Jaguar F-Pace SVR review: Performance SUV brings the noise and the poise

542bhp super-SUV will hit 60mph in less than 4 seconds and turn heads wherever you go

In days of old, high-performance Jags got on with their business with the minimum of fuss. Perhaps a subtle badge here or there, or an understated bulge in the bonnet. Now, there’s a bit more fanfare about things.

The F-Pace SVR, for example features massive 22-inch alloys, quad exhausts, carbon fibre gills in the bonnet and, of course a smattering of SVR and SVO badges around its imposing SUV shape. On top of that it makes a bit of a noise.

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In fact, that doesn’t do it justice. The sound from the 5.0-litre V8 is positively outrageous and clearly designed to make everyone within about 200 yards stop and stare.

The same engine crops up across the JLR group but in the F-Pace it has a particularly raw and ferocious note. There’s a sharply mechanical edge to it as it rips up the rev range and if the noise inside the cabin is artificially enhanced it’s done far more convincingly than in other performance cars.

The F-Pace SVR received a raft of upgrades at the start of this year, including some gentle tweaking of the engine management that has unlocked an extra 15lb ft of torque. That means the 542bhp supercharged V8 will now get the F-Pace from 0-60mph in just 3.8 seconds - a 0.3-second improvement. Top speed is also up 2mph to a ridiculous 178mph.

Find a straight stretch of road, plant your right foot and let the all-wheel-drive transmission lay the power down and the F-Pace’s acceleration is astonishing, made all the more exhilarating by the raucous roar from the engine and exhaust.

Yet, while the pace is eye-opening, the SVR’s chassis is the real star of the show.  It too has undergone some tinkering so as well as more torque and a sharper throttle response, the adaptive suspension has been stiffened in dynamic mode and the steering recalibrated to be even more responsive.

The results are simply staggering, with handling and response like you wouldn’t imagine possible from such a large vehicle.

It never feels like a small car but the way the F-Pace SVR pivots around its centre point is staggering and the immediacy of the steering response and the fluidity with which it changes direction are simply mind-boggling for a car as big, tall and heavy as this.

For all its sharp ride and handling, stick it in comfort mode and it’s capable of covering long distances in much the same way as any other large SUV as the three-stage dampers settle into their softest setting and active noise cancellation removes the excess tyre roar and wind noise.

Enhancing that comfort is a refreshed cabin that’s simplified the F-Pace interior a little and added the latest 11.4-inch Pivi Pro infotainment system, which is a big step up from the previous arrangement. Materials have been upgraded, the layout improved and the centre console redesigned with knurled metal controls and a neat sunken drive select switch.

Our car featured the optional semi-aniline leather sports seats which look great but, with a proper sporty profile aren’t going to be comfortable for everyone. Those in the back won’t have to contend with this and will enjoy generous space, better than an Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio or Porsche Macan GTS, for instance.

I’ve moaned about the whole idea of performance SUVs before. It seems stupid to have to develop so many clever engineering solutions to fix the fundamental problem of getting a big, top-heavy five-seater to drive like a sports car when you could just build something small and light, like a proper sports car.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to begrudge Jaguar’s engineers credit when they’ve done such a fantastic job of answering a question that should never have been asked.

Jaguar F-Pace SVR

Price: From £78,165; Engine: 5.0-litre, V8, supercharged, petrol; Power: 542bhp; Torque: 516lb ft; Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive; Top speed: 178mph; 0-60mph: 3.8 seconds; Economy: 23.1mpg; CO2 emissions: 275g/km