BMW will tell you it wants the hot SUVs it makes to feel like an M-car on stilts. Likewise, Alfa Romeo has done a terrific job of injecting the raw dynamism of the Giulia Quadrifoglio into the 503bhp Stelvio range-topper. But while these cars are impressive and uncompromising feats of engineering, after a short drive in the F-Pace SVR you’re left wondering if either rival represents the right dynamic philosophy, or the most gratifying approach, for tuning such a big, heavy and family-oriented performance car.
With this SVR, Jaguar has not sought to replicate the handling attributes of its quickest coupés and saloons. The result may not be a car that will power oversteer or dive into corners at a mere flick of the wrists, but it is one that handles both reassuringly and very enjoyably within the context of an immensely stable, fine-riding SUV.
Jaguar has cut its cloth with the F-Pace SVR. The electromechanical steering is naturally weighted and conservatively paced but never feels short of response, and, as with so many quick Jaguars, it gives supreme confidence. There is greater lean through quicker corners than you might expect, although the roll rates are linear so a well-hustled F-Pace SVR doesn’t feel as though it’s teetering on the brink of control. Direction changes unfold in a GT-car style and invite the driver to settle into a quick flow, managing the weight of the body and conserving momentum (but don’t worry too much – that can quickly be restored).
With rear-biased four-wheel drive and generous contact patches, roadholding is excellent and traction rarely an issue, although the SVR’s first instinct is always to err on the side of safety and understeer gently under power. It’s possible to tease some attitude out of the car with trail braking, but ultimately this set-up is tuned for stability before agility – and as anyone who’s ever frightened themselves during a ‘moment’ in a Porsche Macan or Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio will confirm, that’s just as it should be.
COMFORT AND ISOLATION
Jaguar hasn’t forgotten why people buy SUVs, and despite its wild image, the F-Pace SVR’s road manners are respectable – better than respectable, even, and not just in the context of a rip-snorting performance derivative. With the Bilstein dampers set to their Comfort mode, the car will lope along motorways with a composure and poise that belies the stiffened spring rates and 22in wheels. It’s a gait underpinned with a sinewy resolve, but it is only over the worst corrugations that you are reminded this is chassis that ultimately needs to match a powertrain very nearly worthy of a modern supercar’s.