You may have seen the SVO (Special Vehicle Operations) badge affixed to certain Range Rovers, namely the Range Rover SVR. But now you’ll also start seeing them on top Jaguars.
What does that little round insignia actually represent? Well it does exactly what the badge says. The SVO team engineers and develops Jaguar Land Rover’s more specialized vehicles. These vehicles sit outside of the mainstream ranges, whether they be more performance or more luxury-focused.
Think of it as sort of what AMG is to Mercedes-AMG, what Maybach is to Mercedes-Maybach, and perhaps a combination of what BMW Individual and the M division is to BMW and you’ve got the right picture.
So far, SVO has been developing its vehicles into various sub-brands, each with their own distinct ethos. The SV Autobiography moniker is one of these badges, appearing on high-specification Range Rovers. As mentioned, SVO isn’t just about performance engineering, so here, they outfitted the Range Rover SV Autobiography with even higher quality cabin materials and features usually only seen in long-wheelbase luxury limousines.
But the first SVO badge to arrive on the scene was SVR, used for high-performance flagships on either the Jaguar or Land Rover line-up. SVRs have a pre-requisite of offering unique styling, an upgraded interior, less weight, improved driving dynamics, and of course, a more powerful engine.
The first JLR vehicle to undergo the transformation was the Range Rover SVR, giving rivals such as the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and the BMW X5M a good run for their performance money while yet able to maintain Range Rover’s legendary off-road ability.
But the second model that has been infused with SVO’s touch is the F-Type SVR, also featuring this same duality of nature.
What is it?
In a nutshell, the F-Type SVR coupe utilises Jaguar’s most potent V8 supercharged engine and performance chassis setup. However, it has also been designed to be uncompromising on the grand touring aspirations of the original F-Type.
You’re not too far off for thinking that it’s a lighter, faster, and sharper version of Jaguar’s F-Type R All-Wheel-Drive coupe. However, Mark Stanton, Director of Jaguar Land Rover’s SVO division, cautions us not to be fooled into thinking that the F-Type SVR is a track day hero meant to compete with the likes of the hardcore Porsche 911 GT3.
He says, “SVR is about everyday usability…It’s about taking the basic traits of a Jaguar and amplifying them appropriately. We wanted to dial up the performance without losing the duality”.
Jaguar Land Rover’s skunkworks division took the combination of brute force with gorgeous sheet metal and revised the chassis with new dampers and anti-roll bars.
The tires are wider, the 20-inch SVR wheels are lighter, and there are new rear knuckles that resist flexing better in hard driving. This means that the rear contact patch remains more consistently in contact with the tarmac, improving the car’s mechanical grip.
Curiously, the spring rates from the F-Type R were already good enough that they did not have to be revised.
The Instinctive All-Wheel-Drive system is carried over too, but SVO engineers have fettled with the computer a little and it now sends fractionally more torque towards the rear axle for even more lively dynamics.
The F-Type SVR’s roll stiffness is unchanged compared to its “lesser” siblings, but it has been shifted rearwards to offer the driver a more neutral chassis. Apparently this improves the car’s turn-in characteristics marginally. Other things on the list include a retuned electric steering system, and retuned stability control and torque vectoring systems that give the SVR sharper on-the-limit dynamics.
Visually, besides the stunning “Ultra Blue” paint job on my test vehicle, other aero elements that set the SVR apart include an active carbon fibre rear wing, rear venturi, front splitter, and a flat underfloor.
The roof is also available in lightweight carbon fibre, albeit at an eyewatering optional extra price.
The standard F-Type model already heralds its sporting intents with a cacophony of cracks and pops from the tailpipes. This faster cat has a new titanium and Inconel exhaust system which not only has a harder-edge sound, but also saves 35.27 lbs (16 kg) off the curb weight.
The child in me is gleefully delighted at how joyously loud it is, especially when one pulls on the left gearshift paddle for a gratuitous downshift just to provoke another round of pops and crackles.
So how does it drive?
With its unchanged spring rates, the SVR feels as stiff as other F-Types. Not uncomfortable, but just stiff. As the speed picks up though, the ride quality improves significantly.
Once one gets used to the slightly hyperactive steering, which initially makes the car feel edgy and nervous, its exaggerated rate of response makes the SVR coupe feel tremendously agile on your favourite twisty roads.
Fortunately, Jaguar does offer a way for one to tweak various drivetrain and powertrain components in an a la carte fashion when Dynamic mode is chosen.
I personally preferred the slower steering setup and the more forgiving suspension setting, but with engine and transmission tuning set to dynamic.
With an extra 25 hp on tap, now at 575hp, the F-Type SVR pulls hard through the rev range. With the supercharger setup, throttle response is wonderfully sharp, although you’d probably be hard pressed to feel the extra urgency between both engines unless you’re quite familiar with the standard F-Type R already.
The 8-speed ZF auto gearbox is perhaps not quite a snappy as the equivalent double clutch affair, but it’s responsive enough especially in Dynamic mode, and should prove to be a lot more reliable and cheaper to operate in the long run.
In case you’re wondering, the reason why the engine doesn’t get a fancy plastic or carbon fibre cover is because the supercharger is mounted on the top of the block and Jaguar’s engineers wanted as much cool air to be around it as possible. Apparently it can make as much (or as little) as a 1 or 2 hp difference.
0-100 km times are around 3.7 seconds, slightly quicker than before. But there is so much power beneath one’s right foot anyway that one can play with the car’s balance away from a corner. There isn’t too much of an oversteer action unless you really provoke the SVR.
However, with all the electronic nannies activated and the massive traction from the all-wheel-drive system, any shenanigans are arrested long before they get out of hand. Turn off the systems totally though, which you can actually do in this car, and drifts can be encouraged.
Jaguar has gone from a sleepy giant to a genuinely exciting brand. Much of that transformation is partly down to Indian parent company Tata’s financial backing, allowing cars like the F-Type to be developed.
Sure, Jaguar’s entry to Formula E, the newly arrived all-electric I-Pace and the F-Pace SUV have helped, but the F-Type is the jewel in the crown of the Jaguar model range. And the Jaguar F-Type SVR represents the jewel in the jewel in the crown.
Aside from its everyday usability, when posed amongst supercars costing multiples of the SVR’s sticker price, the F-Type as tested, still superbly looks the part and plays the part of a 5 year old boy’s bedroom poster pin up.
The F-Type SVR is supposed to be a 911 Turbo rival, so that means it is close to 911 Turbo money. But why would you choose the Brit over the German? Arguably because it is bigger hearted, more mischievous, more childish, and just more of an old school V8 bruiser than the technically amazing Porsche.
The joy of owning and driving this car comes down to the mating of the boisterous V8 power to a front-engined GT car. It’s a tried and true recipe with a few up-to-date ingredients and perhaps that’s all you really want. Your inner child will thank you for it.