Don't worry, you're not seeing things. This is the Jaguar F-Pace SVR that was initially announced over a year ago. And this time around, it's not just Australia's long distance from the rest of the world that sees us driving it 12 months later for the first time.
The 2019 Jaguar F-Pace SVR was rolled out by the Jaguar team in March 2018 and Australian pricing was announced shortly after. But, after a cancelled global media launch last year and little explanation why, Jaguar had another crack at it, this time picking the south of France to launch both the updated Jaguar XE and the F-Pace SVR.
Before we get into the review, we asked Jaguar numerous times why the car's launch was delayed and the only explanation it was prepared to give was that there was a supplier issue. Which supplier? Jaguar wouldn't say. What Jaguar did say was that if it had launched the vehicle as expected last year, deliveries would have been delayed regardless, so it decided to hold out.
So that's the timing issue out of the way. Let's get into why this could be a game changer for Jaguar in the performance SUV segment.
Let's start with the price. Pricing kicks off from $140,020 (plus on-road costs), which makes it way, way, cheaper than the likes of the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63S ($172,400), Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S ($195,030), BMW X5 M ($188,729 (F85)) and Audi SQ7 ($161,900). At that price point it lines up with similarly priced rivals and is pipped in terms of performance by the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk ($134,950) and Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV ($149,900).
VFACTS classes the F-Pace as a medium SUV, which really makes it a competitor with the GLC, but in terms of performance it goes head-to-head with those listed above.
With those figures in mind it's not hard to see how hard Jaguar is pushing this as the affordable performance SUV in its segment.
Pumping out 404kW of power and 680Nm of torque, F-Pace SVR is powered by a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 that drinks a minimum of 95RON fuel and uses an eight-speed automatic transmission sending torque through a variable all-wheel drive system.
Consuming a combined 11.7 litres of fuel per 100km, it's barely the economical option in this segment, but we think you'll agree, what it misses out in terms of fuel economy, it makes up in terms of sound.
Not only has Jaguar removed restrictions on supercharger whine, it has also developed an active exhaust system that uses electronically controlled exhaust valves that can open or close at any point, as opposed to just opening at a certain revolution or pressure level.
This allowed the team to develop a dynamic sound profile offering extra noise at times when traditionally a bi-modal exhaust would be closed. This includes low speeds and under part throttle load. And boy, does it sound good. It's not quite as sonorous as the F-Type SVR, but it sounds incredible under load with added bark and anger during gear shifts. And, the supercharger whine is enough to get anyone's pulse racing.
You'll be able to tell the F-Pace SVR apart from the rest of the range thanks to changes at the front and rear. The front-end now features bigger intake grilles and a greater focus on cooling with real bonnet vents and air channels over the brakes and around the side of the car.
The rear is a similar story with small aero channels built into the bottom strakes of the bumper bar. Then there's the real exhaust outlets – Jaguar proclaims it hates fake exhaust outlets on performance products, so the four trumpets you see facing out the rear are plumbed directly from the engine.
Around the side you'll spot a meaty set of brakes with the front sitting on 395mm two piece rotors with four-piston calipers, while the rear uses 396mm rotors. Despite offering ultimate braking performance, the thing Mercedes-Benz does well is huge calipers that give a clear indication of what the car is about. The brakes on the F-Pace SVR don't really give a true indication of braking performance – they look a little small compared to its competitors in this segment.
Inside the cabin Jaguar has really stepped up the luxury game with huge SVR performance seats that hug you nicely and keep your body firmly planted when belting through corners. Metallic paddle-shifters add to the premium feel, while the rising gear shifter has been replaced with the 'pistol shifter' from the F-Type.
Despite the XE picking up interior elements from the I-Pace, such as InControl Touch Pro Duo and a new steering wheel, the F-Pace SVR retains the button cluster underneath the infotainment screen and the rather cheap feeling plastic steering wheel buttons.
One would have thought with a full year delay between announcement and reveal of F-Pace SVR, now would have been the ideal time to roll out an interior update to put the car in line with XE.
Either way, the customisation on offer inside the cabin is enough to get a premium look and feel without having to spend mega dollars. There aren't a huge amount of options, but some things are still frustratingly extra, such as DAB+ digital radio ($950), head-up display ($2650) and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto ($495).
Despite its size, a predominantly aluminium body structure means the F-Pace, even with this big V8 engine, tips the scales just under 2000kg. That allows it to move from 0-100km/h in just 4.3 seconds and that's with a dual-clutch launch control system that can typically reduce launch times with a greater amount of revs.
Our launch drive began in Saint Tropez, France and worked its way into the French Alps before descending back into Nice. While the roads around Saint Tropez were a little bumpy, the mountain roads were surprisingly smooth. That meant the ride on the optional 22-inch alloy wheels was surprisingly fuss free.
That's partly thanks to a progressive damping system that uses a series of valves to variably adjust damping levels as the car hits bumps on the road. Jaguar's engineering team increased spring stiffness at the front by 30 per cent and the rear by 10 per cent, along with utilising a thicker anti-roll bar to decrease body roll by five per cent.
Weight was further reduced across the body with the option of lightweight wheels (2.4kg lighter at the front and 1.7kg lighter at rear), while the exhaust system shaved a massive 6.6kg of body weight, incorporating lightweight architecture and a reduction in back-pressure to allow easier flow from the engine's exhaust.
Other changes include wider tyres at the rear (295mm, up from 265mm) and the introduction of an electronic active differential at the rear with brake torque vectoring. The differential uses electronic locking to progress from fully open through to any variation of closed with an ability to apply up to 2000Nm of locking force across the differential.
Brake torque vectoring further aims to reduce unintended torque excess at each wheel. Jaguar's all-wheel drive system regularly operates with a torque split of around 70/30 (rear/front), but can progress all the way through to sending 100 per cent of torque to the rear axle when required. In fact, when the car is switched to its Dynamic drive mode, it operates predominantly as a rear-wheel drive vehicle.
While our drive the previous day in the XE was sun-drenched, our run with the F-Pace SVR was the exact opposite. It rained most of the time, which, you would think, makes it harder to extract the most out of the chassis.
Much to our surprise, even in the sopping wet and cold conditions, the F-Pace SVR performed tremendously well. Despite running in Dynamic mode for most of our mountain drive, traction wasn't an issue. The Pirelli rubber stuck to the road like glue and you could confidently feed in the throttle out of corners with the car hunkering down and shooting away without a flurry of wheel slip.
It's hard to explain just how meaty and deep that exhaust and engine note is. It's impossible to get sick of the torque and noise rush each time you pin the throttle to the firewall. It throws you back in the seat and each gear change is met with a bark as the next cog is selected.
The gearbox does an immensely good job of sticking to the right gear with the Dynamic drive mode sharpening throttle response and the Sport gearbox mode further holding gears and providing extra control over torque delivery. You can, of course, shift manually using the aluminium paddle-shifters, but we found it best to leave the gearbox in Sport mode and let the car do all the work.
The brakes are spot on and are keen to cop a hammering while still retaining plenty of bite. The Brembos work hard to ensure the car can pull up each time you go for the brake pedal with progressive feel and constant confidence in stopping ability.
We absolutely loved the level of steering feel on offer in the XE, but didn't think it was as precise in the F-Pace. It's a bigger car and certainly feels bigger behind the wheel, but we didn't find it as precise when the pace picks up and the corners get a little slower and more technical. There's still confidence behind the wheel, but we feel like the steering feel is the only let down with the entire package.
If you switch everything back to Comfort mode, it's remarkable how polar opposite the F-Pace SVR's character can become. It goes from being an angry monster to a sedate cruiser. The exhaust becomes quiet (still with a hint of V8 murmur to it) and the ride rounds out nicely.
In and around Saint Tropez we found that the ride was on the firmer side of comfortable with a sharper edge to it when you hit potholes and speed humps. We are keen to see how this translates to some of the choppier roads you'll find in Australia.
In terms of the rest of the car, the interior feels just like any other F-Pace. That means a 10-inch InControl Touch Pro infotainment system and a 12.3-inch display ahead of the driver. On the infotainment front, it's a good system that transitions through screens with ease and is simple to use. It's backed by a comprehensive voice recognition system that makes the most of online connectivity.
Leg- and headroom in the second row is good, but can be cramped due to the wider and deeper backs on the front sports seats. Unfortunately it's a compromise you'll need to live with if you want full fruit F-Pace performance.
Cargo capacity comes in at 508 litres with the second row in place and expands to 1740 litres with the second row folded. The second row folds in a 40/20/40 split configuration. There are also two ISOFIX points on the outboard seats in the second row.
Like its other luxury siblings in this segment, Jaguar only offers a three-year warranty (100,000km). Servicing costs are yet to be confirmed, but if the XJ and F-Type V8 products are anything to go by, servicing is complimentary for a period of five years or 130,000km.
The Jaguar F-Pace SVR sets a new benchmark in this segment for an affordable performance SUV. It undercuts its competitors and delivers razor sharp performance with an audio track that's yet to be heard in this segment.
Sure, it's fashionably late to the party, but it could just be the golden egg in the F-Pace range if bang-for-buck is anything to go by.