IAIN ROBERTSON 

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Jaguar-F-Pace-SVR

In a superb instance of the tail wagging the dog, Iain Robertson suggests that, even in a confused new car scene, with a heavy focus on electrification, little glimmers of traditional performance brilliance remain available, albeit carrying a hefty price tag.

One of the major benefits and probably the only one of Ford Motor Company’s sometime stewardship of little Jaguar Cars was a reliability boost to its products. What with having to contend with the US ‘Lemon Law’ that demanded greater levels of warranted durability, Jaguar needed to extricate itself from a reputation that seemed to bounce off the buffers with greater alacrity than it ought to have done. While Indian ownership (by the Tata conglomerate) has been immensely beneficial to the brand, not least when it needs to be bailed out, as the smaller partner to Land Rover, a lack of design integrity and a return to worse levels of dependability have not exactly helped Jaguar’s case, or cause.

I shall admit to being a long-time Jaguar fan, which stemmed from the first time, at the age of six years, when I was drawn to the showroom window of our family’s local Jaguar dealership, where, inside, a white E-Type was turning around ever so slowly and beckoningly. My dad bought sensibly a dark blue 3.8-litre Mark Two saloon, with a red leather interior, despite my tearful efforts to encourage him into the beautiful two-seater. Seed having been sown, I eventually bought my own (used) E-Type.

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Jaguar-F-Pace-SVR

Just harking back briefly to the Ford era, although supercharging had formed part of Jaguar’s performance packaging and there were speedier alternatives from rivals, I became an ardent fan of the subtly shrieking belt-driven device that supplemented the character of both inline and vee engines. Naturally, it was more refined in the XJR saloon than the XKR coupe, or drop-top, but its incessant air blending report and retort became the alluring measure of subsequent quicker Jaguars, possessing assuredly memorable mental replays.

However, it needs to be stated that superchargers and turbochargers for that matter, while offering an on-demand performance boost, also provide an on-demand cash drain in running costs. Delve too deeply into that calculable flood of giddy potency and, apart from observing the negative visual impact on the fuel gauge, the warping of the credit card becomes a sobering affair. While electronic management developments have improved the situation somewhat, the link between right foot and back pocket remains extant. Naturally, the electrification brigade loves to hear tales like this but Jaguar can sate their concerns with the all-electric i-Pace model. For the rest of us, SVR is hurled into focus, like a revisitation from Jurassic Park.

Packing a 544bhp, 5.0-litre, supercharged V8 power unit beneath the shapelier bonnet of the F-Pace SUV (a ‘Disco’ by any other descript) is the SVR recipe that figures highly on the Scoville Scale. If you thought that your chili con carne was hot, trust me, this is hotter and it will match the i-Pace’s electric power delivery, with a significantly higher top whack and no incipient worries about range. Of course, it is an old-fashioned antidote to the efforts of the EVangelists and even though the 2030 ban on fossil-fuelled newcomers weighs-in heavily, it is also the perfect, contemptuous cock-of-the-snook to the antagonists. Let’s revel in it!

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Jaguar-F-Pace-SVR

With access to 516lbs ft of unrelenting torque, the F-Pace SVR scorches from 0-60mph in a blistering 3.8s and onwards to an electronically restricted top speed of 178mph. It is not exactly ‘easy’ on the environment, emitting an immodest 275g/km CO2 into the atmosphere and consuming petrol at an unashamed combined rate of 23.1mpg, for which, allied to its £77,595 price tag, means a king’s ransom is paid in road tax for its first five years of existence, a factor that might dissuade some private buyers, although corporate coffers will also feel the impact and the end-user will fund the chunky BIK. If you can afford it, go for it, because the driving thrills are abundant at a level that makes the i-Pace redundant.

Jaguar’s much revised Electronic Vehicle Architecture, dubbed EVA 2.0, has improved both the 8-speed automatic transmission responses and the vehicle’s dynamics significantly. The recalibrations result in a more focused and finely honed driving experience. Dial-in the appropriate setting and the throttle response will be sharpened, as the suspension stiffens, with optimised weighting to the steering and enhanced exhaust mapping, for pops and over-run bangs aplenty. Turn-in crispness but not at the cost of linearity, or comfort, is a highlight and the amount of g-forces that can be attained in tighter bends, while not eye-popping, certainly warrant the hip-hugging talents of the sports seats. By the way, the driving position is multi-adjustable and excellently supportive.

It never ceases to amaze me just how stable some crown contenders can be in the top-heavy realm of the SUV. The F-Pace SVR is a case in point, as it feels mechanically engaged, even though we all know that it is ingeniously electronically managed. The adaptive damping has been revised not just to create more discernible settings for the control switch but also to better define ride quality. In all respects, the duality of purpose evident in the test car only serves to underscore Jaguar’s long-standing but sadly politically inhibited ‘Space, Grace and Pace’ promotional tagline.

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Jaguar-F-Pace-SVR

SVR drivers also benefit from improved brake feel; the 395mm (front) and 396mm (rear) two-piece disc brakes being supported by a new integrated electric power booster which, along with a recalibration of the system, delivers a more sporting and shorter travel brake pedal. The improved cooling and enhanced aerodynamics of the mildly revised body styling also improve the performance of the brakes, to provide the driver with even greater confidence, after all, being able to stop quicker than the car can accelerate is a practical characteristic. Finally, that subtle redesign has gifted the F-Pace the Jaguar charisma that it lacked originally.

Conclusion:        The revised F-Pace has a lot going for it but the SVR version gives so much more, despite the EV-sized price tag. I am sure that this will not be the last of Jaguar’s cock-snookers but it does suffice for the moment and, hell’s teeth, we all need a bit of Jaguar signature vivacity in our lives.

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