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2019 Jaguar F-Pace SVR Review: Roaring Kitty

The verdict: Incredibly quick, undeniably stylish and bursting with in-your-face attitude, the Jaguar F-Pace SVR is an expensive luxury all-weather rocket.

Versus the competition: Aiming squarely for the Alfa Romeo Stelvio , the F-Pace SVR presents a compelling alternative with slightly more room, equally attractive styling and performance that’s a match for the Italian stallion.

I still don’t quite understand the concept of a high-performance SUV. The Jaguar F-Pace SVR is a maniacal vehicle — a blisteringly quick, rorty-snorty, V-8-powered monster that’s ridiculous fun to drive. But it’s also loaded with track-focused systems — and who takes an SUV to a racetrack? SUVs are the vehicles you use to tow your car to a track day, not the vehicles you use on the circuit.

Yet the luxury market includes people who want the best, fastest, most outrageous vehicles automakers can produce, cost be damned, and there’s no shortage of such models. The Mercedes-AMG GLC63, Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, Audi SQ5, BMW X3 M and Jaguar F-Pace SVR are all members of this expensive, exclusive group.

Like the others, the Jag excels in this role, with a massive, boosted V-8, huge wheels and tires, an adaptive suspension, and a formidable price tag.

That Sexy Feline Look

You’ll either think the latest F-Pace looks svelte and sexy or tepid and anonymous. I tend to think it looks good, with clean lines and feline styling accents that emphasize its heritage without being too throwback or retro.

The SVR amps up the sporty parts of the F-Pace’s styling, with unique front and rear bumpers, side sills and a more aggressive spoiler — all of which are actually functional, Jaguar says, helping to improve cooling, aerodynamics and high-speed stability. The base F-Pace doesn’t suffer from drab styling, but the SVR improvements make a good thing even better. On our test vehicle, the look was made even better by the optional 22-inch wheels and eye-popping Ultra Blue paint.

There’s no shortage of options for expensive, high-performance SUVs.

Competitors feature equally appealing styling, particularly the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, which has even sexier bodywork and equally screaming performance. If you want something German, BMW offers an X3 M for 2020, and Mercedes-AMG has the GLC63. Want something even bigger and more brutish? The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is ready to stomp the Europeans into the asphalt.

Big Engine, Big Noise, Big Fun

Powering the F-Pace SVR is Jaguar’s excellent supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 making 550 horsepower and 502 pounds-feet of torque. It’s as glorious here as it is in other Jaguar products, including the F-Type SVR coupe and convertible. The sound it makes is one of the greatest sounds in automotivedom: It is simply fantastic from startup to wide-open throttle, delivering incredible speed and aural satisfaction that the latest crop of electric cars simply can’t match.

The Jag’s supercharger means the engine is instantly responsive; there’s none of the lag you might experience in a turbocharged competitor, though you might miss some of the blow-off valve whoosh that accompanies those motors. If the exhaust isn’t quite loud enough for you, there’s a button on the console that opens up the pipes a bit more, allowing you to scare other drivers in tunnels or parking garages. It introduces a back pressure popping that makes you feel like you truly are driving a track car. The powertrain isn’t quite as frenetic as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio’s turbocharged V-6, but it feels more responsive than the twin-turbo V-8 in the latest Mercedes-AMG GLC63, likely due to its more aggressive transmission tuning.

Handling is also a highlight thanks to an electronically adjustable suspension and firm, direct steering. The trade-off is a stiff ride even in the most comfortable setting, and it wasn’t helped by the optional 22-inch wheels in my tester. That’s almost to be expected, however, when purchasing a high-performance machine like this. By comparison, the latest adjustable suspension in the GLC63 affords more composed, less abusive ride quality.

I wish Jaguar allowed you to adjust various systems — powertrain, suspension and other parameters — independently, as BMW does, to create your own setting. Instead, Jaguar limits you to just its preset adjustments. That said, the overall experience is definitely enjoyable. The Jag feels quick and nimble, and it exhibits amazing body control. Still, it’s not something you’d necessarily want to take on a track; it has a high seating position and center of gravity, so while it might be fun and racy on the street, it wouldn’t be my first choice for a weekend amateur track event. It’s also not something you’d want to drive cross-country, as that stiff suspension will induce fatigue over longer voyages.

Fuel economy isn’t a big concern in a vehicle like this, but we’ll touch on it briefly. The SVR is EPA-rated 16/21/18 mpg city/highway/combined, which is about average for this level of performance in a small SUV. The 2019 Mercedes-AMG GLC63, with its smaller, twin-turbocharged V-8 and an extra cog in its nine-speed automatic transmission, comes in just barely higher, at 16/22/18 mpg. The twin-turbocharged V-6 in the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio only marginally helps it at the pump, with a 17/23/19 mpg rating, while the new 2020 BMW X3 M and its turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six rings in surprisingly low even in this class, at 14/19/16 mpg.

Nice Inside, But Not the Nicest

At this price, the interior had better wow the buyer, and the Jaguar comes close. Taken by itself, the inside is impressively outfitted, with well-appointed materials, a clean design and comfortable seats. But it falls about mid-pack in terms of luxuriousness, ahead of the needs-improvement Stelvio but behind the latest, greatest GLC63. Materials quality is there, with excellent leather on the dash, door surfaces and seats, but the design is dated and many of the controls and multimedia screens need freshening.

Comfort isn’t a problem, certainly, despite the fact that the cabin feels tight, especially in back. Tight backseats are another common feature of this category, and at least the Jaguar’s is usable — more than I can say for the Alfa. Front-seat comfort is excellent, with big, bolstered sport seats featuring lovely quilted leather and lots of adjustability. Visibility out the Jag is also excellent thanks to an upright seating position and decently big windows. There’s no sacrifice of function to form here; the Jaguar looks good and allows you to see out easily. But then, so do many of its competitors, so this aspect is something of a wash.

The multimedia system is Jaguar’s 10-inch Touch Pro system, and as in every other Jaguar Land Rover I’ve tried it in, it was somewhat problematic in the F-Pace. Its biggest issue is a lack of any sort of feedback, either audible or haptic, to let you know you’ve successfully selected whatever you were trying to select. The system also has perceptible lag when switching between screens, but at least the angle of the screen doesn’t reflect the sky as it does in several other Land Rovers I’ve tried. And you can’t fault the audio system: The optional 380-watt Meridian premium audio is outstanding and highly adjustable, so you can make your music sound however you want it to.

Cargo room is surprisingly good. Jaguar claims more space behind the second row than most of its competitors, saying the F-Pace SVR has 33.5 cubic feet. But the marque doesn’t give numbers for total volume with the second row stowed (even though those seats do fold, just like the rest of the competition). By comparison, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio has a relatively small cargo area, just 18.5 cubic feet, while the Mercedes-AMG GLC isn’t much better, at 19.4 cubic feet. The BMW X3 is slightly more comparable, chiming in at 28.7 cubic feet of cargo area. The F-Pace’s cargo area feels like a big, usable space, so unlike some of the smaller SUV “coupes” you see from German automakers, you’ll get all the style of the Jag plus usable space for people and their stuff.

Safety

The Jaguar F-Pace has not been crash-tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which isn’t unusual for a luxury car sold in lower volumes. It has a fair amount of standard safety equipment, which is typical for its class: low-speed forward automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and a driver condition monitor all come standard on your F-Pace. If you want the full gamut of protection, however, you’ll have to add the Driver Assist Package, which includes a blind spot monitor, 360-degree camera system, adaptive cruise control with steering assist, high-speed automatic emergency braking, automatic park assist and a rear cross-traffic monitor. That package will run you a not insignificant $3,600.

Exclusivity at a Price

Starting price for a 2019 F-Pace SVR is $81,015 including destination fee, but with the options on my well-equipped test vehicle, the price came to a lofty $89,900. You can certainly get less expensive versions of the F-Pace: The base model starts at a far more reasonable $45,825, and there are a variety of versions between the two, featuring two turbocharged four-cylinder engines and a supercharged V-6 in addition to the supercharged V-8 in the SVR.

Lest you think that’s too much money for a high-performance SUV, know that the F-Pace’s competitors are priced very similarly. A 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is within a few bucks of the Jag, with a starting price of $81,840. The German competitors come in a little less to start but quickly approach our as-tested price once you add options. A 2020 BMW X3 M starts at $70,895 and the 2019 Mercedes-AMG GLC63 rings in at $71,795, but adding some basic necessities, like safety systems and premium audio, brings those prices up to competitive levels.

If you’re on board with the idea of a high-performance SUV — maybe because you can’t have a sedan anymore given there are kids in the picture, or maybe because you’re out to get the most expensive, most outrageous SUV you can somewhat afford (as many luxury dealers tell us is the case when certain customers walk into a showroom) — the Jag will deliver plenty of entertaining miles in rapid fashion. It’s rare enough that you won’t see one on every corner, and Jaguar has done an admirable job differentiating it inside and out from the base versions that cost half as much as the SVR. It’s a crowded field, however, so it makes sense to shop the competition, as well.

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