Is the raucous Jaguar F-Pace SVR the last of the truly wild big cats?
By the time the Jaguar F-Pace arrived in 2016, Mercedes had been building SUVs for 19 years, BMW for 17 years, and Porsche for 14 years. The luxury SUV was already a lucrative segment that Jaguar arguably could and should have jumped on earlier, but for whatever reason, never did. The performance version, too, was late to the party. Unveiled in March 2018 at the New York Auto Show, it was over a year later that the F-Pace SVR finally started landing with customers. It announced its arrival, though, in the most Jaguar way possible: with a very big engine.
That engine is a good place to start with the F-Pace SVR , because it has a long and interesting history, and is the undeniable centrepiece of the car. When the AJ-V8 arrived in 4.0-litre form in 1997’s XJ and XK, it was the first V8 Jaguar had produced. Now in its third generation, and available exclusively as a 5.0-litre supercharged unit, it remains the only one and will almost certainly stay that way as Jaguar commits to an all-electric future.
While rivals have nearly all switched to smaller, turbocharged engines, the Jag V8 remains a steadfastly supercharged 5.0-litre lump of aluminium, its soundtrack a snarling, crackling riposte to the very notion of downsizing and turbocharging. It still finds a remarkable number of homes across the Jaguar Land Rover empire, although likely not for much longer as Jaguar makes its aforementioned electric push and Land Rover switches over to a BMW-sourced twin-turbocharged V8.
For now, though, it sits proudly in the nose of this, the range-topping version of Jaguar’s mid-size SUV. It’s a pretty car – as elegant and restrained as a 542bhp SUV that weighs over two tonnes dry can be, especially next to German rivals that seem increasingly to be taking the concept of ‘styling’ towards its logical extreme.
It’s also quick. The F-Pace SVR cracks 0-60mph in 3.8 seconds. As much as it regularly feels pointless to compare modern cars to old ones, the fact that a family SUV will out-accelerate most supercars from 20 years ago is still mightily impressive.
Essentially, it’s a pretty, fast, and practical car that moves down the road in a way that disguises its substantial form, and one sitting within a hugely popular market segment. It also has a very charismatic engine, and is made by a brand that, on the surface at least, seems to still get a lot of love in the UK.
So why exactly do you never seem to lay eyes on them? It’s certainly no secret that Jaguar haven’t been enjoying the strongest of sales in recent years, something exacerbated by the still-ongoing chip shortage, which has hit Gaydon particularly hard.
The steady creep of the likes of BMW, Porsche and Mercedes-AMG into this segment probably have something to do with this. Look at the best-selling cars in any sector and it becomes clear that, no matter how positive public sentiment is towards a certain brand, when it comes to actually buying, Britons back local brands far less than they used to.
Jaguars, even on home turf, seem to suffer much the same fate as Alfa Romeos: they’re aspirational, emotional cars that people fantasise about owning, but at the last minute they veer off into the comfort of a BMW or Audi dealership.
This seems a shame, especially if this is the swansong for performance Jags with internal combustion engines. The F-Pace SVR is a car of enormous charm and capability that offers its occupants a real sense of occasion. The fact that it remains as overlooked as it is is very sad indeed.