The hot-rod SUV genre has been endlessly expanding, pioneered by the likes of the Porsche Cayenne. Recent contenders like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio and Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 keep the competition on its toes by busting Nürburgring Nordschleife lap records that shamed supercars from just a few years ago.
The Jaguar F-Pace SVR arrives a tad late to the high-speed party. Previously available with as much as 380 horsepower from a supercharged V6, the new SVR plays ball packing a 5.0-liter V8 beneath its vented hood. The supercharged mill punches 550 hp and 502 lb-ft through an eight-speed ZF automatic. Power is routed to all four wheels, naturally, but the SVR is also the first F-Pace to get torque vectoring thanks to an electronically controlled rear differential. Also aiding the F-Pace through the corners are stiffer springs, reprogrammed adaptive Bilstein dampers, 12-inch forged aluminum wheels and a brake-based torque vectoring system. Additional go-fast goodies include lift-reducing aero, better engine ventilation, and larger four-piston front and two-piston rear ventilated brakes housed in larger 21-inch wheels.
The F-Pace SVR’s cabin offers more sporty austerity than before. Slimmer, supportive 10-way adjustable seats echo the SUV’s more focused road manners, as do aggressive color schemes, contrast stitching, and a suede headliner. Small touches also signal the sharper edges, including an F-Type-derived shifter in place of the mediocre rotary gear selector. It doesn’t inherit Jaguar’s latest dual-screen infotainment system, updated steering wheel, or second-gen heads up display, as does the recently updated XE sedan.
The F-Pace SVR shares a similar tune to the 575-hp F-Type SVR, but the SUV’s V8 fires up with a milder bark. A new exhaust valve adjusts its butterfly valves gradually, avoiding the “light switch” transition from quiet to loud. And speaking of loud, while the blarty exhaust note isn’t as in-your-face as some of Jaguar’s more vocal models, U.S. versions might be slightly raspier since the European model I was driving was equipped with a gasoline particulate filter that has a slight muffling effect. The sound is also louder outside, especially when the exhaust is in sport mode. But according to Jaguar SVO boss Jameel Hameedi, the exterior volume levels are “right at the [U.S. drive-by sound] limits” at wide-open throttle. Not bad for a vehicle with four seats and 33.5 cubic feet of cargo space (or 63.5 with the seats folded down).
The SVR cruises around town with responsive restraint. In Comfort mode, the drivetrain defaults to a power distribution of 30/70 front/rear, helping avoid wheelspin in case you can’t resist the occasional hard launch at a green light. Drive mode settings alter throttle mapping, shift strategy, steering effort and the adaptive damping system, which monitors body and wheel movements 100 and 500 times per second, respectively. While the active suspension does a solid job of calibrating the ride on its own, the parameters can also be individually adjusted. Though the ride is generally firm, particularly in more aggressive settings, it takes relatively major potholes to seriously jar the suspension. Also noteworthy is the fact that the SVR uses the same lofty ride height as the V6 model. According to Hameedi, the clearance enables jounce, or the upward vertical force on the suspension, to absorb bumps.
The SVR becomes beastly when the road opens up. My drive route along southern France’s famed Route Napoléon contained a multitude of tight uphills, decreasing radius hairpins, and undulating wide sweepers. You name it, the SVR tackled it. Much to my surprise and delight, the 4,395-lb SVR handles everything thrown at it with surprising agility and grip. During medium-speed turns the chassis feels composed and capable, with tons of power enabling the driver to easily go from spirited to warp speed. Roll-on throttle can be a bit jarring when applied mid-corner in more aggressive drive modes, so it’s best to leave it in normal mode for maximum smoothness. Despite the milder setting there’s never a lack of power or drama when laying into the throttle: The V8’s steady tug comes on thick, and pulls hard all the way up the 6,500-rpm power peak. The transmission plays well with the powerplant, enabling well-timed automatic cog swaps or paddle-actuated gear changes when summoned. The unit, part of ZF’s excellent and widespread 8HP70 family, has been programmed for firmer shifts, though it generally stays on the more agreeable side of the comfort equation.
Push the SVR harder into corners, and the electronics effectively mask the vehicle’s heft. The brake-based torque vectoring manages to make a noticeable difference in ease of turn-in despite considerable inertia, without feeling too artificial. With drivetrain set to sport, as much as 100 percent of torque can be distributed to the rear wheels, with the electronic differential laying down the power smartly and effectively. And the Pirelli P-Zeros on my tester helped the F-Pace SVR feel more like a sports car on stilts than an SUV at normal ride height.
There’s bad news, however: Even though U.S.-bound SVRs will be more raucous thanks to the lack of particulate filters, they will be hamstrung by standard equipment Pirelli Scorpion all-season tires. Inexplicably, the super-sticky, bespoke Pirelli P-Zeros that enable those high-G cornering antics won’t be available stateside, an unfortunate lapse that means some of the SVR’s outstanding dynamic capabilities will be slightly compromised in our domestic market.
American buyers in warm climates can (and should) gripe about the lack of stickier factory rubber, but in the grand scheme of things, the Jaguar F-Pace SVR is still an extraordinary performer. Consider it in the context of competitors like the 440-hp, $88,950 Porsche Macan Turbo with Performance Package, and the $81,015 Jaguar comes off as bit of a performance bargain, dispatching 0 to 60 mph in a mere 4.1 seconds. The tradeoff is the Jaguar’s inferior infotainment system and ergonomics. Even so, buyers looking for a serious performer that just happens to be able to haul the kids and a trunk full of junk can consider the Jaguar F-Pace SVR a magnificent beast that deserves serious consideration.