Jaguar has updated the F-Pace SVR for the 2021 model year, bringing in a vastly improved cabin, a sharper chassis and even a little bit more torque from the thunderous supercharged V8 petrol engine. The resulting vehicle moves itself leaps and bounds forward, allowing it to challenge the absolute best-in-class rivals in terms of dynamics; the SVR v2.0 is superb.
In the metal
It's not as if the Jaguar F-Pace has ever been a bad-looking contrivance and giving it the beefy SVR detailing doesn't hurt things, either. This has to be the best-looking SUV in its sector, and we're including the Alfa Romeo Stelvio in that consideration. All F-Pace models have been facelifted and given a new interior for 2021, but the SVR has some specific details that mark it out from its immediate predecessor. Such as that X-shaped front bumper detail beneath the number plate, or enlarged cooling vents in the outer airdam that now feature the mesh grille from the Jaguar XE SV Project 8 supersaloon. Along the sides, there's a set of 22-inch Gloss Narvik Black forged alloy wheels with Satin Grey inserts, although 21s are the standard SVR kit in Ireland, while fresh LED lamp clusters front and rear further hone the appearance of the F-Pace. Throw in some eye-catching colours, like Velocity Blue or Atacama Orange, and what you have here is one handsome SUV brimming with intent.
However, the best news comes inside the F-Pace, where it's impossible to miss the fact you're in the updated model. Your eyes first come to rest on the Pivi Pro 11.4-inch infotainment system, which is exceptional to look at and use. Not only that, but it's presented on a funky curved-glass touchscreen, allowing the display to 'fold' with the contours of the dash. Speaking of which, the fitment of the Pivi Pro has necessitated all the main alterations to the rest of the fascia. Where the old, fiddly infotainment display had a couple of air vents above it and two horizontal rows of buttons for the climate controls below, now you get a much wider, strip-like feature for the vents and thus a flat-topped dashboard, save for the instrument binnacle. The formerly low-mounted driver's side air vent that used to blow air onto your knees has been replaced by a higher-placed unit and the deletion of the old 'Riva hoop' detail running around the base of the windscreen.
The gear lever is now a short, stumpy and deeply pleasing ergonomic little number with cricket-ball stitching, while the climate controls are Jaguar's latest rotary dial multifunction items, which work well and look great. There's a little 'Jaguar Established 1935 Coventry' emblem just above the ventilation controls, the bucket seats are splendid to look at (although it always feels just as if you're sitting on the seats, rather than in them, which is a minor blemish) and every material you can lay your hands on feels shot through with improved quality. Even the steering wheel has been redesigned and tidied up, and it's an utter delight to hold.
Those exterior detail changes might not look much, but 'motorsport-inspired' aero work by Jaguar is claimed to have reduced lift by 35 per cent on the SVR compared to the old model, while it's also a bit more efficient at cutting through the air too. These tweaks team up with an additional 20Nm of torque from the fabulous old 5.0-litre supercharged V8, for a 700Nm maximum (peak power remains pegged at a none-too-shabby 550hp), as well as the fitment of the torque converter automatic gearbox from the XE SV Project 8, an Integrated Power Booster for the braking system to improve pedal-feel underfoot, retuned dampers and upgraded chassis suspension bushes throughout, and also a recalibration of the power steering system to better suit the SVR's character.
All factors that bless this Jaguar SVR with ridiculous talent, considering it's a 2,133kg behemoth. We've always loved this 5.0-litre engine and it's not as if the original F-Pace SVR was a shambles in the corners, because it wasn't. However, it had that slightly loose-limbed, supple gait across ground that could occasionally make you back off from full commitment as a driver if the road ahead got markedly technical. No such issues this time around. The SVR's steering, for starters, is exquisite, as it's a genuine pleasure to use in the Dynamic setting and yet it is no less appealing in Comfort - where it's lighter in touch, obviously, but as immediate and accurate as you could want, nevertheless. The body control is stronger now, without making the F-Pace SVR skitter on less than perfect tarmac. And the damping works best in Comfort mode, allowing the car to breathe with those lumpen surfaces and keep its massive contact patches in touch with the road for more of the time.
Hook it altogether, along with that phenomenal engine replete with its instantaneous and crisp throttle response, and the Jaguar is a joy to drive on quiet roads. It never feels like a big, heavy, cumbersome machine, instead conveying the impression it's what the XF Sportbrake would've felt like if Jaguar had ever done the decent thing and shoved this V8 into that estate car instead. However, not only is the F-Pace remarkably capable if you want the ultimate in cross-country pace, but it's also playful; get liberal with the throttle in tighter corners and it's the back end of the car that punches out into oversteer first, before the front axle ever shows any signs of washing wide. It's hilarious and marvellous in equal measure.
It works as a traditional Jaguar, though. The ride quality is very decent indeed, the interior noise suppression is first-rate and when you're not working that V8 as hard as you dare to listen to its terrific tenor voice, the powerplant and attendant eight-speed ZF gearbox are the epitome of discretion. You won't be able to resist listening to the 5.0-litre engine, though, especially as Jaguar has fitted it with a disgracefully (and brilliantly) noisy exhaust. Few SUVs, if any, sound as good as this. Shame that it's such a thirsty unit, then. For all its wonderful sharpness and melodramatic bellowing, this is a relatively archaic engine these days and it shows in a steady cruising return of around 19mpg (14.9 litres/100km) and a, er, fun-driving drink problem in the order of 12mpg (23.5 litres/100km). Admittedly, it's not like any of its petrol rivals will easily attain 30mpg day in, day out, especially if driven as they're designed to, but the six-cylinder turbocharged alternatives with around three litres of swept capacity will be easier on your wallet than this louche 5.0-litre lump.
Aside from this thirst, though, what a performance from the SVR. There's the suspicion it might not be quite as taut and tied down right at the kinematic limit as some of the best options from Alfa Romeo and Porsche, but it most certainly has most of the rest of the Germanic manufacturers' measure when it comes to hot SUVs. Where a BMW M or Mercedes-AMG hot SUV is mainly point-and-squirt involvement, a festival of mammoth mechanical grip and hammer-blow straight-line pace without much in the way of chassis adjustability, the F-Pace SVR is a more supple and engaging vehicle than that. Sure, it has a few foibles, but then what Jaguar doesn't? If anything, that makes us adore the SVR all the more - and that V8 engine might also be a long way from perfect, but it's inarguably one of the star attractions in a glittering package.
What you get for your money
The Jaguar's biggest problem is its price. This is a direct corollary of one of its main, attractive features: that supercharged V8. A high CO2 output leads to high VRT and so the F-Pace SVR is around €20,000-€30,000 more expensive than the basic price of the main three rivals we list below. True, you can add options to the European rivals that will push their windscreen stickers closer to the Jag's €153,170, but it's still a consideration that the SVR is significantly the dearest vehicle of its type. Having said that, the standard specification is good - the ultimate F-Pace comes with 21-inch alloys, the 11.4-inch Pivi Pro infotainment, a digital Interactive Driver Display, 14-way heated and cooled electrically adjustable 'Performance' bucket seats up front, a 3D Surround Camera and the Driver Assist Pack (including adaptive cruise control, Rear Collision Monitor and Blind Spot Assist), among a very generous kit list.
Jaguar has tidied up the handling dynamics of the already-deeply-likeable F-Pace SVR, subtly improved the appearance of the stylish exterior, completely overhauled the interior to devastating and rewarding effect and retained one of the most charismatic, loud and fantastic internal-combustion drivetrains for its mega-SUV. The 2021 SVR might not be quite perfect overall, but there's much to love here in what is unquestionably a suitably enhanced product in every key regard.