Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 18, 2019
What is it about a sports car that draws us in with such gripping magnetism? Is it the speed, prestige, history, or track performance? As car enthusiasts, we have all fallen under the seductive spell of possibly a dozen of them, whether it’s the scalpel precision of a Porsche 911, the cult appeal surrounding the fabled Nissan GT-R, or even the new and captivating Mercedes-AMG GT. But if you’re looking to stand out, make an impression, and deliver drama on all fronts, take a look at the Jaguar stable. With a spellbinding exhaust that defies legality and makes a ruckus just because it can, the F-Type SVR is one of the most savage, thrilling, and memorable sports cars I’ve driven to date. Porsche zealots will try and discredit the Brit and get all defensive at this point but keep in mind that I’ve driven them all and in the end, despite its quirks and minor shortcomings, the F-Type SVR deserves a spot on the $150,000 sports car shortlist.
It’s no secret that the F-Type is beginning to show its age - it’s been six years since it first rolled off showroom floors - especially when you look at the rest of the Jaguar product portfolio. The XJ sedan is the only remaining soul that makes the F-Type appear youthful. There are a few aging spots and wrinkles here and there but nothing that a little makeup can’t cover up and in our test vehicle’s case, a $9,690 satin finish makeover in a bright shade of Madagascar Orange, the same colour as the Range Rover Sport SVR we photographed last month. You could buy a Nissan Micra with that money but alas, it looks damn good. And for the 2019.5 model year, the SVR receives the new 10-inch infotainment unit from the E-Pace loaded with the latest Touch Pro software. The rest of the leather- and alcantara-heavy interior remains unchanged. That means the same glossy plastic-laden steering wheel and outdated keyfob design, but the dual analog gauges I would keep. As customizable and crisp the graphics are on the new digital instrument clusters (see: E-Pace, i-Pace), there is nothing that can truly replace the visual confirmation of a rotating needle.
The F-Type SVR can be had in both coupe and convertible guise but if you prioritize sunshine, boulevard cruising, and noise over performance, it’s the latter you want to opt for. Dropping the roof nets you front row seats to one of the most spectacular exhaust notes in the automotive world. If you thought the V6-powered F-Type was loud, well the SVR jumps straight to the next octave. Instead of a stainless steel system, its exhaust is made from titanium and Inconel, allowing it to be lightweight yet able to withstand extremely high temperatures. And you seriously can’t help but wonder why the exhaust tips are pointed upwards, as if to better direct the noise at people’s ears.
Rev that supercharged 5.0-litre V8 out to the limiter and the depth of the crescendos will tingle your spine, while the quad exhaust tips let out a maelstrom of sonic artillery fire. Run it through a tunnel and bystanders will think Rocket Man just hit the naughty red button. There are many loud V8s on the market like the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, but the SVR’s is sharp, ear-cringingly sharp, and it unforgivingly slices through the air with a beastial frequency that I’m sure is the same one that causes involuntary defecation.
But the SVR is far from being just a one trick pony. Boasting 575 hp and 516 lb-ft, and clad with an adaptive suspension, a large fixed rear spoiler, and a rear-biased all-wheel drive system, this cat can dance. Compared to the outgoing F-Type R AWD, the SVR is 25 kg lighter, and when equipped with carbon ceramic brakes and a carbon fibre roof, is 50 kg lighter. It also gets new dampers, anti-roll bars, lighter wheels, and wider tires. The upgrade is profound, with a top speed of 322 km/h (200 mph) and a 0-100 km/h time of 3.7 seconds, faster than the rivaling and equally priced Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS (4.0 seconds), and as quick as the Mercedes-AMG GT C Coupe.
I have driven a handful of F-Types before, everything from the four-cylinder base model to the F-Type R from yesteryear, but one weakness they all had in common was translating their feral amounts of power into the tarmac to propel themselves forward. They produced so much torque and the supercharger delivered it so quickly that the tires and chassis could never really keep up. But Jaguar has solved that issue by introducing all-wheel drive into the fold. Don’t get turned off just yet, as this is not some understeering front-biased AWD system. This is a purely rear-biased setup that only sends power to the front when absolutely necessary. Yes it adds weight but the resulting traction is sublime. But this newfound traction doesn’t give you a green light to simply floor it when the road opens up. The SVR still requires restraint and finessing of the pedal to walk the fine line between hero and zero.
We’ve complained about the jerkiness and lethargic attitude of the 8-speed ZF automatic transmission in our last review of the 2019 SVR, but this 2019.5 one exhibits a much smoother attitude, with a seemingly more polished shift map and gentler and more fluid shifts than before. It’s much more willing to swap ratios at the command of the paddles, and is a willing dance partner when it counts. We can’t be sure if Jaguar did a slightly tuning upgrade or if it was simply down to the specific vehicle transmission’s state of use.
The optional carbon ceramic brakes cost a whopping $13k yet you get your money’s worth. The brakes provide exceptional and confident stopping power to slow down this raging SVR. While they are quite easy to live with and modulate on a daily basis, even in chilly temperatures, the learning curve to nail down a smooth rolling stop can be tricky. The initial grab is sensitive (a good thing on the track, not so much on the commute), but once you depress the pedal it gets easier from there. Our test vehicle did not exhibit any of that inherent ceramic brake squeaking under low-speed application either. Still, if it were my money, I’d stick with the standard brakes and put that significant amount of coin elsewhere.
Jaguar’s most hardcore sports car is a sensory treat and rewards drivers with a thrilling drive and the acoustics to match. An appealing alternative to the established veterans of the field, the F-Type SVR exudes a unique personality that puts it in an emotional class of its own and helps it stand out from the crowd. Sound, speed, and satisfaction - the F-Type SVR is what a sports car should be all about.
Model: 2019.5 Jaguar F-Type SVR Coupe
Paint Type: Madagascar Orange - Satin
Base Price: $140,500
Price as Tested: $175,100
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,475 / 1,923 / 1,311
Curb weight (kg): 1,705
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8
Horsepower: 575 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 3,500 - 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 15.6 / 10.4 / 13.3
Tires: Pirelli P Zero; Front 265/35ZR20; Rear 305/30ZR20