With the excellent new XE sedan establishing Jaguar’s claim in the entry-luxury sedan class and the equally excellent new F-Pace giving the brand its own crossover, Jaguar has most of the basic luxury-brand bases covered. (Sister company Land Rover covers the rest.) Now all it needs is customers, so Jaguar is seeking visibility the way one does in America: celebrity tie-ups. In just over two weeks this past spring, Jaguar announced collaborations with Prince Harry, WWE superstar John Cena, and Fast and Furious actress Michelle Rodriguez. The trio is an apt summation of the new range-topping, 575-hp F-type SVR: prestige, muscle, and beauty.
As a Jaguar—a beautiful one, available in either sultry convertible or sexpot coupe body styles—the SVR carries a powerful monarchical prestige that affects people in peculiar ways. A personal anecdote: Once, as your author was driving home in our long-term F-type, I was stopped at a red light when a car pulled up next to me. The passenger opened her window to ask what the car was. I must have been pondering what the exhaust system’s delightfully improper pops and cracks would sound like with a British accent, because my answer came out, “It’s a Jag-you-are F-type.” The proper syllabification surprised me as much as it did the inquirer, to the point that my brow furrowed and my face contorted in revulsion as I spoke, and my sentence ended in a question mark. Confused and embarrassed, I turned back to face the light and sped away in relief when it turned green seconds later.
It’s the muscle that makes this F-type an SVR. It’s the first Jaguar to wear the SVR badge, in fact, following only the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR in the rollout of products from the firm’s Special Vehicle Operations office. This one borrows the engine calibration from the limited-edition Project 7, its 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 cranking out 575 horsepower at 6500 rpm and making 516 lb-ft of torque at 3500, increases of 25 hp and 14 lb-ft over the F-type R. We clocked an F-type R from zero to 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds; figure on this one doing the deed in 3.3 or so with the extra ponies making a bigger difference in the quarter-mile. It uses the same eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive powertrain as the R. (If you want a clutch pedal in your U.S.–market F-type, you’re looking at the 380-hp V-6 and rear-wheel drive.)
An Inconel and titanium exhaust system shaves 35 of the 55 pounds Jaguar claims to have pared from the all-wheel-drive F-type R’s curb weight. For those willing to spend more to get less mass, optional carbon-ceramic brake rotors, a carbon-fiber roof panel, and a carbon-fiber trim package can bring that total weight loss to 110 pounds. Through the new exhaust, the F-type’s signature scream develops a slightly sharper edge. It’s not as dramatic a change as was suggested by Jaguar’s stunt of having us drive an SVR through a New York tunnel, but it does sound like an angry King Kong thumping his chest at several thousand beats per minute. It’s an appropriate soundtrack for Jaguar’s fastest-ever production car.
The company claims a top speed of 200 mph for the SVR coupe and 195 for the convertible, the former of which it validated with Ms. Rodriguez at the wheel. (She reached an indicated 201, which, due to wind, speedometer error, and a favorable celebrity-to-horsepower conversion, could be inaccurate by one mph. Or two.) Helping the SVR stick to the ground at that speed is a new front fascia, a narrow rear diffuser, and a large rear wing. The fascia is wider at the bottom to mask more of the tires, and it incorporates larger intakes to aid in cooling (the vents in the hood also help). Openings in the wheel wells direct air through the pronounced fender vents, reducing front-axle lift.
The diffuser cuts rear lift, aided by the wing. The latter is fixed in the sense that it can’t be retracted into the bodywork, but it does rise and extend rearward. This happens at 60 mph in the convertible and 70 mph in the coupe, or any time the driver engages the car’s Dynamic mode. When it’s down, Jaguar says, the wing works with the other aero measures to reduce drag by a combined 7.5 percent and to cut lift by 15 percent. With it extended, there’s still 2.5 percent less drag than in the F-type R and a big 45 percent reduction in lift.
High-performance chassis bits include a sturdier rear-suspension wheel-hub carrier, a thinner front anti-roll bar, a thicker rear anti-roll bar, and revised valving for the adaptive dampers. Pirelli P Zero tires, sized 265/35R-20 in front and 305/30R-20 in the rear, are 20 millimeters wider than the R’s and tweaked by Pirelli exclusively for the F-type. The result is an F-type that turns in more quickly than the one-step-down R, while the all-wheel-drive system and the electronically controlled rear differential make it far more stable than the rear-drive V-8 F-type was initially.
In spite of all four wheels being driven, this much power means it remains possible to steer the F-type with the throttle—it’s just less frightening and more stable while doing so. Goose it, and the tail still flicks out, but as the driver countersteers and holds the throttle, torque that the rear tires can’t use gets shuttled to the front axle, pulling the car back into line. It’s predictable and fun, if less lurid. The standard brakes are the same as the F-type R’s, with 15.0-inch rotors up front and 14.8-inch units in the rear, while optional ($12,000) carbon-ceramic discs measure 15.7 and 15.0 inches. All of the cars Jaguar provided at its press launch had these carbon brakes, the better to manage heat from repeated 170-plus-mph braking events on Spain’s Motorland Aragón racetrack.
They held up to this abuse, but after a few laps the pedal started to soften, which is awfully unnerving at such speeds. The ultraquick steering demands a deliberate steady hand for smoothness. It also feels rather light; we wished for more weight to help stabilize the car. In regular driving, the ride is firm but controlled, although large bumps toss occupants enough that once, our (admittedly oversize) driver smacked his head on the headliner. Hard.
Inside, things are largely the same as they are in lesser F-types, which is to say they’re lovely, if a little snug. (See heads and headliners, above.) The SVR’s seats are the same as those in the R but finished with SVR-specific “lozenge” stitching and piping, and the shift paddles are larger than on other F-types and now are made of aluminum. Perhaps we could resist the embarrassment of saying “al-you-mini-um” if a bystander asked. Perhaps.
An English accent turns out to be a less costly affectation than a German one, at least at time of purchase. A similarly powerful Porsche 911 Turbo S (580 horsepower) stickers for $189,150, and we expect the amped-up Mercedes-AMG GT R will command an even higher price. The F-type SVR offers wild styling, unparalleled vocals, and everyday comfort at $126,945 for a coupe or $129,795 for a convertible. We don’t need John Cena to bully us into seeing that for what it is: something of a bargain.