DRIVEN: Jaguar F-Pace SVR P550

EASTNOR, England – It’s all change at Jaguar Land Rover. First the company announces its electrification strategy which will see Jaguar go all-electric from 2025 and Land Rover from 2030, then it updates almost all its models. All except the flagship XJ, of course, which has been given the boot, for now. The E-Pace gets an upgrade as it moves to a new platform, the F-Pace goes more upmarket, the Discovery gains a few tweaks (including a welcome interior refresh) and there’s a new plug-in hybrid Range Rover Velar.

We drove all of them in the UK, including a number of models which aren’t heading to South Africa, such as the mild-hybrid versions, but not surprisingly it was the F-Pace SVR which grabbed our attention the most. Actually, before you think it’s all about the performance and a car which goes “roarrrrr” really loudly, it’s not just about that … well not entirely, anyway.

The F-Pace has had a significant update inside and out. Whether you want the luxurious-looking chrome detailing or the black trim, it looks the part. There are new slim LED headlamps and a new diamond stud-like grille. While the latter looks good, it instantly made us think of the current Kia Sorento.

The biggest changes, though, are on the inside. It’s lost that elegant yacht-inspired curve round the cabin; instead there are multiple layers of trim, more metallic accents and a new centre console. It all feels plusher, more “executive” and, at the same time, trendier. The rotary gearshift that was such a signature item when it debuted on the Jaguar XF sedan has also been ditched, replaced by a stubby lever you will see in other models, too.

Also gone is the narrow infotainment screen, replaced by an 11,4-inch touchscreen that is not only better to look at but easier and faster to use. The previous one was slow to react but the new Pivi Pro infotainment system works brilliantly and can be tailored to your preferences. We’ve already seen it in the new Defender, but it’s great to see it being used in other models and you’ll find it in the updated E-Pace and Discovery, too.

Pivi is not the only fresh piece of tech in the new F-Pace; there’s also a new cabin air ionisation system that can capture fine particles. Things are quieter, too, thanks to an active road noise cancellation system that works rather like your headphones to use opposing sound waves to counter the sounds coming into the cabin.

Now before we get to the SVR, there’s one other F-Pace to talk about: the P400e plug-in hybrid. It’s not just about the fact it can be plugged in, deliver up to 53 km of electric range and emit just 49 g/km of CO2; it’s that it is a really nice thing to drive. Thanks to the 17,1 kWh battery pack beneath the boot floor, it feels much better balanced than a regular petrol or diesel. It’s got that “best of both” thing about it too, able to waft along at pace or cruise silently through the streets of Sandton. It might be an interim thing until a full electric version comes along, but that’s fine.

Now to the headline act, the SVR. Obviously, it looks the part with a new front bumper, rear valance, bonnet vents, spoiler and 22-inch forged alloys (and the new interior), but it’s what it does that’s a treat. There’s been a focus on aerodynamics with lift reduced by a massive 35 percent and drag down by three percent. Combine this with the retuned dampers and you’ve got a big cat that sits incredibly well on the road. There’s a very noticeable rear bias to the active all-wheel-drive system that gives it more than a hint of a sportscar feel and an electronically controlled active rear diff to help you make the most of it.

Torque is up 20 units to 700 N.m with power pegged at 405 kW (the claimed 0-100 km/h thus falls three-tenths to 4,0 seconds). With maximum twisting force available from 3 500 r/min, you’ll have to excuse the cliche but this thing “leaps”. Then it grips. Then it stops, courtesy of hefty brakes. It’s a monstrous thing that just happens to have a beautiful interior and all the luxury you’d expect from something wearing a Jaguar badge. It’s bonkers in a really good way. I’m a huge advocate of the performance station wagon if you need lots of space for stuff, but the F-Pace SVR – well, it’s downright lovely.

Author: Mark Smyth

FAST FACTS

Model: Jaguar F-Pace SVR P550
Price: R1 835 700 
Engine: 5,0-litre supercharged V8
Power: 405 kW
Torque: 700 N.m
0-100 km/h: 4,0 seconds
Top Speed: 286 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 12,2 L/100 km
CO2: 275 g/km
Transmission: 8-speed automatic

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