It's not shocking, really, that driving the Jaguar F-Pace SVR through the French Alps puts a stupid grin on my face. Performance SUVs are in no short supply these days, and they're all incredibly entertaining.
Jaguar lovingly refers to the F-Pace SVR as the "magnificent beast," and it's easy to see why. With its excellent blend of muscle, agility and style, not to mention its useful utility, the F-Pace SVR is an incredible performance all-rounder.
The first step in morphing a regular F-Pace SUV into a proper SVR happens under the hood. Jaguar Land Rover's familiar 5.0-liter supercharged V8 is shoehorned in, good for 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. The ZF-sourced, eight-speed automatic transmission has revised shift mapping, and routes power to all four wheels. The EPA says this SUV should return 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg highway, but you weren't exactly expecting stellar fuel economy from a 550-horsepower SUV, now were you?
What's more important are the performance numbers. Jaguar says the F-Pace SVR will sprint to 60 miles per hour in 4.1 seconds, which beats the Porsche Macan Turbo with Performance Package (4.2 seconds), but doesn't quite best the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio (3.6 seconds) and Mercedes-AMG GLC63 (3.8 seconds). The Jaguar tops out at 176 mph, and it'll cover the quarter-mile in 12.3 seconds at 115 mph.
The power is noticeable and welcome on the great roads of southern France. Activating the SUV's Dynamic drive mode brings right-now throttle response, muscular grunt everywhere in the rev band, and slick, perfectly-timed gear changes for blazing up inclines and powering out of corners. The paddle shifters are responsive, but the transmission is just fine when left to its own devices, too. As with other V8 Jags, the exhaust sound is absolutely wicked, though not quite as loud as what you get in the F-Type sports car.
A host of tweaks make the F-Pace into a formidable performer. Variable, rear-biased all-wheel drive and rear axle torque vectoring help send power to the wheels that have the most grip. New Bilstein adaptive dampers, stiffer springs and a thicker rear antiroll bar improve overall handling chops, keeping the SUV flat and confident in corners. The F-Pace SVR rides on 21-inch forged aluminum wheels, but even-larger 22-inchers are optional. To more efficiently kill speed, the SVR gets four-piston front and single-piston rear calipers clamping down on larger two-piece vented discs.
The chassis improvements definitely pay dividends when you're slinging the F-Pace around. There's controlled body movement under braking and turn-in, but once planted it hangs on tight through bends with heaps of grip from the meaty Pirelli P-Zero tires. (Note: US-spec cars only come from the factory on Pirelli Scorpion all-season rubber.) The steering responds quickly to inputs, and offers satisfying feedback. And since the SVR can send 100 percent of its torque to the rear wheels when driving in Dynamic mode, you can even get the SUV's rear end to swing around while going hot through a corner.
Calling up the Comfort setting dials back the ferocity of the engine, gearbox, dampers and steering, and delivers impressively smooth ride quality. Admittedly, this is on glass-smooth French roads, so the SVR might feel a bit rougher back in the US. Still, it's nice to know the F-Pace SVR isn't just a one-trick pony of performance over poise.
In addition to its larger wheels, the F-Pace SVR gets special bumpers, front fenders, rocker panels and a new rear spoiler. Not only do these alterations give the F-Pace a more aggressive appearance, the enlarged air dams on the fascia, fender vents and hood are functional, helping to cool the supercharged V8. The spoiler out back isn't only for show, either, and helps reduce aerodynamic lift.
Inside, nicely bolstered front sport seats feature lozenge quilted inserts and embossed SVR logos in the headrests. Through the mountains, these chairs kept me firmly in place, and offered generous support to keep things comfortable for long haul. The rear seats are also new for the SVR, with seatbacks that mimic those in front. An SVR steering wheel with aluminum paddle shifters feels great in my hands, and I like the new SportShift gear selector that replaces the rotary dial of other F-Pace models.
The other stuff? It's the same as what you'll find in any other F-Pace. The cabin materials are of good quality, with soft leathers covering the dash, center console and door panels. There's generous space in both rows of seats, and 33.5 cubic feet of cargo-carrying real estate in the trunk behind the rear seats. If you need more room, folding the second row expands the cargo hold to 63.5 cubic feet.
Taking care of infotainment duties is Jag's InControl Touch Pro system with a 10-inch touchscreen that houses navigation, a crisp-sounding, 17-speaker Meridian surround-sound setup, a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight devices and Bluetooth connectivity. InControl is far from the most responsive interface, but it looks pretty and is packed with features. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto offer slightly better infotainment interfaces, both of which are available in a $300 Smartphone Package -- a lame gouge, when other automakers offer this for free, but still, worth every penny.
Standard-issue safety tech includes forward collision warning with low-speed automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist and a handy traffic sign recognition system. Items like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a 360-degree camera and head-up display are available as options.
Starting at $79,990, not including $1,025 for destination, the 2019 Jaguar F-Pace SVR is actually quite reasonably priced. It's in step with the Stelvio Quadrifoglio's $79,995 price tag, and undercuts the $87,700 Macan Turbo with Performance Package. A $70,800 base price makes the GLC63 the bargain of the group, but it comes with more sterile styling and a behind-the-wheel experience that isn't as connected as what you get with the F-Pace.
With the Jaguar, you get a boisterous and punchy V8, a chassis that adapts well to all drive conditions, and standout styling. It's an incredibly rewarding SUV to drive, and within the growing crop of performance crossovers, the new F-Pace SVR easily carves out a place at the top of the pack.
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