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Jaguar F-Pace SVR review: A cat with claws and character

Jaguar's most powerful car here delivers both purrs and growls, but the F-Pace SVR is also surprisingly useful.

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With 550 horsepower on tap, the Jaguar F-Pace SVR is the most powerful and most expensive car in the current Jaguar model lineup in Singapore.

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The car is also the most powerful of the current crop of mid-sized, high-performance luxury SUVs.

Singapore

BRAND name aside, Jaguar's F-Pace SVR is not your usual cat. That's no biggie, since cats don't actually do anything useful now that their vermin-hunting services are rarely needed. It also says a lot that service dogs exist and service cats don't.

But somehow, felines just make people happy, despite the hairballs and clawed furniture. With that in mind, it's easy to compare cats to sports cars, and dogs to sport utility vehicles (SUVs). One, you have to make room in your life for, the other makes your life roomier.

There have been many attempts to conflate the two, with varying degrees of success - Porsche's Macan Turbo and the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 are two prime examples.

Adaptive suspension

The F-Pace SVR is a fitting rival to those cars, not merely because it straddles the feline-canine/emotional-useful divide, but because it also has a few surprises up its sleeves.

The F-Pace is Jaguar's mid-sized luxury SUV, and while the SVR model here looks identical to the regular F-Pace 2.0 R-Sport model, it's a very different creature beneath the skin.

SVR models are built by Jaguar-Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division, which sounds like it was named by a bespectacled boy with a toy gun, but is something the British carmaker wants to turn into a rival to the likes of BMW M and Mercedes-AMG.

The SVR models are still a relatively rare breed, unlike their numerous German counterparts, and the F-Pace is only the third model after the Range Rover Sport and Jaguar F-Type to receive SVO's go-faster going over.

A closer look reveals wide air intakes that feed extra radiators, aerodynamic improvements including a front splitter, roof spoiler and additional air vents (behind each wheel, on the bonnet) that aren't just decorative. What's hard to miss, besides the unique shade of light blue paint, are the massive 22-inch wheels that frame the improved braking system with calipers in red.

But pop the paws (or bonnet, rather) and you'll see that the Jaguar has the biggest claws around. The same supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine that made the F-Type R coupe an unrestrained wildcat also stars here.

In fact, with 550 horsepower on tap, the F-Pace SVR is the most powerful (and most expensive) car in the current Jaguar model lineup here. That's not damning it with faint praise either, as the car is also the most powerful of the current crop of mid-sized, high-performance luxury SUVs. It's more muscular than the Porsche and Mercedes-AMG mentioned above, as well as the BMW X3 M, as none of those cars have more than 510hp.

There's also the fact that supercharging helps enhance the car's wild side and personality, the better to thrill drivers who like their felines with bite.

Unlike turbocharging, where there's usually a short pause before the torrent of torque begins, the supercharged V8 has seemingly no time to chill. The SVR simply rockets forward like a cat after a laser pointer, and with an almost comical violence that's not often seen, even in this age where cars with 600hp are almost common.

But it's not like being that brawny has hurt its grace either, as the F-Pace SVR is thoroughly enjoyable to pilot through a series of bends, its adaptive suspension well-judged enough that the car's two-tonne-plus weight never becomes too obvious. The fact that it howls and snarls like a hellcat while doing so is just another plus point.

All-wheel drive and an SUV's mass mean the car's performance doesn't delve into the barely-controllable experience the F-Type R coupe delivered, but the F-Pace SVR has a shadow of the same hard and fast edge to it and demands respect at the very least.

Right balance

But if you're not trying to wring its scruff, it's also perfectly amenable to the cuddly, boring, family stuff as well.

The Comfort drive mode quells the SVR's bestial instincts and its throaty engine, and it becomes like any other SUV, easy to drive with a tall seating position, room for five adults, plus a spacious boot with an electrically-operated tailgate. Unlike some SUVs, even regular ones, Jaguar has also accomplished the vague miracle of making the car ride decently on some atrocious local roads, despite the huge 22-inch wheels.

Jaguar's infotainment system now plays nice with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and it has everything a luxury SUV owner should reasonably expect, although overall the cabin still doesn't have the ultimate spit-and-polish of the German competition.

But here's the SVR's equivalent of Puss-In-Boots' big, lovable eyes - it costs considerably less than its German rivals, the least expensive of which is the BMW X3 M, at a hefty S$461,888 with certificate of entitlement.

The only major drawback is that as a big cat, it has an appetite to match. We were nowhere near the quoted 11.9L/100km fuel efficiency, although we did get caught up in all the caterwauling this car is capable of during our test drive.

If you can live with the cost of big cat chow though, it'll reward you. The Jaguar F-Pace SVR has just the right balance of feral and friendly, and it also has another feline aspect aplenty. As high-performance SUVs go, it's not only up there with the best, but it also has plenty of what's becoming short in supply in the increasingly crowded SUV segment - character.


Jaguar F-Pace SVR

Engine 5,000cc, V8, supercharged
Power 550hp at 6000-6500rpm
Torque 680Nm at 2500-6000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top speed 250km/h
0-100kmh 4.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 11.9L/100km
Price S$388,999 with COE
Agent Wearnes Automotive
Available Now