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I’ve got 405 of Britain’s brawniest kilowatts under my bonnet as I idle, engine grumbling, exhaust barking, in lane two at Sydney Dragway.
And yet, I’m the raging underdog.
The reason has little to do with my $224,110 (plus on-road costs) Estoril Blue 2016 Range Rover Sport SVR and everything to do with the $260,980 Dark Sapphire 2016 Jaguar F-Type R AWD Convertible singing an identical tune in the lane beside me.
Despite the chopped cat officially producing one fewer kilowatt from its otherwise-matching 5.0-litre supercharged V8, it’s not quite enough to tip the power-to-weight ratio in favour of the exactly-400kg-heavier Rangie, which nudges the needle well past 2.2 tonnes.
It’s that three-letter initialism at the end of the Jaguar’s title that has me at long odds in this high-octane blast. The F-Type R may only be one tenth of a second slower from 0-100km/h in rear-drive spec than the all-paw version on paper (4.2sec versus 4.1), but in the real world we know getting the former’s power down takes skill. The AWD, on the other hand, as with the Range Rover, is much more a case of planting your right boot and holding the wheel straight and letting the traction-apportioning computers do the rest.
Knowing this, I’ve got to rely on the strength of my pre-race trash talking of Tony (self-nicknamed) ‘Rocket’ Crawford and his ancient body’s reaction time, which, if evaporating at a tenth of a second per decade, should comfortably give me a half a second head start.
With Dynamic mode engaged for peak throttle response and gearshift speed and the exhaust button pushed for no other reason than it sounds really, really good, the Christmas tree lights up and we’re away.
The launch goes according to plan. The SVR gets the jump, roaring off the line with the pulling power of every one of its stalled-up 680 Newton-metres (produced between 2500-5500rpm), and claiming a handy advantage over is Castle Bromwich-built cousin.
The spec sheet says the Sport’s speedometer should scroll into triple figures in 4.7 seconds, and it feels every bit as fast as that perched high in its leather-upholstered race-style seats.
High on g-forces and approaching the halfway point, there’s a growing feeling inside the Range Rover that we may actually be on the verge of an upset, until…
…the F-Type and I flash into Tim’s passenger window and just as quickly disappear beyond the Rangie’s A-pillar and into the distance.
From my seat, I expected the F-Type to get away quickly, though not without some rear tyre spin. None of that occurred. Instead, it just hunkers down, the Pirelli 295/20s bite, and boom, you’re gone.
That’s one of the key advantages of the all-wheel-drive system over a rear-drive setup, and it’s crucial when you’ve got nearly 700Nm that would normally be applied to the rear wheels, making traction under full throttle almost impossible without major tyre frying.
Unlike most rivals who have adopted dual-clutch transmissions, Jaguar has stuck with a ZF eight-speed automatic ’box. Anything but retrograde, it’s super-smooth, is infinitely more refined at low speeds, and as I’m now experiencing feels just as quick at full tilt.
I chose to stick with the automatic gearshift setting over the paddleshifting manual mode, which may or may not affect my overall time fractionally. The noticeably more aggressive Dynamic drive mode is a must, however, sharpening up throttle response and shift times for the fastest possible acceleration.
While Tim was understandably confident in the Rangie Sport SVR, I don’t think he ever doubted the end result. The F-Type stamps its undeniable authority, crossing the quarter-mile line at least five car lengths ahead with its speedometer nudging 193km/h.
More impressive still is the Jag’s officially recorded 11.7-second quarter-mile time – a feat it repeated on no fewer than six individual runs at Sydney Dragway, and all without the benefit of a launch control system. That’s astonishing for a luxury convertible road car.
But what surprises us both is just how quick the two-tonne-plus SUV gets off the line. There are a couple of runs where both cars are virtually neck-and-neck for the first 100 metres, and that was genuinely unexpected.
For the SVR to be running consistent 12.5-second quarter-mile times with a closing speed of 178km/h is simply staggering for a luxury SUV with ride comfort to rival luxury sedans.
Explosive performance of this nature is usually accompanied by cracking exhaust notes, and JLR’s engineers have created two of the world’s rowdiest. I’m genuinely amazed as to how they get away with it, particularly with the F-Type R, as at full bark it’s loud enough to rival a Funny Car.
Big speeds require big brakes, and these two siblings have got that department well and truly sorted, too.
Our F-Type R is fitted with optional 380mm front/376mm rear carbon ceramic brakes to properly rein in drag speeds. Most impressive is how progressive they are from top to bottom.
The Range Rover Sport SVR isn’t available with carbon ceramics (yet), but gets massive Brembo brakes with almost-equally impressive stopping power, and seemingly no fade.
So there you have it. The big cat has been tamed with the addition of all-wheel drive, and in the process ensured it remains the king of the JLR jungle. That the Range Rover Sport SVR pushed it as hard as it did, however, is an equally impressive feat from the burgeoning British brand.