Jaguar's F-Pace SVR ramps up performance

Peter Atkinson
Jaguar's F-Pace SVR is capable of a supercar performance while maintaining its family practicality

How long will it be, do you suppose, before an SUV lines up to race at Bathurst?

It sounds improbable, I know. But surely no more fanciful than the raft of high-performance SUVs now sitting atop an already model-heavy market segment.

More than ever, the Sports Utility Vehicle is decidedly more about sport than utility - with a handful of production soft-roaders now capable of reaching the speed limit in well under five seconds - once the benchmark of "supercar" performance. And the competition grows almost by the day.

But an SUV in the Great Race? Well, maybe they'll get their own separate class - but surely the day can't be too far away.

Just imagine the potential competition.

There's the obvious suspects - German uber-marque Porsche with its Cayenne GTS and its smaller, more nimble but equally potent Macan Turbo.

Into that mix you could add Mercedes-Benz's fleet of AMG soft-roaders - including the GLC63 and GLE63 - not to mention Audi's new Q8, even though we're yet to see a fully-fledged RS version. And BMW's X7 M50d, with its quad-turbocharged diesel engine and 760 Nm of torque, would be pretty handy for climbing that famous mountain straight.

Not that the Germans could expect things all their own way.

Italy would be well-represented by the still unfathomable Lamborghini Urus, as well as the slightly more sensible Maserati Levante. And, of course, America could weigh in with its Jeep Grand Cherokee TrackHawk.

Which inevitably brings us to the Brits.

Just this year we've already tested Range Rover's stunning SV Autobiography - an incredibly large, incredibly posh luxury SUV that seems to operate by its own laws of physics, thanks to the power of a thunderous supercharged V8 engine.

And now there's this. The Jaguar SUV that would literally be the cat among the pigeons in this (imaginary) battle of Bathurst.

It's called the Jaguar F-Pace SVR and it comes out of Jaguar-Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations unit in Warwickshire, England.

It is, I suspect, a place populated mostly by boys who were thrown out of their engineering class for being naughty - and is situated, not surprisingly, just an hour's drive from Woking, where many of the world's Formula One teams are based. You get the idea.

Yet I suspect this performance-enhanced F-Pace is the most "Special Vehicle" to roll out of this facility.

Let's do the numbers.

It's powered by a 5-litre, supercharged V8 that delivers a fierce 405 kilowatts and 680 Newton metres of grunt. Driving through an eight-speed automatic transmission, it puts that power to the ground via a complex, constant all-wheel-drive system, allowing the F-Pace to reach the speed limit in a quite ridiculous 4.3 seconds of sonorous, hair-raising acceleration. Top speed is 283 kilometres per hour.

And it's an SUV!

That means it will seat five people in plush, leathery luxury, will allow you to stack three or four sets of golf clubs in the back, yet unless provoked is wonderfully smooth and civilised as an everyday drive.

To their credit, the Jaguar designers have taken quite a conservative approach to the SVR - with minimal "bling" to signal its wild-child personality. Jolly good thing, too - pimping up a Jag just wouldn't do, old boy.

Save for some breather vents just behind the front wheel-arches on the shapely bonnet, the odd SVR badge around the place and four rather ominous exhausts peeping out from beneath the rear diffuser, you'd scarcely pick this from an "ordinary" F-Pace.

Until, of course, you start that engine. That's when your knees buckle ever so slightly and a wicked grin starts to spread across your face. It gets even better thanks to a little button on the centre console that opens the exhaust baffles and transforms the sound from sublime to, well, more sublime.

Inside, the Jag gets some classy sports treatment - from the Lozenge quilted leather seats (heated and cooled in front and adjustable in 17 ways) to the ebony suede roof lining, headrests with SVR embossing and the meshed aluminium trim finish.

A 380W Meridian sound system does its best to compete with the symphony from the exhaust pipes, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard - along with a 10-inch touch screen, fully customisable digital instrument display and, fortunately, head-up speed display. It's a car that tends to sneak over the speed limit, you see.

It's one of those rare machines that actually benefits from using the gearshift paddles - blipping the throttle on the way down and emitting a crackle and pop as the revs and speed rise in unison.

Unlike some competitors, the list of standard features is long - stretching to adaptive LED headlights, Wi-fi hotspot, lane keeping assist, 360-degree parking aide and voice control.

And while it will cost you a not inconsiderable $140,000 plus on-roads - it represents extraordinary value within its rather exclusive class. The only car to get within $10k is the $149,900 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio- while comparable Benzes and Beemers are almost $20k more expensive - even though few can match the Jag's performance.

Bathurst? Well, it would, at the very least, be the only car that could drive its way out of the gravel trap at the end of Conrod Straight. Not to mention being able to tow the team's caravan to Bathurst for the weekend.

JAGUAR F-PACE SVR

HOW BIG? Based on the underpinnings of the XF executive sedan, the F-Pace offers generous space and passenger comfort.

HOW FAST? Very. Few cars, and even fewer SUVs, can come close to its 0-100km/h sprint of just 4.3 seconds.

HOW THIRSTY? Despite this ballistic performance, it manages reasonable fuel efficiency of 11.7L/100km for the combined cycle.

HOW MUCH? Not cheap, but comparatively so, at $140,462 plus on road costs. Our test vehicle added a Driver Assist pack ($4589), panoramic sunroof (#3570) and head-up display pack ($2650) for total cost of $153,871.