The formula for creating a performance SUV is relatively simple: Take an existing model or platform; lug the biggest engine you can find out of the warehouse to overcome that pesky outsized curb weight; add big brakes and uprated suspension pieces to mitigate the laws of physics, and install a pallet’s worth of carbon-fiber trim inside to make things look racier.
What’s far more complicated is making the above formula actually translate to a cohesive, well-balanced, fun-to-drive product—a hi-po SUV that isn’t just all sound and fury, but also reasonably comfortable to operate day-to-day. This is crucial, as most such vehicles are being purchased for daily use, and for those times when the roadster or supercar is too small, too uncomfortable, or too low-riding.
The latest performance SUV we’ve had the chance to drive is Jaguar’s new F-Pace SVR, which we sampled in the south of France. This one starts with the F-Pace S, previously the hottest flavor available. Out comes the excellent 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, and in goes JLR’s corporate 5.0-liter supercharged V-8, here spitting out a tremendous 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque. A beefed-up, ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission routes power to all four wheels. To complete the checklist, the brakes are bigger—15.5-inch rotors in the front and 15.6-inchers in the rear—and the adaptive dampers are stiffer by 30 percent in the front and 10 percent out back.
There are standard 21-inch wheels (you can spec 22s if you wish) wrapped in performance rubber and a trick active rear differential is fitted, the first of its kind to grace the F-Pace family. The suite of existing F-Pace driving software gets the shakedown as well, with bespoke programming for the transmission, the electrically boosted steering, the torque-vectoring system, the stability control, and the all-wheel drive.
It looks the part of the fired-up, hunkered-down SUV, too. New, more aggressive bumper designs are installed front and rear, partially to improve aero and cooling and partially to let people know you’re packing more firepower than they are. Jag also punched some holes in the hood to vent hot air and to “provide visual evidence of the car’s dynamic intent.” An SVR-specific rear spoiler and redesigned side body moldings round out the design.
In pictures, it looks pretty good and it looks even better in person. This is one of the sharpest designs in the space, right up there with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. It certainly helps the regular F-Pace is no shrinking violet, and it possessed of Jaguar’s characteristic handsomeness and fluid lines. Even if you don’t hear the bomb under the front hood, it still stands out from the SUV crowd, thanks in no small part to those handsome wheels and broad-shouldered stance.
The good stuff continues inside. It was a little bit of a cold bath coming from the prior day’s drive in the refreshed 2020 Jaguar XE, with its dual-screen setup and I-Pace-style accoutrements, but the F-Pace’s cockpit still comes across as something of a dressed-down Aston Martin, with stitched leather surfaces, cool frosted metal bits, and acres of carbon fiber trim. There are plenty of plastics—soft-touch or otherwise—but we challenge you to find a segment mate that doesn’t. Overall, it’s a refined and decidedly premium place to spend your time.
Thanks to that healthy infusion of power and torque, the zero-to-60-mph sprint drops to 4.1 seconds, while the top speed climbs to 176 mph. It’s not quite as fast some SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo or the bonkers 707-hp Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, but it’s more accelerative capability than anyone really needs for their crossover. Of course, this isn’t a matter of need, but want.
And we want. Power delivery is meaty and delicious, the output arriving on one long, seemingly unending wave that made short work of the roads snaking through the Maritime Alps. The sounds are tremendous, easily some of the best we’ve heard from an SUV. It’s not as loud as the F-Type’s R or SVR variants that share the same engine, but it’s loud enough that you won’t care. It made crawling slowly through medieval villages moments worth relishing not only for the sights: It gave us an excuse to charge hard when we exited the town limits. Slow-moving Citroën? Yes, please—we’ll overtake with a roar.
Jaguar claims a five-percent reduction in body roll, and while it corners and brakes superbly and relatively flatly, we were even more impressed with the overall level of refinement. The SVR is one of the best compromises between speed and usability we’ve experienced. Considering most SVRs will spend their days commuting around congested city streets, it offers a duality seldom seen in this space. Keep the SVR in its Normal or Comfort settings and it still has well-weighted steering, easily modulated brakes, a smooth transmission, and a throttle calibration that won’t inadvertently crack your passenger’s necks.
Then, when you’re done with the errands and have dropped the in-laws off at the airport, you can open up the tap and break every one of your home-owners’ association bylaws without swapping for the weekend ride in your garage. In France, it made mincemeat of the Route Napoleon’s sweepers, cut a path up the Alps, and then cruised calmly down the autoroute toward Nice.
It’s also a bit of a bargain, if you perform some mental gymnastics to allow the use of “bargain” and “$80,000” in the same breath. Though it cuts close to the Mercedes-AMG GLC63, Audi SQ5, and Porsche Macan, it packs a bigger wallop than the hottest variants of that group, while still coming in at $81,015, only a smidge more than the GLC63 and matching the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. If you want the same firepower, you’re going to need to make the six-figure payout required for the larger BMW X5/X6M, Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, or Maserati Levante GTS.
The F-Pace SVR is one of those very rare eat-it-too performance vehicles that really can do most everything you’d want it to. They’re at dealers now, so no need to try to replicate the formula on your own—Jaguar’s already done a fine job itself.
2019 Jaguar F-Pace SVR Specifications
|ENGINE||5.0L DOHC 32-valve supercharged V-8; 550 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 502 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|L x W x H||186.5 x 77.1 x 65.7 in|
|0–60 MPH||4.1 seconds (mfr)|
|TOP SPEED||176 mph (mfr)|