When the Jaguar F-Type entered the world three years ago, it was a design statement above all else. Ian Callum sculpted an instant classic that would lead Jaguar into a new age of styling and product expansion. Its beauty overshadowed the performance conversation.
Even as the English sports car gained a fixed roof counterpart and a tenacious 550-horsepower supercharged V8 engine, its on-track credentials have not compared favorably to those of the Porsche 911, Mercedes-AMG GT S, and the Chevrolet Corvette Z06. That has not sat well with the UK automaker’s engineers.
Their calculated response? The Jaguar’s 2017 F-Type SVR. This new limited-production Jaguar, the fastest Jag since the XJ220 supercar of the 1990s, boasts a claimed 200-mph top speed, active aerodynamic components, carbon-fiber accessories, and an even a louder exhaust.
In the name of science, I hustled down to Naval Base Coronado in San Diego to put the range-topping F-Type through some hot laps and autocross. It was time to see if performance no longer took a back seat to beauty.
Outright power has never been a concern for the F-Type. In its competitive class, the R Coupe’s 550 hp and 502 lb.-ft. of torque is outgunned only by the Corvette Z06’s ludicrous 650 horses.
Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) team has dug out an additional 25 hp and 14 lb.-ft. of torque from the F-Type’s supercharged 5.0-liter V8 for a total of 575 ponies and 516 lb.-ft. of torque. As in the R, power is routed through a ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox to all four wheels. Foot to the floor, the F-Type SVR hits 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds—on par with the Merc and more quickly than Porsche’s 911 GTS.
Straight-line speed is essential, but the SVR’s real battle is won or lost mid-corner. Tweaks have been made to the F-Type’s all-wheel drive, torque vectoring, and stability control systems to fight the car’s eagerness to wag its tail. To double down on handling ability, Jaguar has cut between 55 and 110 pounds from the R’s beltline, depending on options. The greatest weight savings comes from the new titanium exhaust.
Rounding out the SVR’s go-fast upgrades are a range of carbon-fiber bits (front splitter, rear spoiler, and optional roof), active rear spoiler, underbody airflow enhancements, cast-aluminum rear suspension knuckles, new active dampers, and available forged aluminum wheels. Add it all up and the 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR is a far more refined performance product than its R counterpart.
Grip ‘n’ Rip
My first handshake with Jag’s hottest F-Type was staged on a technical autocross course surrounded by active Black Hawk and Sea Knight helicopters. Without much of a straight, the SVR couldn’t win me over with only its acceleration—flat cornering and excellent braking are key to good autocross times.
From the first bend, the SVO team’s efforts shone through. Steering responsiveness was instant and direct, while the Pirelli tires applied measured doses of power from the AWD system. Compared to the R, I felt a sense of ease getting on the power earlier and more aggressively. Braking was also tremendous. The short straights could be extended by being able to brake later, relying on the carbon ceramics to bring the sports car in check before the next corner. Now it was time for more momentum.
Due to the Coronado Speed Festival’s tight schedule, I’d only have three laps on the larger circuit to stretch the F-Type SVR’s legs, but getting comfortable with 575 hp isn’t as arduous as it might sound. Unlike the autocross, Coronado’s makeshift course had a generous straightaway, giving the SVR ample opportunity to scream a titanium tune. While it was hard to distinguish the R and SVR’s audio tracks at lower speeds, the hotter Jag is a good bit louder at full bore.
With nearly every corner being a late apex, it took patience not to rob the F-Type of exit speed. On the other hand, the layout showed off the SVR’s better stability and grip. Where the R tends to understeer at the limit (only to be corrected by throttle-induced oversteer), the SVR settles into stronger g-forces before tightening the circle toward corner apex.
The Coronado circuit’s width let me explore the SVR’s power out of each corner, but the surge was so intense that I had to set up for the next bend instantly after finishing with the last. Fortunately, the SVR was primed to transfer its weight instantly, aided by a measure of throttle lift. This is undoubtedly the most track-capable Jaguar ever produced.
With the F-Type SVR Coupe’s $125,950 starting figure (a $20,550 price premium over the R), Jaguar is making a well-rounded claim in the high-end sports car market. Already one of the most handsome vehicles on the market, the F-Type now backs its beauty with a healthy dose of added performance. Without data, it’s hard to say whether the new SVR is on equal footing with precision engineering efforts like the Porsche 911 GTS, but the hardware and subjective sensations say Jag is zeroing in.
The range-topping F-Type isn’t just about faster lap times; tweaks to the interior differentiate the SVR from lesser trims. Diamond-stitched seats, anodized aluminum shift paddles, and optional microsuede trim for the steering wheel and center console give the cockpit a more premium feel. Jaguar was also able to cut weight without sacrifice conveniences like the infotainment system, stereo, or A/C. The enduring luxury presentation makes the F-Type SVR a prime daily driver candidate.
And if you can’t get enough of that fuel-liberating exhaust note, an open-top variant is available for just $2850 over the price of the coupe. Convertible lovers be warned, though, you’ll run out of steam at 195 mph—such a shame.
For more information, options, and pricing, please visit our 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR page on AutoWeb’s search and configure site.
Photo Credit: © Miles Branman