Let’s play armchair auto exec for a moment, shall we? Imagine you’re heading up Jaguar, filling in for Sir Ralf Speth, and have access to the company’s platforms and designers. You’ve got a parts bin full of goodies (including a supercharged V-8), some handsome upholstery, a quick-shifting eight-speed gearbox, and a rear-biased AWD system. All of those parts already exist in the stunning F-Type, of course. But what about the F-Pace SUV? The enthusiast in you might wonder how a family-friendly four-door with lots of luggage space would respond to 550 horsepower and a much sportier suspension.
Just a few years ago the idea might have sounded absurd, but the performance SUV, once an oddity, becoming a must-have for luxury brands. Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lamborghini, and of course Jaguar’s sister company Range Rover all offer midsize SUVs with more than 500 horsepower. Hell, even Jeep has the 707-hp Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Not all of these big brutes, however, look as good as the F-Pace SVR.
The base F-Pace is handsome, sharing noticeable styling cues with the slinky F-Type. The standard F-Pace even has taillights that resemble the luxury coupe, but the SVR adds more aggressive styling on top of larger, lighter aluminum wheels, huge brakes, and unique front and rear fascia that improve airflow to the hungry V-8 engine. Like the F-Type, the supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 in the F-Pace SVR cranks out 550 horsepower (the same as in the F-Type R, but down 25 horses compared to the F-Type SVR). Yes, the exhaust sounds just as ridiculous when you fire it up or lean into the throttle.
Larger-diameter anti-sway bars and stiffer springs compared to the regular F-Pace reduce body roll and firm up the ride. The SVR even uses a rear-biased AWD system that never sends more than 50 percent of the V-8’s power to the front axle.
Everything in the recipe points to a sporty, do-everything SUV—so we planned to put it through its paces and find out how it tackles road trips and just-for-fun jaunts. Our first real test of the SVR came on some of the curvy canyon roads in Malibu, California.
Of course, we immediately cycled to the “Dynamic” driving mode (its icon is a checkered flag, how could we resist?) which firmed up the shocks and added heft to the electric steering assist. Our initial impression on not-so-smooth road surfaces was that the suspension was shockingly taut. The SVR kept its cool and provided reasonably good steering feel in those conditions, but the roads were terrible and the fun of Dynamic mode’s sharper throttle response, and heavier steering feel wore off due to the jarring ride. Comfort mode, the SVR’s default, proved more capable of soaking up the buckled asphalt. Once we found some more civilized pavement we went back to Dynamic mode and savored the surprisingly responsive handling. For a behemoth that weighs 4400 pounds, the SVR was relatively easy to dial in on back roads.
Next up was a drive up California’s Highway 101, which we jumped on to attend Monterey Car Week. Stepping into a new car for a 350-mile road trip often makes for some awkward squirming around in the seats and lots of fiddling with a multitude of knobs and rockers to get the proper seating position. That was never the case in the SVR. Its beautifully quilted and ventilated leather seats look like they came straight from the F-Type. Despite their deeply cupped, rib-hugging shape and a thin cross-section that looks more like a race seat than a BarcaLounger, they’re perfectly suited for grand touring duty. Even without an adjustable headrest we didn’t have a problem getting settled for a long haul. We even took some extra time off the freeway to carve up some more twisty pavement.
Combined with a quick-shifting eight-speed auto, the F-Pace SVR was always ready to deliver passing power. It just ate up miles for breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, and so on. We often opted to use the console-mounted button to enable the exhaust’s Sport mode, which gave us yet another reason to open the throttle.
In our opinion, that brash exhaust note trumpeting out of the Jag’s quad exhaust tips is exactly what a 550-horsepower V-8 deserves, and reason enough to get an F-Pace SVR over a GLE 63 AMG or an X5M. But when you come home late after a night out, make sure to press that button on the console with a tailpipe picture on it to switch the full mufflers back on so you don’t wake up the little children. (Who, let’s be honest, would probably love that sound, but we digress.)
Jaguar’s F-Pace SVR is exactly the kind of SUV that enthusiasts (with families and/or hauling needs) prayed the British carmaker would unleash. It melds the best powerplant Jaguar Land Rover has on tap with tenacious brakes, a suspension that can actually keep up, and sporty styling that complements the performance. The market for a 550-horsepower SUV that actually handles is arguably tough, considering it’s getting to be a rather crowded space, but Jaguar should be commended for making the leap—and sticking the landing.