Jaguar F-Pace SVR 2023 review
It’s the Jaguar XF SVR estate we never had. Despite being a big SUV, the F-Pace does a brilliant job of blending control and charisma into one impressive package
We may be more partial to a fast estate than a high-performance SUV at evo, but given the choice of one fast family car or none at all, we can be persuaded to take a closer look at the latter. The Jaguar F-Pace SVR is neither big nor clever, and while it will never have the undeniable ‘cool’ factor of the short-lived XFR-S Sportbrake, upon closer inspection there’s actually a lot going for this very loveable family hauler.
In that most unusual of circumstances, despite the Jaguar F-Pace sharing a majority of elements with its more rugged Land Rover cousins, one of the things it doesn’t share is its chassis, instead drawing from Jaguar’s rear-drive saloons in its development. This permeates the F-Pace SVR’s technical make-up in the best way possible, as it’s both lighter, simpler and more focused in its underpinnings than it ever would be with Land Rover bits under the skin.
This much is clear to see in the still sleek Ian Callum design, proudly featuring a long bonnet, sleek cabin and athletic proportions that do a great job of making an otherwise chubby SUV look lithe. The F-Pace SVR was upgraded in the 2021 model year alongside the rest of the range with even sleeker new elements, including a new bonnet that runs all the way down to the grille (the old model had a shorter bonnet and corresponding shutline purely for insurance purposes). The SVR still has plenty of bespoke elements compared to lesser F-Paces, too, with either black or contrasting matte grey wheelarch extensions, lower body trim and bonnet vents. At the rear, the four large exhaust outlets still sit within a unique bumper insert, complete with vaned aero management on the outer corners.
The SVR’s 2021 changes inside were even more substantive, with a brand new dashboard and infotainment screen that replaced the previous F-Pace’s fairly underwhelming interior with something much more befitting its panache and price point. In fact, save for the oddly cheap-feeling gear selector, the interior is now a highlight of what is a broadly impressive package.
Ironically, the gearbox the new selector controls is a fresh unit that’s been borrowed from the SVO department’s Project 8. With a higher torque rating and reinforced internals, Jaguar’s been able to fit the 8’s more aggressive shift software, giving it a proper snap of upshifts accompanied by much sharper downshifts, with a blip thrown in for good measure.
On charisma alone the SVR’s ageing supercharged AJ V8 engine it’s connected to has a lot going for it, and in this trim produces a rousing 542bhp and 516lb ft of torque – the same power figure, but an increase of 15lb ft compared with the previous SVR. Together with the sharper transmission, this is sufficient to propel the F-Pace to 62mph in just 4.0sec and on to a top speed of 178mph. The old version topped out at 176mph.
The V8 engine does now feel a touch cumbersome beside more modern equivalents from BMW, Porsche, Mercedes and Alfa. It produces the goods statistically, and makes a decent noise in the process, but you get the distinct feeling that we’ve been here before with this engine, and already have several T-shirts to show for it. What the on-paper performance doesn’t relay, though, is how well the V8 suits the F-Pace – the pairing is near perfect, with the engine’s responses totally synced into the car’s chassis set-up.
There are still the same modes to choose from within the drive programme – but what happens when you now switch between those modes has a much more dramatic effect on the car’s dynamic personality. And in Dynamic mode, especially, it feels much more cohesive. Plus you can alter the characteristics of the drivetrain individually now far more easily to suit your mood, the conditions and so on.
The other big area of improvement is the isolation and damping of the drivetrain, which makes the SVR feel both more refined on the move and more urgent at the same time. Again, Jaguar’s SVO division has employed much of the know-how it gleaned when creating the Project 8, and transferred it almost lock-stock to the F-Pace.
On the road, the SVR isn’t as sharp as Porsche’s latest Cayenne Turbo GT or as sophisticated as an Aston Martin DBX, but it has its own set of attributes that strike a delicate and nuanced balance between outright entertainment and GT-like touring ability. The F-Pace feels deftly set up for UK roads in a way few, if any, rivals can match. Behind the V8 engine, it's a vehicle that speaks not just of the quality of car Jaguar is capable of creating, but also the talent still inherent in British engineering.
Try and manhandle the SVR and it can get a bit ragged, but there’s a sweet spot somewhere below the limits of adhesion on turn-in and above the limits on corner exit. The coil-sprung suspension is also superbly calibrated, with a fine balance of spring rate and damper frequency that finds a near perfect compromise between body control and suppleness that just monsters UK roads – something we feel is accentuated even further by the no-cost option 21-inch wheels (22s are standard).
While this engine is hard to criticise and easy to like because of the amount of raw performance it endows the SVR with – and for the way it sounds – it feels old school nowadays. And the fact that the rest of the F-Pace SVR has become so good – great new steering, excellent body control, fine damping and drivetrain refinement, seriously strong brakes and so on – leaves the dear old V8 out in the cold even more obviously.
As Jaguar veers away from the combustion engine and its performance car heritage, the F-Pace SVR is a timely reminder that it still can compete at the top level. We’ve run one for the best part of 12 months and loved every second of our ‘ownership’, even revelling in some surprisingly good fuel consumption and flawless reliability. We just hope that the final and ultimate expression of a Jaguar performance car is not in the form of an SUV, as good as this one is.
Price and rivals
No question, the £84,940 F-Pace SVR is competitively priced considering how well it goes, how much new gear it comes with inside, how good it looks and how memorable it is to drive.
It costs over £27k less than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, yet has almost as much performance and, arguably, a bigger personality on the road.
Only the £79k Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio comes close to rivalling the Jaguar’s combination of pace and price at this level, and while it undercuts the SVR, it is not as well specified, nor is it as roomy or desirable inside.