I’m not really sure who the 2019 Jaguar F-Pace SVR is for. The thing’s a snarling powerhouse, it’s not bad looking and it can dance if you’re looking to explore your limits. There’s a lot of angry energy bottled up in the body of this modestly-sized crossover.
Fun as that sounds, I don’t think it’s for me.
(Full Disclosure: Jaguar had this vehicle dropped off at my office with a full tank of gas, and allowed me to keep it for a week. The only stipulation was a 500-mile limit on the loan, which I respected.)
After years of languishing under the seemingly disinterested ownership of Ford, Jaguar came roaring back to cool-car relevance at the beginning of the 2010s with the F-Type coupe, developed thanks in large part to a cash infusion from then-new corporate overlord Tata of India.
Now that Jag’s back on our radar as a legitimate purveyor of quickness, the company’s been leveraging that to put a sporty spin on pretty much everything in its stable.
A decade ago speed freaks who wanted a Jag could get a rounded GT car with a healthy output rating, and that was about it. Now, there’s the F-Type SVR, a mean masterpiece sports car; the XE SV Project 8, a ridiculously extreme tuner car/muscle car crossbreed kind of thing; and this 550-horsepower mid-sized crossover. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Jaguar got a whiff of whatever Dodge and Mercedes-Benz have been smoking for years now–that superfly shit that convinces automakers all they need to do is make an enormous engine, put it in as many cars as they can get their hands on, and rise to exalted status among enthusiasts.
But in 2019, everybody’s building “practical performance cars” and “supercar you can use every day” seems to be printed in every other press release. So, our standards for the segment are stratospheric. And why shouldn’t they be, when we’re wading through a saturated market of immensely expensive toys that part-time as people movers?
In an attempt to stand out here, Jag’s hooked its presence-affirming beast of a 550-horsepower supercharged V8 engine to a set of pipes that could make Pavarotti’s eardrums explode. But even if the famous opera singer were deafened by the vengeful song of the F-Pace SVR, he still wouldn’t be able to miss this test car.
Sprayed in the aptly-named Ultra Blue, rolling on 22s and treated with carbon-weave interior trim the vehicle you’re looking at rang up at over $85,000. But to its credit, it attracted more positive attention than other cars I’ve paraded around LA that cost twice as much.
If your idea of a good time is coming through your neighborhood like a drunken peacock that’s waving a gun around, an Ultra Blue F-Pace SVR is a solid pick.
But believe it or not, the car’s big energy gets old.
“I wonder if this car can do that thing where it hammers so hard your insides hurt,” I said to nobody, as I put the F-Pace SVR in its most aggressive Dynamic mode, transmission in Sport, kicked both pedals, released the brake then shot off into the darkness like a jungle cat ambushing some poor little herbivore.
Turns out yes–the car can hurt your guts if you ask it to.
Jag claims a stopped-to-60 mph time of 4.1 seconds, which honestly, feels like it might be an undersell. Indeed, Motor Trend actually clocked it at 3.7 seconds in its own test.
The straight-line sensation of speed in this car is palpable. Briefly overwhelming, even. Which is great, because that’s exactly the kind of drama you plunk down $85,000 for.
I was particularly grateful for, and impressed with, the vehicle’s 15.5-inch brake rotors, though. When you lean into the left pedal they’re bitten by four-piston front calipers so hard that you can adeptly scrub all the speed you’d need to for a ferocious corner-entry... or keep yourself from running over the idiot on a Bird scooter who just ran a red light in front of you.
Jag promises a top speed of 176 mph, which I was not bold enough to chase. But I don’t doubt you could sneak up there easily enough on a smooth salt flat or an unscarred spread of open desert.
The F-Pace SVR’s factory-stated curb weight is a little under 4,400 pounds, which seems reasonably lithe for a modern crossover with over 33 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the seats. Jaguar says the car measures 186.5 inches end to end–exactly 10 inches longer than an F-Type. The sports car’s also a few hundred pounds lighter, of course.
Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations skunkworks engineers did a good job hiding the F-Pace SVR’s girth with good geometry, driver aids, weight distribution and aerodynamic tweaks... maybe too good.
Speaking of aero, the slits and scoops are quite numerous here. If you crawl underneath the car, you can tell that a lot of time was spent on sculpting the airflow of this thing:
Back to driving: After shell-shock from a few hard launches and decelerations wore off, I quickly realized I was driving the kind of vehicle that’s so well-suited to going fast it forgets to let you have fun.
Charging up the mountain on Angeles Crest, I wasn’t able to find a strong sensation of driver engagement–just a whole lot of me holding the car back, running at high RPM in low gear, occasionally exploding on quick straights, but mostly I was just along for the ride as the F-Pace SVR sliced and diced and screamed without physically articulating a sense of motion. Or soul.
This is the kind of car that’s objectively excellent, and can even make up for a mediocre driver’s shortcomings with technology that keeps the car on course at high speed. But in spirited road driving, where you can be a little zippy but have to behave yourself within a reasonable interpretation of the law, it can be hard to really get fired up even if the gauges are giving you impressive numbers.
I won’t try to deny that I enjoyed some aspects of rolling around in an F-Pace SVR for a week. The seats are comfortable, so is the steering wheel, and it’s fun to field some surprising “nice car!” shouts across traffic when you’re in a practically-shaped crossover SUV.
It’s got a decently well laid-out cabin, too.
But man did I dread starting this thing.
The bombastic exhaust has a loud button, for when you want to rattle your neighbor’s books of their shelves, but even before you uncork the F-Pace SVR it’s physically uncomfortable to hear it idle in a concrete parking garage.
It’s also tiresome to go around town using a pretty significant dosage of gasoline just to shout about how much horsepower you have all the time.
And then there’s the rigidity. The same setup that makes this car competent through hard cornering makes it pretty tightly sprung for plowing through potholes. The result is a car that’s not all that smooth to ride in despite a very sweet set of seats.
I can’t deny that the ride height has some advantages though: even the largest pinecones on Angeles Crest could be straddled, which means you’ll have no problem with steep driveways or gas station curbs.
A pragmatic person could dismiss all performance cars as “pointless,” but we know better. Such a car that’s not being used to win races can serve one or both of two points: to exhibit an impressive raft of technology, and/or be a blast to drive.
The F-Pace SVR succeeds as a showboat, that’s for sure. The closer you look at this thing, the more the tiny wings and sculpting that make it a smooth speeder become apparent. And as we’ve already covered, the exhaust note as a good accessory to braggadocio.
But as fast and furious as this crossover is, it never really tickled my joy bones. In fact, it made me a little angry. The F-Pace SVR’s high-mounted and comfortable seat felt weirdly out of balance with its severe road manners and inescapable snorts. The vehicle constantly wanted to attack everything, which made civilized driving unnerving. When I finally did let its leash out a little, after the initial shock and awe of acceleration dissipated the vehicle just felt a little too numb to be satisfying.
Every time I drive an F-Type, no matter what engine’s in it, it’s like a religious experience. But the F-Pace didn’t deliver the same feeling of engagement to me even though it’s fast as shit off a chrome shovel.
I’ve been skeptical of high-performance crossovers and the F-Pace SVR didn’t really change my mind that these aren’t for everybody. But if you like the design, and the practicality it affords, and want that paired with extreme acceleration and some impressive performance technology this vehicle might have a place in your heart.
It’s not a substitute for a sports car; it’d be best appreciated as its own animal. Which, of course, it is. An animal you can comfortably fit some friends in, then scare the living daylights out of at the drop of your right foot.