First Drive: Jaguar F-Pace SVR
14th June 2019
After a delayed beginning, Jaguar has finally launched its first hot SUV. Tom Wiltshire heads to the south of France to see what it’s like...
What is it?
When it comes to SUVs, Jaguar doesn’t exactly have much heritage – it’s built three, all in the last three years. But the F-Pace, the largest of the bunch, has proven to be a hit, and it seems sister company Land Rover’s expertise in building high-riding 4x4s has rubbed off.
What does a small British car manufacturer do when it sees German brands having great success with SUVs such as Mercedes GLC 63 or the Audi SQ5? Do the same, but in a uniquely Jaguar way. But can the F-Pace SVR conjure up the same magic that fast Jaguar saloons have always done?
You can’t miss the F-Pace SVR’s brutal styling details. It bristles with vents, aerodynamic additions and mean-looking trim – all of which is functional.
Marking it out under the hood is a Jaguar Land Rover staple, the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine. All that power needs taming if the car is to handle as well as its lower-riding siblings, so Jag’s fettled the suspension and chassis to cope with the huge 542bhp output.
Sadly, this model doesn’t come along as a mid-life facelift to the F-Pace, made especially plain by the newly updated XE it was launched alongside.
What's under the bonnet?
The 5.0-litre supercharged V8 has seen service across the Jaguar Land Rover model line-up for several years now, and it’s a fantastically evocative piece of kit.
The numbers certainly make for good reading. The V8’s 542bhp and 680Nm of torque will push this SUV from 0-60mph in just 4.1 seconds and on to a blistering top speed of 176mph.
It’s a fantastic engine, smoother than turbocharged rivals and with an appetite for revs. It’ll settle down to a refined cruise, but press the loud pedal (and the ‘loud’ button for the adaptive exhaust) and you’ll struggle to hold in a gleeful cackle at the cacophony that erupts.
It’s paired to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is smooth and quick-shifting, and four-wheel drive – though it’s a system that heavily favours the rear axle. Running costs will, of course, be high but the claimed 22.6mpg fuel economy figure is at least achievable.
What's it like to drive?
This isn’t a lightweight car, but Jaguar hasn’t tried to make it feel that way. Instead, all the controls have a pleasing heft and the steering is very neutral, balanced and intuitive. It’s very easy to judge your inputs, making smooth, fluid cornering an absolute breeze.
A comparable fast estate or saloon will behave better in the corners but might not be as comfortable. Even on the vast 22-inch wheels of our test model, this car rides beautifully. For a car which can flit from family bus to back-road blaster that’s important.
How does it look?
The F-Pace is a handsome car, but it’s definitely wearing a tracksuit in SVR guise, albeit a designer one. The snarling bonnet vents give it instant presence but look more closely and it’s riddled with aerodynamic additions. They all have a practical purpose, though.
Plenty of ‘regular’ F-Paces are specified with huge alloy wheels, which is perhaps why these 22-inch examples look so well at home in the SVR’s arches. Elsewhere, it’s business as usual; this is a nicely proportioned, handsome SUV with plenty of Jaguar’s now-signature design detailing.
What's it like inside?
Unfortunately, the F-Pace SVR does feel its age on the inside, and is not helped by the new-look XE saloon. We’ll start with the good: it’s decently spacious for four adults, material quality is generally high and, of course, the great ride makes for comfortable progress for all occupants.
Jaguar’s infotainment has improved, and while it’s not as slick as the very latest Mercedes system it’s on a par with BMW’s iDrive. The same can’t be said of the digital dials, which feel basic alongside Audi’s brilliant virtual cockpit. Again, it’s a shame that the excellent Touch Pro Duo system hasn’t migrated from the XE.
The climate control panel feels cheap and is difficult to use, and the heated seat controls are buried in a menu. Taller drivers will also find the single-piece headrests of the front sports seats tend to jab them in the neck.
What's the spec like?
£74,000-plus isn’t a small amount to spend on a car, but Jaguar offers a
generous kit list to help ease the blow. All F-Pace SVRs come with perforated Windsor leather upholstery inside and a beefy SVR bodykit outside. The front seats are heated, cooled and electrically adjustable, and adaptive LED headlights improve night driving as well as looks.
The options list makes for happy reading, too. Jaguar won’t charge for different paint finishes or interior colour options, so you don’t pay to personalise. We’d suggest ticking the box for the Driver Assist Pack, which brings adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and high-speed emergency braking as well as park assist and a 360-degree camera.
The upgraded Meridian surround-sound system may also be tough to resist, though the standard stereo, also by Meridian, does sound great.
Jaguar’s first performance SUV is a fine effort. It’s packed with character, drives beautifully and looks brilliant. Though it may trail the likes of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio on sheer focus, slight compromises in the name of usability are well worth it. If you can afford the running costs, this is a hot SUV you will want to use every single day.
Facts at a glance
Model: Jaguar F-Pace SVR
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8
Power (bhp): 542
Torque (Nm): 680
Max speed (mph): 176
0-60mph: 4.1 seconds