What's the best sound you've ever heard? Not the best-sounding car, just the best sound — period? Your favorite band, live in concert? The laughter of a beloved child?
Whatever it is, it doesn't sound half as good as the 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR at full chat. Almost nothing compares to the sound of that glorious, 575-horsepower, supercharged V-8 roar. It's a symphonic cacophony, as if the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl were skillfully banging away on a dozen aluminum pots that reverberated off your skull and shook the depths of your soul. It's that good.
But how's the rest of it? Is the F-Type just a British fuel-to-noise-converting V-8 wrapped in voluptuous curves? Or is it any good to drive? We spent a week with Jag's top cat — and even got a little track time — to see if it's more than just a pretty face with a sultry voice.
Still Gorgeous After All These Years
We first saw the F-Type's shape in the C-X16 concept car in 2011, and the look has carried on practically unchanged since production started in 2013. That's perfectly OK; this remains one of the most beautiful cars on the road. Its feline shape is perfectly matched to the brand: It's pumped up and muscular — sheet metal stretched taut over components, making for a car that's both aggressive and beautiful.
Just about any car in this category is going to be good-looking. The Mercedes-Benz SL roadster is classy and formal, while the Porsche 911 embodies nostalgia. The Chevrolet Corvette is the raciest among them. I almost prefer the fixed-roof F-Type coupe, however, with its longer roofline arc that accentuates the car's length. But there are certain audio benefits to being able to drop the top.
The Most Sultry Voice You've Ever Heard
The biggest benefit to lowering the top is that it removes the barrier between your ears and the tailpipes. Stomp the accelerator, and the supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 growls to life with one of the best sounds in the automotive pantheon. But it's not just noise the 575-hp motor generates, it's thrust — and loads of it.
The massive engine is remarkably flexible. Around town it's quiet, docile and calm, but push the active-exhaust "loudener" button, which opens the cat's pipes, or slip it into Sport mode, and the fireworks begin. The engine pops and snarls from exhaust backfire even under partial throttle, but it really turns heads when you ask it for more grunt.
The best format to keep the SVR in is Normal mode with the exhaust button depressed. This gives you aggressive but not overly darty steering, a firm but not punishing ride, and throttle response tuned for around-town ease instead of instantaneous, track-oriented responses.
Putting the SVR in Sport mode out on the street is unpleasant. It feels too high-strung, too eager to pounce to be able to drive it smoothly. But put that kitty on the track, as I did at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., and the magic shines through.
Throttle response is instantaneous. Power is never building, it's always just there, right now, ready for you to use. Jaguar reports a zero-to-60-mph time of just 3.5 seconds for the SVR, and I have no reason to doubt that figure whatsoever. The brakes never fade; they're strong and silent as they haul you down from heart-pounding speeds in seconds. The transmission, so smooth and seamless on its shifts around town, responds to paddle shifts instantly, as well. It all works so well that there isn't any one area to point to and say, "this really needs improvement." On the street or on the track, the Jaguar F-Type SVR is outstanding to drive.
But then, so are its competitors. The Mercedes-Benz SL550 is the one you go after if you're looking for luxury and grand touring style, with its well-damped moves and isolating ride and handling. The Porsche 911 out-handles the F-Type, even in SVR trim, and provides far more communicative steering to let you know what the car is doing. The Corvette Z06 is the same way — brutal power and no forced induction, proving that sometimes there's just no replacement for displacement.
The F-Type's good looks are not just skin-deep; they extend to the interior, as well. The SVR is the top-of-the-line trim level, so it's loaded with Alcantara (faux suede), bright chrome, carbon fiber and aluminum bits.
It feels like you sit low in the F-Type, but that's an illusion — the car is just very high-waisted, so it'll feel like you're sitting in a tub when you're actually at a normal height relative to the rest of traffic. It makes it impossible to put your arm up on the windowsill, and it does impact visibility somewhat. Looking to the front is fine, but seeing out the sides and rear quarters is rather difficult. A wind blocker between the roll-bar hoops obscures your rearward view with its semi-opaque screen.
It might sound like tight quarters, but when you're surrounded by such sumptuous materials, you won't mind being so cocooned. Nor will you mind spending time in the seats, which are special SVR sport ones — heavily bolstered but highly adjustable. The entire experience is one of a super-premium, upscale luxury car, in which one doesn't need to search for justification of its price.
It's nicer than the inside of a 911, which is more of a spartan, purpose-built sports car, but it doesn't quite match up to the opulence of a SL550 (though it's really close). The Corvette's interior is definitely better than it used to be, but it's still built to a much lower price, which is reflected in the materials and components it shares with lesser Chevys.
Plenty of Tech, Just Not the Safety Kind
Jaguar's multimedia system, InControl Touch, is functional, easy to use, clear and fast. There's no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay feature, but you won't miss them, as Jaguar's software works quite well. It's a step above the Porsche system and easily as sophisticated as Mercedes-Benz's tech, and it looks classier than the Chevrolet MyLink system in the Corvette.
The rest of the interior gadgets also work well. The organic light-emitting diode displays in the climate control knobs look very high-tech, and the premium audio system sounds fantastic.
But while Jaguar does focus attention on some gadgets, it neglects safety technology. The F-Type doesn't feature common safety items like knee- or side-curtain airbags, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, autonomous braking or adaptive cruise control. And while competitors such as the Corvette likewise don't feature such systems, vehicles like the Porsche 911 do have some of them. Typical of low-volume sports cars, the F-Type hasn't been crash-tested.
Don't Plan on Bringing Much With You
The only real downside to the F-Type's interior is its lack of usable storage. There isn't much space in the center console forward of your elbow, and while there's some to be had in the upper portion of the console between the seats, it's not easy to access. If you have a big smartphone, finding a place for it may be tricky.
The trunk isn't exactly sizable, either. That's to be expected in a small, two-seat roadster, but among its convertible contemporaries, the SVR is still on the small side, with just 7.3 cubic feet of trunk space. The Porsche 911 convertible has 10.0 cubic feet in its frunk (front trunk), as does a Chevrolet Corvette convertible, while the Mercedes-Benz SL tops them all with a spacious 13.5 cubic feet. So while the SVR has enough room for a couple of duffels or a small roll-aboard suitcase, like its interior, storage space is not abundant in the trunk.
Beauty and Speed Don't Come Cheap
One of the great things about the F-Type is that you can get one for a reasonable price. The base convertible starts at $66,395 including destination fee, which is a steal for a car this beautiful with an interior this well done. But the SVR described and pictured here costs a wee bit more — or maybe even double: It's $129,795 to start and $132,233 as-tested, with carbon fiber and extended leather trim, illuminated doorsills and additional wheel locks. That's a whole lot of coin (you could buy two base Corvettes with that money), but the car you get is so well executed, so opulent and arrives with so much presence, you won't question its cost once you've driven the first mile.
The Porsche 911 that competes best with the SVR is the GTS AWD Cabriolet, which is a little more expensive but does everything as well as the SVR. It gives up 125 hp to the V-8-powered Jag, but it's also more than 300 pounds lighter, so that helps balance the equation.
The Mercedes-Benz SL matches the Jag's luxurious driving experience, but if you want to keep the cost close, you'll have to opt for the SL550 instead of the more capably matched AMG SL63.
A gorgeous beast of a machine, the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 convertible surpasses the heavier Jag on the track and allows you to maintain a fuller pocketbook. But while it outguns the F-Type, it can't hold a candle to it when it comes to comparing cockpits. Compare all four competitors here.
All told, when it comes to pedigree, heritage, knockout styling and kickass performance, the Jaguar F-Type SVR is hard to beat.