Before the automaker adopted the jaguar moniker, the British marque was named for a far less ferocious species – the swallow. The Swallow Sidecar Company was founded in 1922 and made beautiful motorcycle sidecars that closely resembled its eponymous winged counterparts.
One sell-out, liquidation and takeover later, the Jaguar brand was formed. Perhaps it was this tumult that inspired founder William Lyon, to rename the brand after a keystone predator. And much like the big cat, the cars that rolled off Jaguar’s assembly line had grace, space and pace in equal measures.
But, what if you wanted even more ferocity in your drive? That’s when the Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division comes into the picture. Based in Warwickshire, England, this crack team of 200 automotive specialists rip open different Jaguar models and surgically upgrade their parts, all in the name of speed, dynamism and pure driving exhilaration.
The Jaguar F-Pace SVR is the latest creation to emerge from under the SVO team’s knife. Launched in 2016, the base F-Pace Luxury Performance SUV has become Jaguar’s bestseller, accounting for almost half of its global sales. Adept at creating an everyday luxury SUV, and better known for sharp saloons and pacey sports cars, it set out to engineer that same SUV to become an expressive and entertaining automobile.
After spending a long weekend with the F-Pace SVR, I dare say that Jaguar has achieved its mission. The biggest change is under the hood, where the engineers replaced the more modest engine with a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 capable of completing the century sprint in a rapid 4.3 seconds and reaching a top speed of 283kph.
(Related: Test drive: The Jaguar F-Pace SVR)
Other significant driving dynamic upgrades include an SVR-tuned chassis with improved shock absorbers that took pretty much everything I threw at it, and massive new brake discs in a shade of red that would enrage a bull – or at least stop one in its tracks.
Speed is useless without handling and in this regard, the F-Pace SVR doesn’t disappoint. Jaguar has outfitted the car with new lightweight forged 22-inch alloy wheels that contribute to better grip and improved turning capabilities.
In fact, for such a massive car with a high centre of gravity, the F-Pace SVR tackles corners with remarkable ease and barely any carriage rollover.
The eight-speed Quickshift Automatic Transmission is blazingly fast and responsive, and the SVR-badged steering wheel comes with tactile aluminium paddle shifters should you want to take matters into your own hands.
It’s quite clear that the SVO’s experience in modifying sports cars with speedy reputes has lent itself well to the F-Pace SVR. However, if you decide to take it slow, the car is surprisingly docile. My experience with V8-powered automobiles tends to be one of forced restraint. These cars are itching to forge forward and refuse to be reined in by a more subdued driver who might find the experience unsettling.
On the other hand, the F-Pace SVR adapts to your driving patterns, thanks to the suite of electronic aids that provide optimum handling no matter the speed or road surface. It’s comfortable enough for a stop-and-start city commute while still being able to set excellent timings on the racetrack. I drove the car during the first weekend of Chinese New Year, which meant a great deal of bodies found themselves comfortably slumped across the back seats with even more bags thrown haphazardly into the boot.
There was nary a complaint from the three full-sized adults who forcibly volunteered their review services – “Is that a Jaguar you’re driving? Ah, you need a backseat review. Yes, you do”. And then it was just lots of contented sighs as they sank back into the plush form-hugging performance seats.
Of course, I took them for a ride that matched the ferocity of the F-Pace SVR. The name jaguar is derived from the Native American word “yaguar”, which means “he that kills with one leap”. My passengers fully experienced the extent of that leap. No swallows here, just an animal masquerading as a luxury sports SUV.
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8
Power: 405kW between 6,000 and 6,500rpm
Torque: 680 Nm between 2,500 and 5,500rpm 0-100kph: 4.3 secs
Top Speed: 283kph
Jaguar Singapore, 45 Leng Kee Road. www.jaguar.com.sg