The 2021 Jaguar F-Pace SVR is a perfectly imperfect 550 horsepower laugh-inducer

“A Jaguar SUV? You gotta be shittin’ me!” the bystander proclaimed upon approaching the F-Pace SVR that I had just exited. Ten years ago it would have been blasphemy; in fairness, to some it still is. But luxury and speed have evolved since the days of the Jags everyone remembers and loves, and now we have a midsize British crossover as the company’s leading force. Lucky for us, the performance-oriented F-Pace SVR’s bonnet hides the same 5.0L supercharged V8 that makes the F-Type sports car so rowdy. I’ve long been a proponent of the fast SUV and after years of watching from afar, it was time to shake one down for myself.

In traditional Jag fashion, the F-Pace is a truly pretty thing to behold. Crossovers aren’t usually attractive but this one has the right proportions and that long hood, short deck profile you’d expect of a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. The SVR takes the visual excitement a notch further with aggressive diffusers, gorgeous wheels, and Jag’s signature quad-tip exhaust that signifies this is the fast one. The test unit’s jaw-dropping $4,550 SVO Ultra Metallic Paint in Gloss blue paint draped over black accents furthers the car’s presence. It’s a show-stopper but not over-the-top, which is a good middle ground considering our tester’s $97,379 as-tested price and the nature of the brand’s under-the-radar British confidence.

With a base price of $84,600 the SVR trim isn’t cheap, but the options list that brings the number to nearly a hundred grand leaves a lot that can be skipped, like the 21” wheels ($1,200), gloss black roof rails ($360), rear privacy glass ($200), Adaptive Surface Response ($150), additional power sockets ($150), and hot climate pack with lockable cooled glove box as well as four-zone climate control and quality sensor cabin air ionization ($2,110). We are fans of the Head-Up Display but the $1,010 price is a bit gluttonous. Then again, so is the SVR as a whole.

This is why it’s slightly surprising that the interior is less thrilling if not a bit drab. LED accent lighting that changes from blue to red when the metal dial is used to switch the SVR into Dynamic Mode is a nice touch, as are the details on the seatbacks, but otherwise, it’s dark and unexciting inside. This is good for some; all the better to focus on the driving. Jaguar and Land Rover worked together to develop the new PIVI Pro 11.4” touchscreen which is the same unit as what we had trouble within a 2021 Land Rover Discovery last summer. It’s less fussy now but still glitches with concerning regularity. On the bright side, it’s crisp, responsive, pretty, and outshined by the Meridian sound system. Much like the wondrous joy of driving the SVR.

The F-Pace SVR’s engine makes 550 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, good numbers in a supercar, and especially great in something of this shape and general purpose. The 5.0L supercharged V8 is a nuclear bomb waiting for your finger to push the red button at any time, that button is operated by your right foot and thankfully only minimally harming the environment whenever you deploy the nukes. This powerplant makes a phenomenal noise, bellowing at all the right times and shouting the supercharged V8’s character at all RPM. In a tunnel, it sounds like gunfire being blasted out of a fireworks cannon. I remember hearing stories of journalists being pulled over during the F-Pace’s launch because the CHP thought the exhausts were modified despite being bone-stock. Shockingly loud barely crests the surface for describing it, and it would make many sports cars and exotics shake in their boots. Running the SVR’s engine up to its redline brings with it a beautiful, manic tone that you never get enough of.

Given my proclivity for making V8 symphony from premium unleaded fuel, I was shocked that the gas mileage was a surprisingly decent 17.8 MPG considering how much time my right foot spent burying the gas pedal into the firewall. The snappy 8-speed 8HP transmission made for fun, quick shifts with the meaty metal shift paddles and allows for the Jag’s powerplant to settle happily on the highway. Ripping off 0-60 runs was repeatedly easy in sub-5 seconds (the quoted time is 4.3 but this press unit was on snow tires) and mashing the throttle from a roll is hilarious and addicting. The F-Pace SVR is a nonstop giggle-making machine.

It doesn’t fall flat on its face on a back road, either. The SVR weighs around 4,500 pounds and it feels like it, but the direct steering, crossover ride height, and excellent visibility mean you can carry serious speed on any road. The ride quality suffers for the sake of keeping body roll at a minimum, but it’s still more than comfortable given the all-around competence.

Few things are as fun as doing something with a vehicle that it wasn’t intended to do, and being that the F-Pace is an all-wheel-drive crossover at heart we wanted to see how it would fare off-road because that’s what we do here at Hooniverse and on The Off the Road Again Podcast. We trekked up to a trail to play around and were surprised by the F-Pace’s off-tarmac competence until the piece of the plastic aft of the front right tire was an approach angle game-ender. On snow and ice, it performed flawlessly, if a bit let down by the ultra-wide tires. Still, this would be a fantastic vehicle to own if winter mountain driving is a necessity for your hobbies.

As good as the SVR is at doing a bit of everything, it isn’t perfect. JLR’s PIVI Pro infotainment continually tripped over itself in assessing phone connections, bouncing from Bluetooth to CarPlay and back without reason. And for a near-$100k vehicle, a surprising number of creaks and rattles existed when going over bumps. The steering rack groaned slightly on cold mornings. The seats made my back hurt by the end of a six-hour day behind the wheel and are lacking adjustability for something at this price point. The center console is laughably tiny, barely big enough for a wallet. And yet, absolutely none of that matters when you push the “loud” button for the exhaust and listen to the SVR do its thing.

The F-Pace SVR is flawed, and yet flawless. A testament to everything right and wrong with fast vehicles that aren’t primarily focused on driving. More so than even the C8 Corvette I tested last summer, the F-Pace SVR constantly made me want to go for a drive. There’s just something so joyous about a vehicle of its size and height dancing the way it does and making the sweet sounds that come from the quad exhausts and supercharger. The fast CUV/SUV is today’s best compromise, sacrificing its ability to best go about its business in the pursuit of speed and theater, and the latter is why the Jag is such a roaring success. A Porsche Macan might be better-built and a BMW X3M might be faster, but the Jaguar F-Pace SVR oozes with smile-inducing hilarity. Screw the numbers and perfectionism; the F-Pace SVR puts juvenile joy above clinical mannerisms and presents itself as perfectly polished. It’s more fun that way, and for the better. It doesn’t get any better than the SVR.

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2 responses to “The 2021 Jaguar F-Pace SVR is a perfectly imperfect 550 horsepower laugh-inducer”

  1. Maymar Avatar

    I’ve driven these at a few Jag events (well, a mid-spec model with the supercharged V6, I believe), and as much as you know the electronics are working incredibly hard at helping control 4500lbs of relatively high CoG, they’re actually sort of fun. Also, it might be the best looking crossover – I’d gladly trade a bit of the SVR’s pace for a little more grace, but I do check these out on Auto Trader every now and then.

  2. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    to want a Jag has always meant being swayed by the intangibles. i don’t think their more basic models still have the appeal of an XJ6 over an E-Class, but their performance models are at the top of my fantasy luxury car list. an F-Type coupe is something i might actually consider owning someday, once they depreciate like Jaguars into my price range.