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Jaguar's F-Type SVR joins the 200 mph club in surprising comfort

There's a really long back straightaway at the 3.321-mile Motorland Aragon Circuit in Teruel, Spain, and with the new 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR at my disposal, I use it to get to nearly 170 mph before braking for a tight left-hand turn at the end. No doubt that there's more in Jag's fastest production F-Type to date, and I would be comfortable pushing it further if there was more straight pavement ahead, because its high-speed stability is rock solid. Plus, I have no worries about having the stopping muscle with the optional carbon ceramic brakes my car is wearing.

To me, however, the F-Type SVR is less about its headline-grabbing 200-mph top speed, and more about how complete of a performance package it is. As the first Jag to feature extensive work done by Jaguar Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations performance skunk works, the SVR is indeed quicker packing a 575-horsepower supercharged V-8. With engine calibration borrowed from the limited-edition Project 7, the SVR benefits from 25 more horsepower than the F-Type R. That extra oomph, along with exclusive automatic transmission tuning for quicker shifts, helps get the SVR to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds (the R does it in 3.9 seconds). And it's nice to see that the additional performance doesn't come at a fuel economy penalty, with the SVR receiving the same 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway ratings as its less-powerful sibling.

The F-Type SVR is also trimmer than the R, shedding 55 pounds in standard form thanks to lighter wheels, and an exhaust system made from titanium and Inconel, a nickel-based alloy known for remaining sturdy in high heat. With the addition of options such as the $12,000 carbon ceramic brakes, $3,200 carbon fiber roof and $4,000 carbon fiber exterior package, the SVR can actually weigh up to 110 pounds lighter than the R.

The F-Type is the first Jaguar to wear the SVR badge.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

Along with the weight loss, handling further improves with retuned adaptive shock absorbers, anti-roll bars, stiffer aluminum die-cast rear knuckles and wider Pirelli P Zero tires. Programming for the electric power steering, torque vectoring, all-wheel drive system and dynamic stability control are also new, helping to optimize performance.

Back on the track, once I get past how quickly the SVR shoots out of corners and down straights, it's how it behaves in turns that I find most impressive. Through gradual sweepers, the SVR exhibits high grip levels before giving way to some push. In tighter corners, the front end tucks in nicely, letting me get onto the throttle early, no doubt thanks to all the work being done underneath with the torque vectoring, stability control and all-wheel drive systems routing power to the correct wheels. At no time do these systems feel intrusive and distract from the driving experience, which is thankfully now becoming the norm in high-performance vehicles.

Steering is among the most responsive electric power steering systems on the market, helping to place the SVR where I want it on track with ease. The carbon ceramic brakes show no signs of fade throughout the hot day, reliably slowing the 3,700-pound car down from triple-digit speeds lap after lap. That's particularly comforting given that I'm on a track with numerous blind corners that I've never been to before.

With prior experience with the F-Type R on track, I can say the SVR feels lighter on its feet, and is better planted through turns. In contrast, the R feels heavier, with slower side-to-side weight transitions, and doesn't seem to be as tied-down through corners.

But as capable and fun as the SVR is on track, it's better on twisty Spanish roads. Without a helmet on, you hear the ferocious roar of its exhaust clearer, which is loud enough to wake the neighbors, and probably their neighbors' neighbors, too. It's likely the loudest and most wicked-sounding exhaust system available on a production car today.

Again, there's no shortage of power from the V-8, making it difficult to not blow Spain's speed limits out of the water without even really trying. The ZF gearbox cracks off crisp, well-timed shifts in full auto, and features respectable manual shift capabilities, too. It's not quite dual-clutch quick, but it's darn good for a torque-converted unit. A dual-clutch unit would raise the SVR's performance game a notch, but it's not something the car is crying out for, and it's probably better for everyday drivability, too.

As fun as the F-Type SVR is on track, it's more fun on regular streets.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

Like it is on the race track, the F-Type SVR never feels out of sorts, or is it ever uncomfortable on regular roads. While the R can feel occasionally harsh or jumpy over bumps on the street, the SVR absorbs small road imperfections and mid-corner impacts with aplomb. The revised valves in the variable dampers and software changes to control them provide a ride that suitable for daily driving in Normal mode, while things firm up nicely in Dynamic mode. There's a touch more body roll and a bit more play in the steering wheel on center in Normal, but both tighten up in Dynamic, with the steering not being overly twitchy and the suspension avoiding a jarring ride.

For cruising, punching up Normal and turning off the active exhaust system will have the SVR rolling down the road comfortably in a fairly relaxed demeanor. There's no obnoxious tire noise from its 20-inch Pirellis penetrating the cabin, where occupants are nestled into supportive 14-way performance seats with lozenge-like quilted-pattern stitching. Without the burbling and popping exhaust, you can better hear the tunes coming from the standard 770-watt Meridian sound system with music playing from your smartphone through Jaguar's InControl Apps system.

Additional standard tech features include an 8-inch touchscreen, navigation, Bluetooth, reverse camera, parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, reverse traffic detection and InControl Remote application that's compatible with Apple iPhones and Apple Watch. The app lets owners lock and unlock doors, check fuel, mileage, locate the car and start the engine to preheat or precool the cabin before a trip.

Unfortunately, you won't find Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in the F-Type.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

While Apple fans should like InControl Remote, they likely will be disappointed with the lack of Apple CarPlay capabilities in the F-Type. Android Auto users are also out of luck, as the Jaguar Land Rover still hasn't rolled that out in any of its vehicles yet, either. The company says that both will be available in the future, but declines to confirm exact timing for their arrival in any of its products.

And finally, as if the F-Type wasn't beautiful enough already, the SVR has a few special styling elements that not only give it a more distinctive look, but help it be slipperier through the air, reduce lift and improve cooling, all of which all vital for a car to reach 200 mph. There's a wider front bumper with splitter, flat underbody tray, hood vents, rear venturi and most notably, an active rear spoiler that deploys at 70 mph in Normal mode and automatically in Dynamic mode. None of the changes are over the top, and all are rather tasteful so as not to muck up the F-Type's lines, but there's just enough extra visual punch to let everyone know that this isn't a standard F-Type.

When considering the F-Type SVR, there are a couple of questions you do need to answer. The first is, do you want a coupe or convertible? If you opt for the convertible, you have to be okay with both having a top speed of only 195 mph and coughing up a little more money, because the SVR drop-top stickers at $128,800, while the coupe is a slightly more affordable beginning at $125,950. Both go on sale later this summer.

The active wing automatically deploys in Dynamic mode.

Jon Wong/Roadshow

The second question is deciding if the SVR is worth the $20,550 premium over the F-Type R, which starts at $105,400. The extra cost definitely isn't chump change, but the idea of the having the baddest F-Type in the land is compelling. Not only is it well suited for the race track, it's also being surprisingly comfortable on road. Plus, it's 200-mph top speed is worth something, at least in terms of bragging rights.

If you're absolutely in love with the F-Type, I wouldn't blame you one bit for throwing down for a SVR. Chances are you won't regret your decision when you're hammering on your favorite winding country road, taking in its wild exhaust note, nor when you're piling down the straightaway at your local track day, seeing how close you can come to that fabled 200-mph top speed.

 

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