On paper it’s, again, a case of evolution not revolution. So the SVR sticks with the 550PS (405kW) V8, deploying its burly 700Nm (516lb ft) through the same eight-speed automatic gearbox and fully variable and heavily rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, with an active locking diff at the rear for good measure. Suspension remains a pleasingly old-school combination of coil springs and mechanical anti-roll bars paired with adaptive dampers that – along with steering and other parameters – can be tuned via the driver modes to suit your mood. Mechanical updates are more or less restricted to a burlier torque convertor from the Project 8 and new ‘e-booster’ brake servo.
For all that familiar sounding tech the switch to next-gen electronic architecture gives Ross and his team more to play with. Put simply, the computers can react more quickly to the information from the sensors in the dampers, stability control, steering, differentials, throttle, brakes and other systems to deliver a much, much sharper drive than before, while retaining the scope for improved refinement at the same time. These are all just tools, though, and Jaguar’s real skill remains applying the human touch to the final set-up.
In the first few hundred yards the SVR feels much like any other performance SUV. Which is to say big, brash, domineering of its space on the road and treading a fine line in social acceptability. That, for some buyers, may be the point. But the F-Pace also has bags of charisma, and the skill of the engineers is evident in the way it goes along the very same bumpy, unpredictably cambered and poorly surfaced B-roads on which it was developed.
The V8 is exactly as rude as it’s always been, supercharging meaning it builds to a thrilling crescendo rather than dumping it all in your lap in the first 1,500rpm like some turbocharged rivals. The weight dulls off-the-line response but, once up to speed, it piles on more very enthusiastically indeed. Perhaps a little too enthusiastically, truth be told. There is a little brittleness at low speeds but you soon appreciate the surprising delicacy and precision with which you steer this big old beast of a car. The spec sheets say the Stelvio Quadrifoglio can’t match the SVR’s firepower but it does weigh as much as 300kg less, which translates to its livelier, more agile feel on the road.
Credit to the SVR’s sense of flow, though. With greater bandwidth between the settings you can tune it to your tastes – we settled on Dynamic, manual shifts on the paddles and Trac DSC but with the standard steering weight – and the long hours perfecting the damper tuning, bushings and other settings pay off with a combination of poise and refinement that’s truly impressive for such a lump. Jaguar has the confidence in its damping to let the F-Pace float in the middle of its damper stroke over camber changes and rapid-fire bumps without ever feeling wallowy, which is in marked contrast to ‘slam it back on the deck’ approach of most German rivals and more comfortable as a result. Throw in improved sightlines over the hedges from the extra height and a very real willingness for being steered on the throttle and – whisper it - you wonder if perhaps the performance of a fast SUV is easier to appreciate than that of some ‘proper’ sportscars out there on real roads.