First Drive: 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR

Pulling out of the media parking lot at the 2017 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in my white 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible, a cop was directing the mess of traffic. He leaned over and asked in a southern drawl, “Is that one of them there Ferraris?”

The “regular” V8-powered F-Type R is famously loud, but this SVR gets a lightweight titanium exhaust system that bellows and backfires in an even more anti-social manner. If that’s possible.

“Nope. It’s a Jag.”

“Oh. Looks like a Ferrari. You can jump on it a bit if you want.”

Well, how often do you get encouragement from a police officer to peel out? I’m not sure he was ready for this. First, a wee bit of preparation. Tap the shift lever to the left for Sport which opens up the exhaust and sharpens the eight-speed ZF automatic. Then select Dynamic mode from the toggle on the console. This loosens the reins on the stability control, stiffens suspension, extends the rear spoiler, yada yada. Okay officer, here we go.

The “regular” V8-powered F-Type R is famously loud, but this SVR gets a lightweight titanium exhaust system that bellows and backfires in an even more anti-social manner. If that’s possible. I matted the pedal, the 575 hp 5.0L supercharged V8 howled like the hounds of hell, and even with its standard all-wheel drive the Jag’s shapely derriere kicked sideways as we blasted forth. Then I lifted, sending forth a volley of cackles and bangs that projected into the next county. Somehow, this is legal.

The 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR comes from JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations, a performance division that could be likened to BMW’s M, Mercedes’ AMG, Volvo’s Polestar and the like. And oh yes, this cat has some serious firepower.

The 2017 F-Type SVR is available in both coupe ($142,000) and convertible ($145,000), and these prices represent a $23,500 hike over the V8 R models on which the SVR is based. So we’re looking at a supercharged 5.0L V8, eight-speed ZF manumatic transmission and all-wheel drive. As the regular 550 hp “R” is a ferocious and bellicose beast of considerable note, how much further does the SVR take it? A fair bit, I’d say.

SVR turns the wick up on the V8 to the tune of 575 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, reprograms the transmission for faster shifts and stiffens the suspension. It rides on 20-inch forged alloys with 20 mm wider tires, and gets a uniquely calibrated all-wheel-drive system. The front stabilizer bar is five percent softer and the rear is five percent stiffer for better turn-in.

More aggressive body bits help with downforce and cooling. The biggest giveaway to this F’s mojo is the big carbon-fibre rear wing that, on both coupe and convertible, extends up and back when reaching 100 km/h or whenever Dynamic mode is engaged. And it won’t retract into the bodywork, so your SVR is always looking badass.

The cars on this event wore the number 60, honouring the 60th anniversary of the legendary Jaguar D-Type’s sweep at Le Mans in 1957.

A big part of the F-Type’s appeal is its absolutely gorgeous aluminum skin, for which designers Ian Callum and Wayne Burgess deserve knighthood. They’ve drawn a timeless classic, and here in SVR trim it gains some attitude without losing its elegance and grace. One could arguably buy this car just on its looks alone. Oh, and for that exhaust sound.

Without having a “regular” R for comparison, it’s hard to tell how much different this top-cat F is, as the lesser model is mighty impressive in its own right – very fast, very vocal and yes, drop-dead sexy. Still, bragging rights cost, and the SVR certainly has those. With a top speed of 323 km/h (cresting the magic 200 mph mark) this is fastest production Jag to date. It also gets to 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, 0.4 seconds before the R.

Our drive is mostly over winding B-roads with some highway jaunts thrown in, and this is where the car shines. Jaguar might be positioning the SVR against some premium German sports cars, but it is more grand tourer than hyper apex carver. Jag has managed to shave up to 50 kilos off the SVR, but at 1,720 kg this convertible is a porky cat and feels it. It prefers long sweepers and eye-ball-compressing bursts of acceleration over sharp turns and quick transitions. The steering is pin-sharp and ride quality is perfectly acceptable for such a machine. It won’t engage you like a 911 or even the Mercedes-AMG GT, but on a day like today with the top down and the Georgia countryside streaming by, everything is just peachy.

With the windows up, wind management is good – the cabin remains relatively turbulence-free at reasonable speeds. The problem is, one is always just an ankle flick away from unreasonable speeds. And it’s so bloody addictive – feeling that rush of acceleration all underscored by an exhaust sound for the ages. The only other Brit with a range like this is Julie Andrews, but she never sounded like she’d been drinking Drano and eating chili all night.

The F-Type’s aluminum structure is commendably stiff as there is nary a hint of quiver or cowl shake in this droptop. And it should be noted that when all systems are set to normal, the exhaust note settles down as does the ride and transmission mapping. The hyper-F does its very best to coddle in true Jaguar tradition.

The SVR’s interior get dressed up with acres of Alcantara, carbon-fibre trim, “lozenge” stitching on the snug seats and larger, real aluminum shift paddles (thankfully replacing the cheapo plastic ones found in lesser F-Types). The cabin has an intimate, cockpit-like feel and on this long-haul day my derriere lodged no complaints. Sadly, the SVR is still saddled with JLR’s old-gen infotainment head which is slow and creaky.

Apparently the hi-zoot Meridian sound system is quite good. I wouldn’t know. The warm Georgia air and echoing exhaust were all that was needed.

Dynamic Mode: Engaged 3/20/2017 6:30:00 AM