Pedro Arrais review: F-Pace SVR the finest SUV Jaguar has to offer

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In a crowded marketplace, it pays to stand out. Jaguar tasked its Special Vehicle Operations arm to do their magic on their mid-sized SUV, which has resulted in the introduction of the 2019 F-Pace SVR, with the R denoting the most powerful vehicle available in the line.

The SVR badge is equivalent to the AMG-hyphenated vehicles offered by Mercedes-Benz and M-designation in BMW, so you know you are moving with some rarefied company.

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Jaguar only builds high-performance and luxury vehicles, but the addition of the SVR badge ensures exclusivity and oodles of power.

The F-Pace line starts modestly with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder producing 247 horsepower and a price of $52,500, and escalates through several models before the top-of-the-line SVR.

Although the SVR shares the same basic body as the regular vehicle, the powerplant is almost double in every respect — a 5.0-litre V-8 that is supercharged, instead of turbocharged. It also carries a list price, from $92,000, commensurate with its power.

I was fortunate to have time behind the wheel of a bright blue SVR on the highway as well as time exploring its limits on a short track recently.

For a brand that is famous for some of the more classic lines in saloons (four-door sedans for North Americans), its foray into the SUV market didn’t go unnoticed.

Initially, pundits were all looking dubiously to Jaguar to morph some of those sexy angular lines from its cars and coupes into a boxy SUV.

They shouldn’t have been so fretful, as the F-Pace is both distinctively Jaguar and boxy (if that makes sense). In the luxury mid-sized SUV segment, it goes up against the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

Of the three, BMW and Benz also offer a more coupe-like alternative.

Just to let everybody know which cat is the king of this jungle, the Jaguar roars from quad exhaust pipes with the sound of the supercharged V-8 producing 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque.

It puts all that power on the road through a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The manufacturer claims a 0-100 km/h sprint takes only 4.3 seconds (despite having to haul 2,070 kg doing so).

Although that is fast, the Alfa, with a turbo V-6, is actually half a second faster.

But that’s not to say that the SVR feels any less impressive. Mash the pedal and the vehicle leaps to attention. You get mashed into the back of the seat instantly because there is no turbo lag to worry about.

The eight-speed transmission is your friend, shifting quickly and frequently to summon the best gear to use. You can slap the stubby shifter to the left to engage manual mode or flick the steering wheel paddle shifters, but I doubt you will get a better lap time than just leaving the transmission in D.

The stubby shift knob replaces the former rotary gear selector. I loved how the knob popped up when the car was started and dropped down when it was turned off — but the knob is more in keeping with the upgraded performance image.

While the F-Pace is all-wheel-drive, the system has a rear-biased torque split (with a limited slip rear differential). Along with a performance-tuned adaptive suspension and brake-based torque vectoring, the systems proved their worth on the track, keeping the vehicle from leaning in any way.

All you have to do for a few hot laps is to hold on tight on the beefy steering wheel.

It helps that Jaguar chose to equip the SVR with a staggered fitment — 265/45 R21s on the front and 295/40 R21s on the rear. The wheels look good while putting some serious patches of rubber on the road.

While the engine makes a massive amount of power, it is the console-mounted selector that brings out the beast.

Leave it in normal and you get a controlled experience. If you feel bold (and you are on a closed track) you can explore the vehicle’s (and your) limits by selecting the Dynamic setting.

It’s like releasing a racehorse — it literally leaps ahead, happy to throw off any shackles the electronic nannies have chained it with. The exhaust is a willing conspirator, emitting a roar on the straights and pops when decelerating for the corners.

If you don’t have a silly grin on your face, you most probably have a mask of terror on the realization of what you have unleashed.

Once you have had your fun, the F-Pace reverts to being a purring pussycat with its claws retracted.

You might feel like a cat, curled up in the vehicle’s welcoming cabin with quilted diamond-pattern leather seats, controls trimmed with brushed aluminum trim and a dash brimming with cutting-edge electronics.

Owning any Jaguar is a treat, but time behind the wheel of the SVR is the automotive equivalent of receiving the key to the candy store. For the select few who will have that privilege, I envy you.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Luxury mid-sized SUV, front engine, all-wheel-drive

Engine: Supercharged 5.0-litre V-8, 550 hp at 6,500 r.p.m., 502 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500 r.p.m.

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,737; width, 2,071; height, 1,667; wheelbase, 2,874

Curb weight (kg): 1,995

Price (base/as tested): $92,000/ $99,970 (includes $1,700 freight, $495 PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: Navigation $600, luxury interior package $1,475, driver assist package $3,600

Tires: 265/45 R21 front, 295/40 R21 rear

Fuel type: Premium

Fuel economy (L/100km):

Warranty: Four years/80,000 km new car

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