You know that bit towards the end of a relationship when you both know that it’s coming to an end but don’t want to admit it? When you put extra effort in to cover up the fact that you’re two people heading in very different directions, it can be wonderful, but tainted with foresight of the inevitable. That is what it feels like to tool around in the updated 2021 Jaguar F-Pace SVR.
(Full disclosure: Jaguar invited me to drive the new F-Pace SVR in Oxfordshire, England, made sure I had enough tea to counteract an early start and fed me delicious food so I didn’t pass out on the way home.)
Jaguar Land Rover recently announced that it’ll be going all-EV, all the time. This was expected, as it’s the way the world is going (sorry, hardcore V8 people). Fortunately, Jaguar has some remaining projects with an internal combustion engine under the hood coming our way.
JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations has been making some pretty special stuff using the company’s 5.0-liter supercharged V8 over the years, and this updated take on the F-Pace SVR is the latest of them. It’s strange, however, to consider we know it’ll soon be taken out back and introduced to a shotgun.
The fastest F-Pace isn’t lacking on grunt, packing 540 HP and 516 lb-ft (a gain of 14 lb-ft over the old model) from the V8. It sends its power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and according to Jaguar, it’ll do 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds (which is 0.3 seconds quicker than the previous model), and tops out at 178 mph. The Jaguar websites lists its starting price at $84,600.
The F-Pace is Jaguar’s midsize SUV, designed to expand the lineup and grow sales. This is the Jag for the family that likes to travel in comfort and style but is maybe tired of a German or American car. Unfortunately, in some cases with the interior of the F-Pace, Jaguar’s new venture into crossovers and SUVs also came at the expense of some quality considerations and the use of cheaper-feeling materials in some trims.
Sculpted during Jaguar designer Ian Callum’s beautiful era, the F-Pace cuts a fine-enough figure for a family-friendly SUV. The SVR version strips away any pretense of subtlety with that supercharged V8 under the hood, quad tailpipes out back, 22-inch wheels with grippy rubber, airflow-manipulating venting behind the wheels, a fender vent so large you could lose an adorable puppy in it, hood vents to cool the monster motor and more subtle changes to the body. Overall, Jaguar claims a reduction in lift when driving of up to 35 percent.
The interior has been given a huge, desperately needed glow-up. Where there was once a sea of nasty plastic, there’s now leather, metal or less-nasty plastic. JLR’s new Pivi Pro infotainment system is bolted to the dash too.
Under the skin, the F-Pace SVR sports retuned dampers for a smoother ride, a fresh speed-sensitive steering set-up, more stopping power, a retuned rear differential and the torque converter from the Project 8 super sedan’s automatic transmission. It’s the car the original F-Pace SVR should have been, really.
Jaguars have classically been all about “grace, space and pace.” The new F-Pace SVR aims to be all three, but the grace-to-pace ratio skews a little further toward the latter here, as one may expect with an SVR badge.
By Jaguar’s reckoning (and a lot of engineering), it’ll manage 19.2 mpg in mixed driving (using European WLTP numbers, hello over there), but after a spirited spell behind the wheel I only managed 14.8 mpg.
The whole package may be made up of things that sound very hardcore – a body shape that produces 35 percent less lift, a 3 percent better drag coefficient, a torque converter from the Project 8 — but what’s important is Jaguar’s gone and made something fun without ruining the ride. With the noise, movement, and the fact that your neck gets a small workout when you pin it, people who like going fast will dig this thing pretty hard.
The regular driving mode is as soft and squishy as you’d hope from a Jaguar. The suspension rolls with the punches of the UK’s nasty rutted roads with ease, only jarring when you hit a pothole at speed. The steering isn’t super light and it’s not heavy enough to put you off driving it after an arms day at the gym. It’s purposeful. The eight-speed box shifts silently and swiftly when you need it to, with nary a hint of a jerk or jolt to let you know it’s doing its speedy thing.
There was no cause to use the car’s inclement weather mode at the launch event I attended, despite the UK’s typical gloom. Eco mode made the controls feel numb and as punitive as anything eco-mode always is. If you buy a 5.0-liter V8 and want to use its Eco setting, please find a better-suited hobby.
It all sounds civilized and pleasant, right? Like a cream tea in a rural bakery. It is, except for two small details: It cannot keep quiet and it likes going fast. Without trying, it’s remarkably easy to put big numbers on the speedo. The V8 will gently, but loudly, accompany you in doing so. Even with the noisy pipes button shut off it’s still blimmin’ noisy. You may upset sleepy villagers, but it’s so rare to hear a V8 quite like it these days that you won’t care. You’ll be lost in its song. The villagers may get used to it.
Pop the car in to Dynamic mode (Jag speak for “really quite miffed”) and you feel the benefit of the full suite of changes. Throttle response sharpens up, the steering gets heavier, dampers steel themselves for abuse, gear shifts become more aggressive and the instrument binnacle switches from smooth blue to “COME GET SOME” red.
The pipes open up and make more noise that bounces around the cabin, and likely everything else with in a half-mile. The frankly ludicrous power and noise delivery will make you want to nail the thing everywhere. All the time. It’s addictive, really.
The suspension may be angrier in dynamic, but it’s still on the smooth side – that means movement when you accelerate, brake and turn. Being a big (for the UK) SUV, and a heavy one at that, there’s some weight transfer to deal with. Unlike some of its competition, it doesn’t pretend to be a racecar when you want to play, and won’t punish you accordingly with painfully tight tuning. That comfortable weight transfer can be used to your advantage to get the car free, given the space as well. The team at SVO knows how to have fun.
If you want it to be race car sharp and track ready, you’re going to be left wanting though. It’s not numb to drive, but you’re hustling a big ol’ SUV here. There’s lots of everything to move, but you get enough to know what’s going on up front.
Getting the SVR to slow down is easy and smooth. There’s plenty of pedal feedback when you need to scrub off some speed, and if you need to do so in a hurry it can feel quite forceful. Though if the road is a touch uneven, you’ll need to have your wits about you, as the tires will find their own way if you’re not careful.
No bones about it, this is a family car at heart. Its raised ride height gives a commanding view of what’s going on around you (at least in the leafy UK where everything is miniature and twee compared to BIG TOWN, U.S.A.). A full fat Range Rover will dwarf you, but they’re not super abundant, so it’s not a huge issue.
Usually, the infotainment in a JLR product is often its greatest setback. It used to be slow, buggy and awful, but Pivi Pro’s appears to be as slick as they come at first touch. A day with the car isn’t sufficient time to learn a system’s subtly life-ruining foibles, but you can spot the glaringly awful ones pretty quick.
The screen responds well to prodding, the navigation formatting is clear and concise, and the system overall is easy to use and move around in. It’s just a shame it’s so easy to plug your phone in to use CarPlay and ignore all the work that’s gone in to it, huh? But that’s the rub.
Tight spots can be easily negotiated thanks to cameras placed all over the car showing you every conceivable angle on the car’s 11.4-inch Pivi Pro screen. Speed, navigation and other info is clearly displayed on the 12.3-inch digital instrument binnacle as well.
Sadly, though, the exhaust has lost its “pop.” Yeah, it sounds great and the motor is incredible, but until recently the noise flying out of an SVR’s ass sounded angrier. Regulations took the crackle away from the thunder, and it makes the car sound far more “grown up.” Your inner child should be doing that arms crossed frowny shrug thing about now. Or your outer child.
It’s truly a shame that we all know how our relationship with the Jaguar F-Pace SVR is going to have to end. We know is has to, and we know why, and the EV future will be fun, too. But with this SVR’s V8, when the going is good it is good.
There are bigger SUVs out there for the money, but do they look this good, come in orange and sound as feral? Likely not. The more critical question likely is, does the car wear the right badge? Do people with this sort of money want an SVR badge over, say, a BMW M or Mercedes-AMG model? That’s on you, friend, but choose wisely.
The new Jaguar F-Pace SVR is the quick SUV for someone who wants to live life fast and, now more improved than ever, comfortably. It’s for those savoring travel at ridiculous speed and not suffering for it in something that can carry a lot of people. It’s not the sportiest out there, and it’s all the better for it.
On the other hand, it’s loud all the time and I found the new steering can be a touch odd at times. The SVR is the sort of package that you quickly learn can be “a bit much” for every day, and if that’s not your thing then perhaps it’s best avoided. It’d be a shame to miss this one if you’ve the opportunity to go for it though, because it’ll be gone all too quickly.