– Very fast and very loud
– Handling and braking
– Decent comfort and economy
– More expensive than it looks
– Limited steering feel
– Always loud
When you read about how the Jaguar F-Type was engineered, you can’t help but be unimpressed. Based on a shortened version of the decade-old XK grand-tourer platform and using engines shared with Range Rover SUVs, it doesn’t sound like they put in much work into developing their only sports-car offering. But then how are they so full of character? And in SVR form, so ridiculously capable?
Externally, the SVR doesn’t look hugely different from the regular F-Type, except for the very obvious rear spoiler replacing the pop-up flap. Look closer and you’ll also notice the slightly wider front fenders integrating vents aft of the unique 20-inch wheels as well as larger intakes in the front bumper. The roof can be optioned in glass, metal or carbon fibre. The car looks great, and a bit of a head-turner in its trademark blue colour, but it doesn’t quite look like it could be as pricey as an Audi R8 or a Porsche 911 Turbo (which it is), especially as a new 4-cylinder base F-Type has just debuted with nine-tenths the style at one-third the price.
The F-Type SVR’s cabin is also familiar if you’ve driven other F-Types, with a driver-centric dashboard that has a built-in grab handle for the passenger, now padded to “premium” up the interior. Cabin materials have been upgraded with a combination of soft-touch surfaces, stitched leatherette and alcantara, although having the left and rights halves of the dash in two different materials looks a bit odd. The door surfaces aren’t particularly padded, and there are some hard plastic panels here and there, so it’s a minor step down in terms of ambience if you’re used to other cars in this price range, but still an interesting place to be in than other Jaguars.
There are a number of gimmicks to briefly keep you entertained, such as the central a/c vents that electrically pop up from the dash on start-up, the heartbeat-like pulsating light on the starter button, and the motorised door handles that pop out of the doors on unlocking. The F-Type forgoes the pop-up dial gear-selector found in other recent Jags in favour of an electronic shift-knob.
The F-Type coupe seats only two, forgoing any sort of kiddie rear seats. The SVR gets heavily-bolstered fixed-headrest sports seats that are upholstered in quilted leather, offer limited power-adjustability, and somewhat firm but surprisingly comfortable. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is thick-rimmed and power-adjustable, letting you figure out your perfect driving position. There is no useful space behind the seats. There are various small storage cubbies, two proper covered cup-holders, and a good-sized glove-box. And while the boot is shallow, even without the optional spare wheel, the coupe’s upward cargo volume under the motorised tailgate makes it much more practical than the convertible version.
The updated touchscreen system has clear graphics, with shortcut buttons along the sides, and gets the job done quickly, but the F-Type does not benefit from Jaguar’s top-spec infotainment offering we saw in the F-Pace S. The strong CD/MP3 stereo has Bluetooth streaming audio and USB support. The dual-zone a/c was great in February afternoon, and comes with nice big knobs instead of distracting little buttons. Further features include navigation, rear camera with sensors, Bluetooth phone, cruise control, smart keyless entry and start, bi-xenon headlights, LED front running lights and tail lights, several airbags and more.
The SVR gets an upgraded supercharged 5.0-litre V8 making 568 hp at 6500 rpm and 700 Nm of torque at 3500-5000 rpm, mated to a retuned 8-speed automatic and heard via a titanium exhaust system that can be unleashed at the push of a button to make the most illegally-loud roar you’ll ever hear in a street car.
With the help of all-wheel-drive, we managed a 0-100 kph time of 3.8 seconds with no wheelspin, in cool February weather. That’s ridiculously quick, even as it weighs in at 1665 kg, heavier than most of its rivals. The irony is that our overall fuel consumption over several days was only 13.7 litres/100 km, with an auto start-stop system in play at traffic signals.
The SVR isn’t just fast in a straight line though. Featuring new dampers and anti-roll bars, grippy 265/35 front and 305/30 tyres wrapping the lightweight 20-inch wheels and optional carbon-ceramic brakes, 6-piston in front and 4-piston rear, this car is built for hard driving in any condition.
The all-wheel-drive is rear-biased, sending power to the front wheels only when needed to keep the chassis composed. It’s rear-wheel-drive predecessor, the F-Type R, was wild and unwieldy when it came to putting the power down on public streets, so the extra traction is welcome.
The handling is very tight, with very mild understeer at the limit when you jump into a tight corner, but there’s still tons of grip, and the car turns in tighter once you back off the throttle a bit. Quick directional transitions are handled instantly with a little swing of the tail, yet the car is less twitchy than the older rear-wheel-drive models, and stays composed even when hopping over expansion joints around a curve. Overall, it’s more fun to drive than the new Nissan GT-R, believe it or not.
It’s a joy flicking through the gears using the responsive aluminium paddle-shifters and hearing the exhaust pop and bang. The steering is nicely weighted, and offers better feedback than in lesser F-Types, but it’s still less than ideal. The brakes are a bit grabby at low speeds, but very strong when hauling the car down from high speeds, with no squeals that are usually typical of ceramic brakes.
On the daily drive around town, the F-Type is easy to manage, with a slightly jittery ride, but still reasonably comfortable. Decent sound-deadening means road and wind noises are minimal, so ambient noise is mostly the engine, even when the active exhaust is set to be quieter. The active spoiler changes angle a bit at the press of a button, but it cannot be retracted, so rear visibility is limited and the camera is necessary for parking. The steering is not heavy at all when it comes to manoeuvring into a parking space.
The F-Type SVR is quite an achievement for a car that almost appears to be thrown together as an afterthought. Sure, it’s not going to win a drag race against a Nissan GT-R or a Porsche 911 Turbo, but it is surprisingly more fun to drive than either of them. An Audi R8 would give the Jag a run for its money in terms of entertainment, but the German is nowhere near as practical as this Indo-Brit. Now if it were as unique as those bespoke sports cars instead of being based on a cheaper base model, it could’ve legitimately bumped off the similar Mercedes-AMG GT for prestige.
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