The Jaguar F-Pace SVR.
The Jaguar F-Pace SVR.
Image: Jaguar

The 2021 Jaguar F-Pace SVR (“SV” denotes that the car comes from Jaguar’s Special Vehicles unit, while “R” denotes the highest level of performance) hardly looks different from its predecessor.

With a 550-horsepower engine, it doesn’t even offer more power than the outgoing SVR variant of Jaguar’s bestselling vehicle, which debuted in 2016.

This doesn’t mean that the midsize SUV feels outdated—quite the contrary. With tighter suspension, improved cooling and aerodynamics, and a new electric-boosted braking system, the newest utility player from the Coventry, England-based brand feels refreshing. It’s also more aggressive, quicker, and nimbler.

The Jaguar F-Pace SVR is a strong contender in the most important segment for luxury automakers. It is neither the fastest nor the most powerful of the high-tuned luxury SUV cohort, but this well-made vehicle from a storied brand stands out as a capable, handsome, well-priced option in a segment crammed with German-made rigs that look roughly the same.

Last of its Kind

Jaguar announced earlier this year that it will go all-electric by 2025. This means that the F-Pace SVR, with its supercharged V8 engine, will probably be among the last new Jaguars to run on combustion power.

But I wasn’t thinking about dying breeds when I first saw the F-Pace SVR this week in Los Angeles. I was more intrigued by the color. Listed on factory paperwork as “SVO Ultra Metallic Paint in Gloss finish” around R65,000 ($4,550), it’s really a dark aubergine hue that tilts the right way—toward “adult” and “stately” rather than “flashy,” or even “Barney.” It carries the right depth of pigment to look almost black in some light, while being strikingly regal and metallic in other views.

The Jaguar F-Pace SVR.
The Jaguar F-Pace SVR.
Image: Jaguar

The paint job nicely complemented the towering 22-inch black and satin-gray wheels, which are cut into five split spokes like blades on a pinwheel, and the enlarged, angular air vents on the hood. SVR models are desirable in large part because they come with a special aesthetics package that includes those larger vents, different facia, and sleek LED headlights. At around R1.3m ($84,600), they cost nearly R503,000( $35,000) more than the standard F-Pace SUV, but considering the generous upgrades and spunky performance, they’re worth it. (Cool factor: The special updated aerodynamics entailed in the SVR body style reduce lift by 35% from previous models, therefore bumping top speed by 3 mph, to 178 mph.)

That paint also played well off the interior of the car, lined as it was in light oyster, high-quality leather and trimmed in ebony. (These are optional upgrades that cost more than standard models). It has been updated this year with dozens of little adjustments that add up to a thoughtfully made, convenient, and spacious cabin.

The 11.4-inch, curved-glass touchscreen is the centerpiece of a redesigned infotainment system. A new split-rim steering wheel finished with zinc-alloy shift paddles provided comfortable and confident control, and the panoramic sunroof (sliding front section with power blind included) invited me to see the treetops and balconies of stately Spanish-style homes as I wound through Los Feliz: beautiful.

The interior of the Jaguar F-Pace SVR in Atacama Orange.
The interior of the Jaguar F-Pace SVR in Atacama Orange.
Image: Jaguar

There were a few blips on the radar inside this machine, however. The biggest was something small: The shifter in the center console proved tiny and vague, several times leaving me unsure (until I looked down) whether I had bumped the car into neutral or reverse. I would have welcomed more emphatic feedback on something so crucial.

Also confusing were the circular rotary controls on the center console that switch functions when you pull them toward you, pull out to control fan speed, or simply turn to control seat temperature. The instructions were written succinctly on the dials, but I nonetheless found them befuddling, even distracting to use.

I must also note here that the fuel efficiency—15 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway—isn’t great, either. I suppose that as the final compact SUV before Jag goes electric, this one offers a last hurrah for gas guzzling, rather than any bridge toward electric power.

Sporty, Plus

Once engaged, the gears on this purple puppy happily satisfied my need to chop through traffic on Highway 101. Sport mode, in particular, sliced-n-diced as I cut through commuters; it downshifted with minimal complaint (despite a vociferous engine note that may be more a twinge more aggressive than the car actually drives). Zero to 60 mph takes 3.8 seconds—0.3 seconds quicker than the outgoing model.

The Jaguar F Pace SVR.
The Jaguar F Pace SVR.
Image: Jaguar

I also liked swapping from comfort to dynamic settings to adjust engine mapping, steering, dampers, and transmission as I drove from downtown LA toward the little-known hamlet of Hollywood Dell; all the while, the F-Pace SVR maintained a bias toward power coming from the rear wheels (all the better for sweeping around slow cars), even though it comes standard with an eight-speed automatic all-wheel drive.

Visibility in this SUV was par for the course. The brakes gripped well and fast. The shifting felt more urgent than in previous models—if not raw, ragged at times. This is no cruising fat cat.

As for options on the new F-Pace SVR, well, I’d splurge on ‘em all: the R31,000 ( $2,110) Hot Climate Pack (lockable cooled glovebox; four-zone climate control; air quality sensor; cabin air ionization with high-grade filter); Meridian surround sound R11,000 ($800); rear privacy glass R3,000 ($200); additional power sockets R1,500 ($99); and more.

Why not? Priced competitively and with plenty of style, the 2021 Jaguar F-Pace SVR deserves the praise and accolades (and extras) of a job well done, even if it is the last of its kind.

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