Jaguar F Pace SVR 2021 review – good enough to take on an Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio?

As good to drive as an SUV gets, much better interior these days too

Charismatic performance, strong interior, looks, steering, style
V8 engine is beginning to feel ancient, as does its ludicrous thirst

Jaguar’s F Pace SVR has always represented a good deal of car for the money. Given that the price of this heavily revised version has risen by less than $3000 yet brings with it myriad changes both above and beneath the skin, the VFM factor has gone up at least one notch this time round.

Visually it looks even brawnier yet neater than before, inside and out. Technically it benefits from an entire new package of electronics that will keep the platform relevant for many years to come, says Jaguar. This includes a much needed new comms and infotainment system that’s much better to use than of old, plus major improvements to the suspension, bushing and dampers, plus an entirely new electronic steering system to go with it.

It’s a comprehensive range of small upgrades all the way across the car that add up to a significant improvement overall, says Jaguar’s words. But is it enough to keep the SVR competitive with its main contenders from Porsche, Audi, BMW and Alfa?

Engine, transmission and 0-100kph time

Yes and no. On charisma alone the SVR’s ageing supercharged V8 engine has a lot going for it, and in this trim produces a rousing 542bhp and 516lb ft – a similar power figure, but an increase of 15lb ft compared with the previous SVR. Mated to an improved version of ZF’s ubiquitous eight-speed automatic gearbox, this is sufficient to propel the F Pace to 100kph in just 4sec and on to a top speed of 286kph. The old version topped out at 283kph.

There’s notably more zip to the exhaust note, too, thanks to revisions to the system learned during the Project 8 programme. Same goes with the way the diffs respond. Together the mods to the oily bits do make the latest SVR more alert on the move, with snappier throttle response everywhere but especially in Dynamic mode.

But on the other hand, the V8 engine does now feel a touch cumbersome beside more modern equivalents from BMW, Porsche, Mercedes and Alfa. It produces the goods statistically, and makes a decent enough noise in the process, but you get the distinct feeling that we’ve been here before with this engine, and already have several T-shirts to show for it. 

Technical highlights

The cabin of the latest F Pace has taken a big step up in quality, as has the infotainment system. There are still the same modes to choose from within the drive programme – but what happens when you now switch between those modes has a much more dramatic effect on the car’s dynamic personality. And in Dynamic mode, especially, it feels much more cohesive. Plus you can alter the characteristics of the drivetrain individually now far more easily to suit your mood, the conditions and so on.

The other big area of improvement is the isolation and dampening of the drivetrain, which is far better than before and makes the SVR feel both more refined on the move and more urgent at the same time. Again, Jaguar’s SVO division has employed much of the know-how it gleaned when creating the Project 8, and transferred it almost lock-stock to the F Pace.

What’s it like to drive

Good, going on excellent, although there remains one big caveat surrounding the old fashioned nature of the SVR’s V8 engine. Truth is, while this engine is hard to criticise and easy to like because of the amount of raw performance it endows the SVR with – and for the way it sounds – it feels old school nowadays. And the fact that the rest of the F Pace SVR has become so good – great new steering, excellent body control, fine damping and drivetrain refinement, seriously strong brakes and so on – leaves the dear old V8 out in the cold even more obviously. 

It’s a car that’s otherwise this well sorted dynamically – not just at 10/10ths but across its entire speed range – surely now deserves a better, more modern form of propulsion than the one it has. Even if that engine does still deliver a sizable dose of charm and character at 6000rpm in third gear.

The F Pace feels deftly and subtly setup for local roads in a way few, if any, rivals can match. Behind the V8 engine and orange paintwork, it’s a car that speaks not just of the quality of car Jaguar is capable of creating, but the talent still inherent in British engineering. As Jaguar veers away from the combustion engine and its performance car heritage, the F Pace SVR is a timely reminder that it still can compete at the top level. We just hope that the final and ultimate expression of a Jaguar performance car is not in the form of an SUV, as good as this one is, rather one more suitable to celebrate the end of an era.

Price and rivals

No question, the $107,565 F Pace SVR is very competitively priced considering how well it goes, how much new gear it comes with inside, how good it looks and how memorable it is to drive. It costs over $35k less than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, yet has almost as much performance and, arguably, a bigger personality on the road. 

Only the $101k Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio comes close to rivalling the Jaguar’s combination pace and price at this level, and while it undercuts the SVR, it is not as well specified, nor is it as roomy or desirable inside.

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