you’re just barely bounding over on a boogie board.
It’s harsh, and it hurts.
The seats are so low in the floor that your legs are practically straight out. It’s like eating at one of those sushi restaurants with no chairs: once the novelty wears off, you just start getting sore and miserable. I’m a scrawny six feet tall and I could only drive this car for about 90 minutes before wanting to break for some roadside yoga.
When you do stop, the doors are unwieldy in tight parking spaces and just climbing in and out of the thing is exhausting. Speaking of exhaust, yeah, even though the car can be driven quietly by just going easy on the gas pedal, it always starts with the rip-snort of a predator you’ve woken up with a branding iron.
This is not a touring car. It’s a sports car—tolerable for driving from your downtown apartment to canyon roads or a restaurant on the other side of the city, but you’d start to dread driving this if you had to sit in traffic with it every day.
You know those really dramatic movie trailers that cut from the ominous setup to:
Tension builds and:
By the time “FROM DIRECTOR MICHAEL BAY” is on the screen:
You’re squeezing your soda with the pressure of a pneumatic press?
That’s the headspace the F-Type SVR takes you to when you slap the transmission from “Drive” to “Sport.”
The car bites into the Earth as you roll into the throttle and leaps forward, straight as the edge of a razor, at a pace that puts a little sickness in your stomach. Carbon ceramic brakes clamp down before your first corner and reel the SVR back in with similarly surprising and downright inspiring abruptness.
But the best part of driving is working the steering wheel, which is small with loads of weight to it in the SVR. As you press your way around a turn the back of the car seems to step wide just slightly, but consistently, creating an extreme sensation of speed while staying safe and feeding you confidence.
Even in civilized Sunday driving, the SVR feels alive. The hairpin-trigger throttle tip takes some time to get dialed in on; you may find yourself stabbing out too much speed on short straightaways as the exhaust breathes fire into your heart.
The F-Type SVR is all-wheel drive, and there’s a whole lot of magic happening below the car’s body cultivating the sensation of engagement I was so enamored with. While an intelligent differential is constantly optimizing the car’s power transfer from its massive engine to the 265 and 305-section front and rear tires, respectively, a corner braking system is grabbing inside wheels in turns and managing the SVR’s momentum more actively than a human brain could ever hope to.
Some hotshot in another SVR review wrote about “tricking” the car’s computer-controlled diff into behaving like a rear-driver by minimizing steering inputs, which I guess would have the car putting less power to its front axle.
But I think if you’re trying to out-drive the SVR’s technological assets, you’re only cheating yourself. In the stiffer, most responsive “Dynamic Mode,” the transmission in “Sport” and with the car’s traction control left on you get a righteously invigorating ride along with a safety net that gives you a license to be brave.
Who’s It For?
People between “overconfident teenager” and “tamed professional racer” will get the most out of this car, for all the reasons we already talked about.
The SVR’s technology makes it fun to drive; this is not a numb car that feels flat when it’s moving fast. But while Jaguar’s wizardry will augment anyone’s skills, the F-Type still demands enough respect to keep an experienced driver from getting bored.
If you’re extremely wealthy, want a car that’s consistently exciting to drive and have a penchant for flamboyance, an F-Type SVR is the move.
It bums me out to think about these cars being bought primarily by assholes who just want to make a lot of noise, though the cynical side of me kind of fears that’s inevitable.
Ah yes, the “value” question is here to part-poop my ode to an excellent car and the intense spiritual experience I had driving it.
The F-Type SVR starts at about $120,000. My test rig rang up just shy of $150,000 after adding the Carbon Ceramic Matrix Braking System with Forged Maelstrom 20-inch Wheels ($12,000), Carbon Fiber Roof ($3,200), Carbon other stuff ($4,000), Carbon center console ($750) red seatbelts ($350) and the “suedecloth” steering wheel trim ($350).
That’s Porsche 911 Turbo territory, though of course the special versions of that car cost far more and a Mercedes AMG GT R options up to over $180,000. If you’re seriously spending that kind of coin, what does “value” even mean any more?
Just buy the one that makes you happy and get on with your life. I’d take this over a 911 myself, if only for the fact that you won’t mistake it for every other rich person’s weekend ride in a valet line.
The 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR is so exhilarating to drive and pretty to look at that I’d be willing to forgive some seriously shiesty build quality and still call it a great car. The garbage infotainment rig and plastic toggle switches are disappointing, but neither really detract from the SVR’s legitimately legendary driving experience.
I don’t mind the rough-riding suspension, either. In fact, I appreciate the fact that the SVR feels like a committed enthusiast’s car. Anybody with $120,000 to drop on a set of wheels has more left over to spend on a commuter anyway. And specialization is the key to a truly prime car collection.
There’s more to this car than its barbaric exhaust note, but that really does set the tone for how fierce this thing is.
I won’t forget this car and neither will my neighborhood.