What is it?
The Jaguar F-Type SVR isn’t your typical ‘halo’ sports car. It was not part of the script written by Jaguar’s product planners in the build-up to the launch of the F-Type roadster in 2013. It was not being thought of as the company’s engineers prepared the F-Type R Coupé for launch a year later. As those same engineers will tell you, when they finished the 542bhp R Coupé, they thought they’d taken the F-Type as far as it could go as a high-performance model. For the record, so did we; it was not a disappointing car to drive.
But when the limited-run F-Type Project 7 came along last year, it changed the picture. Firstly by demonstrating that an appetite for an even more powerful and expensive F-Type did exist, and secondly by allowing the team of specialists that would go on to crew Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations team to show what they can do.
That pretty much brings us up to date. Jaguar’s first SVR-branded product, the 567bhp F-Type SVR, was unveiled at the 2016 Geneva motor show. It’s the fastest roadgoing Jaguar since the XJ220, capable of an ungoverned 200mph as a fixed-roof coupé. It's also available as a soft-top roadster, albeit with a slightly lower top speed and higher price.
What's it like?
Think of this as a quicker, more composed and less lurid-handling F-Type and you’ll be on the right page. It could hardly have been a stiffer, wilder or more excitable car than the F-Type R Coupé, as anyone who read our 2014 Best Driver’s Car contest may remember. Instead, it was always Jaguar’s intention to add pace, purpose and poise to the F-Type’s arm as well as stability, usability and just a touch of cruising comfort. And mostly, SVO’s expert crew has met those aims.
The Project 7’s highly tuned supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine provided the mechanical departure point, although in the SVR that motor’s 567bhp finds its way to the road through all four wheels rather than exclusively through the rear axle, and also through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Wider 20in forged alloy wheels, new adaptive dampers, retuned anti-roll bars and a new lightweight knuckle for the rear suspension complete the SVR’s chassis overhaul. Retuned control software for the power steering, automatic gearbox, stability control, active rear differential and four-wheel drive system is part of the deal, too.
That says nothing about the major effort put into making this a genuine 200mph car: on aerodynamics. Drop a Project 7 engine into a normal F-Type coupé and it would stop accelerating just shy of 190mph. But with a wider and more slippery front valance, vented front wings that take pressure out of the wheel arches, a sleeker underbody, a new exhaust and an active rear wing and diffuser that between them reduce rear axle lift to almost nothing, the SVR apparently motors on to the magic 200mph – given enough space to do it.
The Motorland Speedway in Aragon, Spain, didn’t provide quite enough space, but I can tell you that at 180mph the SVR is accelerating still – much as it’ll matter to anyone interested in this car as a roadgoing machine. More important, although you wouldn’t say the F-Type has been utterly transformed by the attentions of the SVO team, plenty of meaningful gains have certainly been made, enabling us to consider this the most stable, driveable and dynamically sophisticated F-Type of the lot.
The improvements you’ll notice on the road are the refined close body control and the keener steering response. The SVR actually runs a slightly softer front anti-roll bar than the F-Type R Coupé and a firmer one out back. That manifests itself in the handling as better initial directional bite as you turn in to a corner and an even finer sense of accuracy in reply to small inputs on the wheel.
The suspension spring rates and ride height are the same as those of the F-Type R Coupé, but its ride is much improved over that of its slightly nadgery, burly, fidgety range mate. With the suspension in Normal mode, the SVR deals with an uneven surface with low-frequency suppleness and the kind of damping that starts work gently but ramps up progressively to prevent big deflections or nasty after-effects from spoiling your fun.
The overhauled V8 powertrain may pull a little harder than that of the F-Type R, and it may sound a little sharper through the SVR’s lightweight titanium-Inconel exhaust – but this is still a 1.7-tonne car, and the addition of 24bhp and 15lb ft of torque to its armoury doesn’t exactly smack you in the chops.
It might have done if only SVO had found a way to save more than the 25kg of kerb weight it managed to cut here. Jaguar's claim is that you can increase the SVR's weight-saving versus a standard F-Type to 50kg if you option up the carbon-ceramic brakes and carbonfibre roof, but since 21 out of 25 of those kilos come from those uprated brakes, which are also available on the F-Type R, it seems daft to count them. Still, the engine is a forceful and fiendishly loud one and endows great response and strong acceleration throughout the rev range.
On-track handling gives instant evidence of the greater security and controllability of the car’s formerly wayward rear axle. You can feel the extra lateral grip that those wider rear tyres and stronger rear suspension deliver from entry, through apex, to exit of any testing corner. The slight nervousness - going on hilarously sidewaysness - of the rear-drive F-Type R has been largely cast out.
The F-Type SVR remains a lively and adjustable handler, willing to be persuaded into neutrality (and a little bit beyond) either with a dig of the right-hand pedal or a lift of it. But, partly because Jaguar’s four-wheel drive system comes into play the instant you begin to gas up and countersteer the car, you don’t get armfuls of oversteer to tame if you turn the stability controls off. You just get a much faster, tidier and more predictable exit to the corner you happen to be negotiating.
Should I buy one?
The SVR’s dependable traction and stability, its stirring power and even more stirring soundtrack and its amenable road manners make this F-Type a stronger contender for your all-wheel-drive super-sports car money than any of its range mates – and a preferable pick to a Nissan GT-R or an Audi R8. It’ll take a back-to-back comparison with the new Porsche 911 Turbo before the Jag could earn a class-topping rank, though – and I’m not sure I’d honestly expect it to. The 911 Turbo has usability the SVR can’t hope to match, after all.
But you’d certainly expect the SVR to bring much-needed warmth of character, style and emotional appeal to part of the performance car market that’s been somewhat starved of all three over the decades. It’s clearly a sensible, secure, everyday-use kind of driver’s car done with a bit of charm and soul.
Jaguar F-Type SVR
Location Barcelona, Spain; On sale Now; Price £110,000; Engine V8, 5000cc, supercharged, petrol; Power 567bhp at 6500rpm; Torque 516lb ft at 3500-5000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1705kg; 0-62mph 3.7sec; Top speed 200mph; Economy 25.0mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 269g/km, 37%