The Jaguar F-Pace SVR’s more mild-mannered cousin has entered the fray. Does its refined approach mean greater appeal?

Armed with impressive global sales figures of more than 60 000 units for the first 12 months of Velar production, together with broadly positive feedback on its brutish Jaguar F-Pace SVR, the marketing meeting at Jaguar Land Rover’s Coventry head office to discuss whether to combine these two platform-sharing projects into a new flagship product would likely have been a short one.

In JLR parlance, the SVR (Special Vehicle Racing) badge is reserved for vehicles upgraded with outright performance and track focus in mind. Distorted somewhat within the F-Pace’s two-tonne, raised-ride-height frame, the objective with the fastest Velar to date was rather an amalgamation of the brand’s famous high-end Autobiography insignia with the kind of performance that saw the top-of-the-range F-Pace record a sub five-second sprint time in both our 2019 road test and again at Performance Shootout 2020.

The Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition will be on sale for just 12 months from start of production and builds on the 2018 World Car Design of the Year’s already sleek and effortlessly sophisticated lines. Finished in a menacing Santorini Black-on-black paint combination (the roof can be specced in contrasting black, or to match one of the 25 available body colours), our test unit was granted additional presence via optional 22-inch dark grey forged rims (21-inch items are standard). Together with an upgraded body kit (bumpers, sills and grille), the Velar SVA is instantly identified by its signature LED daytime-running lights, red brake callipers and collection of imposing squared-off exhaust tailpiece housings protruding from its rear.

Although by design not as raucous as the quad setup fitted to the F-Pace SVR, these pipes nevertheless originate from the same supercharged 5,0-litre V8 engine. It delivers an identical 405 kW and 680 N.m of torque to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

In the Range Rover package, this translates to a marginally slower (though no less dramatic) 0-100 km/h time of 4,63 seconds compared with the SVR’s 4,58-second run recorded on our test strip.

Upgraded to match the arrangement fitted to the F-Pace, the 395 mm front and 396 mm rear ventilated braking system provides impressive stopping power, especially when you consider the SVA’s hefty overall mass.

True to its Autobiography standing, the top-of-the-range Velar gains air suspension (the F-Pace makes do with steel items). Tuneable through a comfort or dynamic setting, this arrangement affords the SVA a degree of additional versatility as its ground clearance can be varied. Combined with the brand’s Terrain Response off-road package, the owner of the sportiest Velar can at least consider heading off the beaten track.

On asphalt, the SVA’s recalibrated all-wheel-drive system directs up to 100% of torque to the rear wheels as required during enthusiastic driving. It’s here, though, where the Velar loses ground to some of its rivals. Laugh-out-loud quick in a straight line, the laws of physics aren’t kind to the still softly sprung Range Rover once the road ahead gets bendy. It’s not to say JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) department couldn’t have done a better job at making the Velar more planted, but remember the brief with the SVA was to combine performance with comfort and sophistication.

A nice place to be in standard guise, the interior of the Velar SVAutobiography is further enhanced by standard-fitment 20-way adjustable front seats (incorporating heating, cooling and massage functions), an upgraded sound system and subtle switchgear surface enhancements. The Velar’s Windsor leather-covered front seats present an impressive compromise between comfort and lateral support, although they’re not as slender nor form-hugging as the items found in the F-Pace.

The complexity and relatively slow workings of the brand’s Touch Pro Duo touchscreen setup remains a weak point in the Velar’s otherwise neat interior packaging. However, this system has been updated to include menus linked to both the calibration and screening of data related to this model’s dynamic ability.



TEST SUMMARY

Surely one of the most challenging assignments a modern performance division can be handed is how best to imbue a vehicle designed to transport family and friends in raised-ride comfort with the kind of performance and handling prowess associated with the mandate of your department?

Having dialled up the wick on the ferocious F-Pace SVR, JLR’s SVO division has been conservative in its approach to the limited-run Velar. SVO has been careful to combine the sophistication and luxury associated with the Range Rover and Autobiography badges, while making optimal use of one of the finest examples of a supercharged V8 drivetrain.

There are sharper tools in this segment but the combination of that svelte profile, class-leading interior materials and a convincing dual personality – highlighted by a widely variable exhaust note – certainly adds to the appeal.  

SCORE: 77/100