Jaguar F-Pace SVR.
Jaguar F-Pace SVR.

Tested: The unlikely muscle car

Mick Jagger once sang about "all the special pleasures of doing something wrong" - and that sums up the drive experience of Jaguar's new F-Pace SVR.

The Rolling Stones frontman may have been referring to wine and women, the four-wheel bad boy Brit SUV equivalent holds two fingers up to electric powertrains, renewable energies and silent running.

Instead, it brings an old-school 5.0-litre supercharged V8 good for 405kW, 0-100kmh time of 4.3 seconds and top speed of 283km/h.

The F-Pace SVR is extremely fast for an SUV that weighs more than two tonnes.
The F-Pace SVR is extremely fast for an SUV that weighs more than two tonnes.

There's even a naughty button in the centre console to turn the exhaust note from disturbing the neighbours into downright obnoxious. It's a riot of noise and performance, and Sir Mick would surely approve.

The first Jag SUV to be given the SVR (Special Vehicle Racing) treatment, it's something of a latecomer to the performance high-rider segment.

The sticker price from $140,020 before on-roads puts it up against the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio ($149,900), Mercedes-AMG GLC 63S ($172,040), BMW X3 M Competition ($157,900) and next year's new Porsche Macan Turbo - that's a big, bruising field when it comes to SUVs with supercar performance.

The SVR has a rampaging exhaust note.
The SVR has a rampaging exhaust note.

Jaguar widens the wheel arches to muscle-up the graceful design common to modern Jaguars, and adds an aero body package, larger air intakes, bonnet vents, quad tail pipes, rear spoiler and huge brake rotors behind lightweight 21-inch alloys.

A bewildering amount of technology keeps this all-wheel drive job on the bitumen, including an electronic active differential, adaptive suspension and dynamic drive modes.

Once you've finished gulping premium unleaded in town you can head for the hills, sharpen the eight-speed transmission and throttle response, weight-up the steering and treat this two-tonner like a sports roadster. Kind of.

It may accelerate like a low-slung muscle car but the cabin experience is altogether different. Perched high in slimline sports seats, you look across the bulbous bonnet and down on lesser road users, while there are slots in the quilted leather bucket seats for your race harnesses should you wish to tackle Mt Panorama.

The seats fold down to make a cavernous cargo space.
The seats fold down to make a cavernous cargo space.

For your money the cabin lacks true theatre but has the required plushness. There are 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster; power heated and cooled seats, meshed aluminium trim finish, aluminium paddle-shifters behind a sporty dished steering wheel, suede headlining and ambient lighting.

In the heated rear seats, two adults fit fine (three's a push) ahead of the decent 508L boot.

Infotainment's covered with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Meridian audio, navigation through a 10-inch touchscreen and 4G Wi-Fi for up to eight devices - operationally the screen and menus aren't the last word in slickness.

You get some active safety as standard but it's pushing the relationship to ask for another $4589 for such increasingly commonplace items as surround camera, blind spot assist and reverse traffic detection. The head-up display is another $2650.

The SVR has an extensive options list, but many of them should be standard.
The SVR has an extensive options list, but many of them should be standard.

On the road

When dynamic mode and active sport exhaust are engaged, you stop caring about the above. The F-Pace SVR does a marvellous impression of a sensible SUV as it rolls through town in a composed and docile manner - then in a heartbeat it goes all British bulldog.

The supercharged V8 barks into life with such shattering noise you question its legality: always a good sign. The front end rears up and you surge forward as the big body tries to play catch-up with the thuggish 5.0-litre up front.

Most fun is holding gears with the paddle-shifter, keeping revs above 4000rpm and feathering the throttle. The big Jag pounces and lurches like a monster truck ready to entertain.

The whoosh from the supercharger and race-car pops from the exhaust do a great job of scaring children yet it complies when asked to corner and brake with control and relative smoothness.

Despite its bulk, it's a pretty easy job to drive fast and fluidly. Show it a motorway and it happily returns to cosseting, semi-serene mode, even on its optional 22-inch wheels.

Do such rapid V8 SUVs make any real, proper sense? Of course not, but as Jagger said, there's a special feeling when doing the wrong thing.

You can buy Jaguar's all-electric I-Pace SUV for about the same money as this F-Pace SUV. But where's the fun in being good?

Jaguar XE review

Jaguar has significantly reduced its XE range.
Jaguar has significantly reduced its XE range.

Stick a Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series or Audi A4 on your driveway and it's hard to criticise your medium sedan choice: the German benchmark is high.

Jaguar's XE struggles to keep pace - its 524 sales last year were one-tenth the
C-Class figures - but it's still a quality, well-equipped and decent value alternative, more so for the 2020 model year update.

Jaguar Australia has massively simplified the range. From the bewildering 15 versions at the start of this year, there are just two:
R-Dynamic SE for $65,670 and R-Dynamic HSE for $71,940, plus on-roads. They look more expensive than they are.

Graceful and sporty, they share a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo and eight-speed auto. The diesel is dropped and there's no mention of a hybrid. Keep things simple.

With outputs of 221kW/400Nm, the turbo clocks 5.9 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint, about the sweet spot for ample performance plus reasonable economy (6.9L/100km) at the sensible sticker price.

New front and rear bumpers add a more aggressive and lower-looking stance. Standard are LED headlights and tail-lights, 18-inch alloys, electric leather seats, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 10-inch screen and lane-keep assist.

HSE grade adds a second screen for your heating and cooling needs, 12.3-inch driver display, added safety and audio gear, 19-inch alloys and 18-way seat adjustment.

Cabins now feature an F-Type's proper handgrip gear shifter, which feels sportier than the rotary dial of old, and the general ambience is high quality - that said, the test cars had numerous options.

The Jaguar can compete with the established German players.
The Jaguar can compete with the established German players.

The real win is the drive. The engine packs all the power you'd realistically need, delivered in a refined, rapid manner.

The XE delivers mightily on the sporting Jaguars' brief for exceptional handling and there's little to touch it for sheer ease at carving through corners with supreme balance. Sweet steering feedback and assured grip reward the enthusiastic driver.

A less obvious choice than the ubiquitous Germans, it's no less brilliant and arguably better value.

Jaguar F-Pace SVR

Price: From $140,262 plus on-roads

Warranty/servicing: 3 yrs/100,000km, $3550 for 5 yrs/130,000km

Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, rear camera, lane keep assist, 360-degree parking aid, driver monitor

Engine: 5.0-litre V8 supercharged, 405kW/680Nm

Thirst: 11.7L/100km

Spare: Space-saver

Boot: 508L


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