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There should be few experiences more enjoyable than racing down a mountain highway in the 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible with the top down on a warm summer day. Except for a pickup truck in front of me, spewing soot out of the tailpipe whenever it accelerates.
I keep my distance until a straightaway comes up, then cross over the dashed line and unleash the 575-horsepower fury of the F-Type SVR's supercharged V8, sport exhaust turned on for maximum effect.
The pickup truck tries to accelerate, but it appears to be standing still as I blast by, emerging from its final cloud of exhaust like Superman rescuing Lois Lane from a burning building. I give a moment's thought to Jaguar's engine tuning and technology, which gives the F-Type SVR such tremendous power while also earning an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) rating from the California Air Resources Board.
And then I'm back to enjoying this gorgeous and powerful convertible, testing its suspension and all-wheel drive through a set of hard turns and very happy I left that pickup truck far behind.
Jaguar's F-Type may be the ultimate gentleman's sports car, and gentlewoman if you want to update the lingo, showing off classic roadster proportions, luxury cabin appointments and a comfortable ride that doesn't interfere with excellent handling.
For the F-Type SVR, Jaguar cranks the performance up to 11, wringing just about every iota out of engine, transmission and suspension. Personally, I like the lines of the F-Type SVR Coupe a little better, but Jaguar loaned us the Convertible version for a week, and I'm not one to complain. The F-Type SVR Convertible sacrifices a little cargo space compared with the Coupe, but both versions only seat two.
At 575 horsepower from its supercharged 5.0-liter direct-injection V8, the F-Type SVR rates 25 more than the next up in the lineup, the F-Type R. Both come standard with all-wheel drive, while Jaguar says it tuned the SVR's eight-speed automatic transmission for quicker shifts. If you prefer three-pedal driving, you will have to step down to the F-Type S, which can be had with a manual transmission.
What most impresses me about the F-Type SVR is how it can feel stiff and comfortable at the same time. It manages to mute vibration even on rough back roads, letting me enjoy the beautiful diamond upholstery on seats and door panels, along with the excellent audio quality from the Meridian-branded 12 speaker 770-watt audio system.
That stiff suspension contributes hugely to handling, so that I don't even feel the corner braking system, which slightly brakes the inside wheel during a turn. Likewise, the F-Type SVR's all-wheel drive splits torque 63 percent to the rear and 37 percent to the front, which is difficult to feel on a dry road. However, the car's obvious competence in hard cornering makes driving a twisty road into a sublime experience.
Switching between Auto and Dynamic modes makes for a palpable difference in power, as the transmission keeps the revs running above 3,000. The Auto mode, however, tries to gauge what I want out of the car, so also makes the transmission maintain power when I'm frequently digging into the throttle and braking hard.
Ostensibly an automatic transmission, the F-Type SVR changes gears as quickly and precisely as a dual-clutch transmission.
Roadshow editor Jon Wong drove the F-Type SVR on the Motorland Aragon Circuit in Teruel, Spain, during a Jaguar-sponsored event. He says, "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."
That steering and the transmission become reasonably tame in city driving, or when creeping along in stop-and-go traffic. As a nod toward the practical, the F-Type SVR employs idle-stop technology, shutting down the thirsty V8 at traffic lights. Despite the size of the engine, it fired up without hesitation whenever I lifted off the brake. The city fuel economy rating only comes in at 15 mpg, but 23 mpg highway makes it touch more palatable. With some significant freeway stretches, I rolled into the garage with an average of 20.6 mpg.
In the F-Type SVR's center dash, Jaguar's InControl infotainment system shows up on an 8-inch touchscreen. Switching between navigation, the stereo and phone interfaces went quickly, but when I searched for a location, there was a noticeable and frustrating pause between each letter input. The system's interface is easy to understand, but also hopelessly out of date. For example, entering an address into navigation requires separate entries for street, city and ZIP code. More recent systems from competitors allow a simple one-box search and address entry, similar to navigation apps on smartphones.
Otherwise, the system presents the usual capabilities, with useful route guidance and audio sources that include Bluetooth and USB port. Don't expect voice command, however, as Jaguar leaves that input method out.
Although you won't find Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support in the F-Type SVR, it does include Jaguar's own InControl app integration, a homegrown means of integrating smartphone's with the car's infotainment system. That system includes some third-party apps, but it lacks the ease of use offered by the Apple and Google solutions.
For really digging into performance, the F-Type SVR includes a G-force meter and other tools that show up on the center screen. The rearview camera looks good, and includes trajectory lines plus the ability to warn about cross traffic when reversing. An optional blind-spot monitor shows an icon in the side mirrors when cars are in the next lane over.
But you won't find adaptive cruise control, as Jaguar doesn't make it available in any version of the F-Type. To be fair, not many high-end sports cars offer it, but with the F-Type SVR's comfortable road-going manners, I would be inclined to take it on a longer trip.
I have zero complaints about the driving character of the 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible. While an impressive sports car, it easily adapts to day-to-day driving. Even its fuel economy isn't terrible, given the highway fuel economy. A true roadster, there are no rear seats, and cargo capacity is limited.
Adaptive cruise control would be really nice to have for those long highway slogs. And while the Meridian audio system sounds excellent, no one will look forward to using this infotainment system. It will, however, manage navigation, hands-free phone calls and digital audio.
Given that the F-Type SVR is the top of the F-Type lineup, at its base price of $125,000 it comes very well-equipped, especially in its performance gear. You could add the $12,000 ceramic brake package, but I would only recommend that for cars that will frequently be taken to the track. The full price range for the F-Type Convertible goes all the way down to $63,000 for a four-cylinder version, with substantially diminished performance. But if you like the F-Type more for its exceptional style than tearing up the track, it's worth considering these lesser trims.