Once upon a time, the staunchly British Automaker Jaguar built cars...fast cars of the sporty variety for the pleasure and enjoyment of a loyal following. Two-door, four-door, convertible...Jaguar sold all variants, leaving sport utility vehicle (SUV) products and ensuing marketing to its stiff-upper-lipped British mate Land Rover.
Time caught up with Jaguar. No longer could the niche automaker sit idly by and watch as five-door body styles flooded the marketplace, spurring hefty profits along the way. So, the leaping cat pounced on the bandwagon. It's the same easy call German luxury automaker Porsche made with the introduction of the Cayenne crossover in the 2003 model year after a lifetime of showrooms stocked primarily with coupes.
Jaguar introduced F-Pace in the 2017 model year and quickly established itself as the brand's top seller in the U.S. Jaguar is playing crossover catchup quickly. A year after the F-Pace debut, Jaguar brought along the slightly smaller E-Pace compact crossover into the ever-expanding 'Pace family of vehicles.' The newest sibling, an I-Pace electric vehicle (EV) broke through in this 2019 model year.
Both Jaguar and Land Rover found themselves absorbed by Ford Motor Company as cogs in its Premier Auto Group during the Blue Oval's heated expansion from 1999 to 2009. After a steady nabbing of nameplates came the company's contraction when Ford sold the Jaguar/Land Rover pair to Tata Motors, a sizeable auto conglomerate of India where both became subsidiaries.
Although on the road for almost three years, this week marks this scribe's first time behind the wheel of the new-look five-door Jaguar. Size wise, consider F-Pace a smallish mid-size or roomy compact. Headroom both front and back measures in acceptable.
This first time F-Pace test drive experience came with an additional heart-pumping bonus in the form of the higher-performance SVO (Special Vehicle Operation) edition. Also a relatively new, post-Ford arrival at both Jaguar and Land Rover (started in 2014); the SVO 'business within a business,' model, provides engineers with the freedom to tinker with research and development funds and deliver higher-performance results.
Jaguar is not alone in this regard as a number of luxury nameplates from around the globe take deep dives with high-output, halo-type marques including Mercedes-Benz (AMG), Cadillac (V-Series) and Lexus (F) among others.
Rather than just badging a vehicle SVO, Jaguar also utilizes an 'R' ending signifying performance. Thus, when the 2019 'F-Pace Special Vehicle Operations-performance' arrived for testing, Jaguar abbreviated the mouthful into a shorter, peppier F-Pace SVR.
F-Pace and its fancified SVR performance crossover sibling include all-wheel-drive standard. With Jaguar's AWD system, power defaults automatically to the rear wheels during dry runs, sending additional power to front wheels if needed. Torque vectoring assists in spirited turns, keeping F-Pace planted firmly.
Turbocharging Vs. Supercharging
Both Turbochargers and Supercharges categorize as force induction systems, compressing air flowing into the engine and its cylinders, upping horsepower. While similar sounding and sometimes used interchangeably in pleasant conversation, the two differ from a technical standpoint A Supercharger induces air flow via a belt connected directly to the engine. Turbochargers, requiring a bit more hardware, repurpose exhaust gases through a turbine to spin a compressor.
While turbochargers provide better fuel efficiency through the art of air recycling, Superchargers provide instant gratification of the speed variety when pushing the pedal to the metal, at the expense of fuel economy.
F-Pace SVR chose the latter, witnessed by a 5.0-liter Supercharged V-8 pumping out a heart-thumping 550 horses. This same engine is also optional in Jaguar's two-door F-Type. By contrast, the pedestrian F-Pace packs 380 horsepower via a naturally-aspirated (non-turbo) V-6 power plant in addition to a four-cylinder turbocharged opportunity.
All team with an eight-speed automatic transmission with SVR donning a 'pistol-grip' design resting comfortably in the right hand requiring a push of a top-side button to summon park and a trigger of the pointer finger when choosing reverse or drive. It's a welcome upgrade from a rotary-design electronic shifter found in conventional F-Paces.
The sound stream enhances by a button near the trans shifter monitoring the volume and tone of the quad, dual double exhaust pipes (as to not wake neighbors after dark). Above the quad pipes and hatch window resides a top-side functional spoiler. Enlarged hood air dams and front fender slits aid to cool the SVR's beastly engine. At night, puddle lamps built into side view mirrors project a circular pavement image spelling out "Jaguar."
According to Jag specs, this SVR version sends F-Pace from zero to 60 in a mere 4.1 seconds with speeds topping out at 176 miles per hour. While Jaguar recommends premium fuel for optimal results, 87-octane fuel may be utilized.
The Supercharged V-8 also includes a 'sleep' mode at prolonged stops, known colloquially as engine start-stop technology; great for increasing fuel mileage in daily drivers, but somewhat out of place in a powertrain purchase not prioritizing fuel economy. A push-button near the vertical-sliding transmission shifter over rides the technology.
This SVR divergent welcomes drivers to the 550 horses without overwhelming the experience. Jaguar incorporates bigger, lighter brakes and tweaked electric power steering resulting in tempered thrills with pilots clearly in charge of the operation. Contrast this with a recently tested Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, a mid-size five-door with a head-spinning 707 horsepower. While Trackhawk clearly wins the horsepower challenger, F-Pace SVR utilized its 550 ponies in civilized fashion and a better-tuned on-road experience.
All this comes at a price, $79,990 to start. A recommended driver assist radar package (blind-spot alert, adaptive cruise control, rear traffic monitor) adds $3,600. An assortment of stand-alone options including split-spoke wheels ($1,530) and heads-up windshield display ($1,010) inched the button line to $89,900 with $1,025 destination charge. A conventional 2019 F-Pace with four-cylinder turbo starts at $47,250
Included for the SVO price; Slimeline bolstered performance seats with cradling, comforting headrests lozenge quilting and SVO logo.
An illuminated push-button electric start button resides near the lower central dash, far enough away from steering wheel interference. Immediately above reside two rows of push buttons including all HVAC controls, front and rear defrosters, safety flashers and A/C.
An in-dash multi-function ten-inch touchscreen combines navigation, Smart-phone pairing (Apple Car Play and Android Auto are optional) and audio functions with relatively easy-to-follow on-screen commands. While a volume on/off twist knob is found below the rows of ventilation functions, a scroll button is sorely missed. The all-animated 12.3-inch instrument screen fades to black during shut off and highlights when operational include a circular center with digital speedometer surrounded by a tachometer.
The power-operated hatch (a recently new experience for the once car-centric Jaguar family) stretches up high enough to provide decent head clearance for those six-feet two-inches and shorter. Thirty-four cubic feet of cargo room awaits behind the second row. Fold down seat backs and volume grows to 64 cubic feet.
2019 Jaguar F-Pace SVR
Price as tested: $89,900
Wheelbase: 113.1 inches
Length: 186.3 inches
Width: 81.5 inches
Height: 65.7 inches
Engine: 5.0-liter V-8
Curb weight: 4,395 pounds
City/Highway economy: 16 mpg city 21 mpg highway
Assembly: Solihull, U.K.