BARCELONA, Spain—First, there was the Jaguar F-Type, a gorgeous successor to the vintage E-Type. Its V6 supercharged engine was available in 340- and 380-horsepower versions, and we were impressed.
Then Jaguar created an all-wheel-drive version of the more powerful V6, and a manual transmission version, and we were still impressed.
Then Jaguar created a V8 version, the F-Type R, that produced 550 horsepower and was only available with AWD and an automatic paddle-shifted transmission, and we were very impressed.
And now Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations division has created the SVR halo version that makes 575 hp, has a top speed of 323 km/h (200 mph), and we’re all supposed to be even more impressed. Which we are—except for anyone who bought an F-Type R last year, of course.
The SVR costs an additional $23,500 and is intended for all those rich people who can’t be bothered to choose options and just want everything. It’s the first Jaguar from the SVO people and it’s an exceptional vehicle, to be sure, but is it worth it?
Saving weight and adding speed
You can easily tell the SVR from all those lesser F-Types by its adjustable rear spoiler, which Jaguar calls an active rear wing. It’s made of carbon fibre, of course, and really does work: apparently, it reduces drag by 7.5 percent over the regular R, and reduces lift by a huge 45 percent.
I have no reason to doubt this. I saw an indicated 288 km/h at the end of the back straight here at the Motorland F1 circuit, and the Jaguar seemed stuck fairly solidly to the ground. That was a good thing.
There aren’t many options available because they’re all already fitted, with special SVR seats and trims and logos and a suede-wrapped steering wheel. You can bump up the $142,000 base price if you choose the carbon-ceramic brakes ($13,000), forged aluminum wheels ($1,200), carbon-fibre exterior trim ($5,000) and carbon-fibre roof ($3,600).
This sounds expensive and it is, but compare it to an Audi R8 V10 or the Porsche 911 Turbo and the picture shifts as quickly as the eight-speed automatic ZF transmission.
The SVR weighs 25 kg less than the F-Type R, and if you fit all those lightweight options you can shave an extra 25 kg from even that. One of the biggest savings comes from the titanium quad-pipe exhaust, 16 kg lighter than the standard steel pipes, which incorporates a material called inconel that can withstand very high heat and pressure despite being only 0.6 mm thick.
That exhaust system sounds just fabulous, too—it’s probably the best around. There’s a console button you can push to boost the sound by opening flaps in the pipes to add crackle and it really works.
Jaguar is so proud of it that it closed a tunnel during the auto show in New York this spring to let media barrel back and forth, including yours truly, and the sound is magnificent. Here in Spain it was no less so, though I switched off the crackle during an afternoon drive through sleepy villages enjoying siestas.
The extra power comes from re-tuning and re-tweaking the supercharged V8 engine, and the torque is also increased to 516 lbs.-ft., up from 502 in the R. The powerband is narrower, though, not peaking in the SVR until 3,500 rpm and only holding until 5,000; that’s literally half the peak range of the R’s much more tractable 2,500 to 5,500.
All told, the SVR is 0.4 seconds quicker from zero-to-100 km/h than the R, crossing the line in a snorting 3.7 seconds. That’s very fast indeed, but not so fast that a skilled driver in the R couldn’t whup a good driver in the SVR on the track.
But who cares? How many SVRs will ever actually go to a track? The extra power is mostly for bragging rights, after all, and just because Jaguar wanted to see if it could do it.
Most important, the handling of the SVR’s suspension and chassis is re-tuned to account for the additional power. The rear anti-roll bar is five percent stiffer while the front anti-roll bar is actually five percent softer, to make for a more accommodating ride.
The rear tires are 10 mm wider, too, for better grip. The car was comfortable and confident on the tight, endlessly twisting Spanish roads, even though I left its Drive Mode on the most aggressive Dynamic setting.
I drove the coupe on the track and then the convertible for a few afternoon hours in the Spanish countryside. The convertible is a little slower (top speed of 314 km/h, and 15 kg heavier), but it’s only $3,000 extra and the F-Type lends itself to open-air driving.
It’s pleasingly quiet when the cloth roof is fixed in place, though not as muffled as on a BMW or Benz. Jaguar bills the F-Type as an all-weather supercar, as good in snow (thanks to its all-wheel drive and Snow drive mode setting) as in rain or intense sun. If this is truly the case, the Jag convertible would have benefitted from neck heaters or thigh heaters to help extend the Canadian top-down season, but this wasn’t an issue in Spain.
There was no F-Type R available for back-to-back comparison testing, but I suspect the driving impressions would be very similar. The F-Type R is already plenty quick enough for both the road and the track. It’s a helluva car, but now owning one just tells everybody you couldn’t afford the SVR.
That said, the base F-Type goes pretty good too, and is just as beautiful, but costs more than $60,000 less.
If you want a car that’s rewarding to drive, sounds great and looks even better, then save your money and choose the V6. If you want a car that’s top dog, with a bite as powerful as its bark, then go for the V8, and you might as well go all the way and opt for the SVR.
However, if you’re looking for a genuine deal, keep an eye out for a used F-Type R. There are sure to be plenty of them coming onto the market now.
Disclosure—This writer’s travel and accommodations were provided by the automaker for the purposes of this first-drive review.