If you’ve watched enough 007 spy thrillers over the years, you’ll know the Brits do a good line in white-coated villains beavering away with test tubes and hi-tech gadgets deep in underground lairs.
That’s how I imagine a rebel group of Jaguar Land Rover engineers conjured up the F-Pace SVR, a mutant strain of performance SUV, designed to turn the household variety F-Pace into a snapping, snarling big cat.
Via a mega-dose of steroids, those boffins have transformed a purring Tabby into the feline version of The Incredible Hulk, all bulging veins and rippling muscle. This new strain of Jaguar is powerful and fast, with a hunger for devouring red-lines, quarter-mile strips and curves.
The F-Pace SVR ($140,282 RRP plus on-road costs, $156,081 as tested here) is Jaguar’s nuclear solution to a performance SUV arms race that’s proliferating at an alarming rate.
Direct rivals that spring to mind are the soon-to be-refreshed Porsche Macan Turbo ($142,000), the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q ($149,900) and the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S ($165,395), although there are plenty of others if you care to look.
Fleet of paw
Even in this exclusive company, the Jaguar’s stonking 5.0-litre supercharged V8 stands out for its epic clout, punching out a mighty 405kW and 680Nm. That’s nearly identical to the outputs of the Range Rover Vogue SV Autobiography we reviewed recently, but in a package that’s some 350kg lighter; so you might imagine that it’s fleet of paw.
The engine hitches to a slick ZF eight-speed automatic and puts its power down through all four of its 22-inch wheels, helping the F-Pace dispatch the 0-100km/h sprint in a blistering 4.3 seconds.
By way of comparison, that’s line-ball with Porsche’s claim for the 2.9-litre bi-turbo V6 Macan Turbo, although still some five-tenths shy of the indecently rapid Stelvio Q and AMG GLC 63 S.
Whichever way you slice it, this is a neck-strainingly rapid machine and it comes equipped with adaptive suspension tuned for corner carving, not comfort. The ride on the optional 22s (21s are standard) is civilised enough on smooth surfaces, but becomes stiff-legged and mildly annoying over blistered B-roads or snotty suburban streets.
Designed to be driven
Its slot-car steering and hair-trigger throttle response will also likely not suit those who prefer cruising to carving; but then, the F-Pace SVR is a car that’s designed to be driven, and driven hard.
When the fury is unleashed, the AWD system does an impressive job, but it too is tuned for sporting driving, so sends drive rearwards before engaging the front hoops. So you need to be on your toes with the SVR a little more than some others as it will step out, especially when switched to the lower ESP threshold of Dynamic Mode.
Even on a light throttle coming out of slow corners around town, the rear end occasionally skips sideways as the electronic active differential hooks up, the Pirelli rubber struggling to cope with the engine’s prodigious torque.
The eight-speed auto shifts smoothly and intuitively for the most part, and there are lovely aluminiumpaddle shifts behind its leather-trimmed wheel for when you want to take control.
A rowdy customer
In standard mode the switchable active sports exhaust system is not overly raucous, exhibiting a throat-clearing bark on start-up and an amusing array of chortles and grumbles when you roll out of the throttle.
But things get increasingly rowdy as you open the pipes, rising to a wounded-bull bellow as you get further into the throttle.
Inside the spacious and handsomely trimmed cabin there is quality stitching on the leather of dash and doors, splashes of meshed aluminium trim, dark suede headlining, and racy-looking wafer-thin sports seats, with heating, cooling and 14-way adjustment.
The handsome buckets are clad in distinctive ‘lozenge quilted’ and perforated Windsor leather, while underfoot are plush SVR-branded carpet mats.
The looks to match
From the outside, the SVR is differentiated by its big 22-inch forged alloys, a gunslinger-like quartet of shotgun-barrel polished alloy exhausts, satin-grey functional bonnet vents, and side vents finished in the same satin grey.
There are also SVR-specific front and rear bumpers, the former with suitably engorged inlets finished in distinctive black mesh.
As you might reasonably expect for the circa-$140k entry fee, the F-Pace SVR comes with a long list of standard equipment including adaptive LED headlights, 380-watt Meridian sound system, 10-inch touch-screen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, tyre pressure monitoring, rear-view camera , Wi-Fi hotspot, lane-keep assist, 360 degree parking aid, and more.
Our test car came also came fitted with options including Driver Assist Pack ($4589), panoramic roof ($3570), head-up display ($2650), 22-inch 5-spoke alloys ($2210), DAB+ ($950), privacy glass ($950), configurable ambient lighting ($780), and rear seat remote release ($120).
Unusually for this era of increasingly ubiquitous turbocharging, JLR’s SVR boffins prefer supercharging for their engine’s force-fed grits, and this has a defining impact on the character of the F-Pace SVR. The instantaneous, linear delivery of the supercharged V8 and the distinctive mechanical whine of the blower sets the Jag apart from its rivals.
Raucous, yet refined, rowdy and rapid, this big cat that has all the agility and responsiveness of an automotive apex predator. Perhaps it’s high time that Bond gave up on the Astons and tried a Coventry kitty instead.