BIRMINGHAM, Mich. — Jaguar has been steering away from sedans, which makes good business sense. With the demise of the XJ and XE, the company’s lineup is as taut as it’s been in recent memory. That’s OK, the F-Pace plays a lot of roles. It’s the most practical and best-selling Jaguar, and in SVR trim, it’s the embodiment of the modern muscle crossover. In fact, it’s a legit hot rod.
This is our first chance behind the wheel of the SVR since it was updated for the 2021 model year along with the rest of the F-Pace lineup. In short: the powertrain is slightly torquier, the brakes and suspension are bolstered, the cabin gets Jaguar’s Pivi Pro infotainment, and the front end is tweaked with new headlights and body work. It’s subtle. Driving the F-Pace SVR is anything but.
The product of Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO), the SVR is a series of visceral experiences, some of them raw and adrenaline-inducing, some of them surprisingly calm. In Sport mode the Jaguar shifts quicker to accelerate harder and the full-throated roar of the exhaust is on display. In Eco or Comfort modes, things are chiller, but I still usually cued up the active exhaust system, which can be switched off and on with a button near the gear shifter.
The supercharged 5.0-liter V8 is old-school, fierce and one of the reasons you buy this Jaguar. With 550 horsepower and 516 pound-feet, it’s firmly in the upper class among performance-oriented SUVs, and the 3.8-second sprint to 60 mph is impressive for a compact crossover that’s on the larger size for the segment.
While the V8 is a quickly disappearing throwback, Jaguar hasn’t used it as prolifically as American or German luxury brands throughout its 100-year history — often skipping from six to 12 cylinders — depending on the car and the time period. Driving the F-Pace SVR with its supercharged eight cylinders is to experience the apogee of Jaguar’s 2010s pivot to V8 muscle, before the brand transitions to electric vehicles by the end of the decade.
It’s best to live in the present in the F-Pace SVR. On a wide-open Saturday morning, I dial up Sport Mode, crack the windows to let in the exhaust note and set out for a day trip to visit family on the other side of town. With the snow disappearing on this warm late winter morning, I make the most of a fleeting opportunity to push the F-Pace a bit, with quick launches and enthusiastic acceleration into open gaps on the expressway. Satiated, I slip back to cruising speeds as my passenger falls asleep. He’s 4-years-old and it’s nap time.
Now, the F-Pace SVR shows its stuff as a comfortable family hauler. It’s relatively high off the ground and has decent clearance, so I felt a sense of traditional SUV security from the driver’s seat. There’s good visibility and even the door sill is at a nice level. I could prop an elbow up, crack the window and let in some early spring breeze. The steering offers decent feedback and the brakes provide strong stopping power after a little pedal travel. Still, the SVR isn’t the handler of the class, as the Mercedes GLC 63 and Audi SQ5 are more buttoned-down during energetic driving.
Largely thanks to the blown V8’s sound and performance, the F-Pace SVR has a streak of unruliness that’s omnipresent. Jaguar engineers could probably try to make it a bit more civilized, but why? The SVR model strikes the right balance between the rawness of an SRT and the more technical approach of an AMG. It’s a good place to land.
The F-Pace I tested has an MSRP of $84,600. Options include the climate pack ($2,110), bright yellow paint (a $4,550-upgrade from the SVO paint palette), 22-inch black wheels with gray inserts ($1,200) and leather seats ($1,150). They lift the sticker to $97,379 — it feels worth the price — and Jaguar occupies an interesting place in the competitive set. Perhaps its most natural rival is the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Both feature raw power and European style but are held back by middling infotainment systems. They outgun things like the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S and BMW X3 M Competition, though the Germans offer more complete executions for luxury buyers. The Macan Turbo offers fewer horsepower but has perhaps the best steering and handling in the class. Buyers might also consider the Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography with the same powertrain and underpinnings as the F-Pace SVR. Being a Land Rover, it has more of an SUV vibe in contrast to the Jag’s almost wagon-like feel.
All of this means the F-Pace SVR and its passionate driving character can be a logical choice for enthusiasts seeking power and style. It’s a stretch to say the Jag is a “poor” man’s Aston Martin DBX given the gap in the quality of the materials, which is reflected in their prices. But the SVR does have more power — for about half the price — and I’ve never pulled up in a Jaguar and had someone not be impressed.
The F-Pace cuts a striking silhouette in SVR trim. Those 22-inchers fill the wheel wells, and the SUV has an almost chopped effect. It’s not a ‘49 Mercury, but the greenhouse creates a low-slung look. There are snazzy vents in the quarter panels, the red brake calipers pop and the head- and taillights are elegant. In an era when many brands resort to more demonstrative styling with severe creases and over-the-top lights, Jaguar hits the right notes for its flagship SUV. Aside from this blinding yellow color, it’s tasteful. Inside is more of the same, and my SVR’s black and gray composition with ambient lighting and attractive trim is sporty yet business-like. The Meridian speakers sound good and look sharp with two of them prominently mounted above the door pulls. It’s dressed to impress and still has plenty of room for a car seat.
So yes, the F-Pace SVR is a versatile SUV that is an ideal option for enthusiasts — especially British car fans — who need to move people and stuff. Jaguar wasn’t the first to stuff a huge V8 in an SUV and fit it for performance duty, but this late-stage hot-rod people hauler stands as one of the most memorable.
2022 Jaguar F-Pace SVR Design Walk-Around