40-years was a long time for a cat nap, but if you’d been waiting to buy a fast, nimble roadster with a big kitty badge, you likely found Jaguar to be asleep at the wheel during the several decades that oozed by while you waited for the return of the E-Type, a car Enzo Ferrari himself described as “the most beautiful car ever made”. But see, that was before the launch of the F-Type.
Sure, Jag made some great execu-sleds in the meantime, packed with ample power and style, but there’s been a bit of a cloud over the marque’s head since the Ford debacle, and what better way to shrug off the Americana blues than by making a proper British sports car… again. And yes, we know that Tata has held the reins since 2008, it’s just that we still have visions of the 2001 X-Type in our heads, a Gatsby-like Mondeo that Detroit dressed up with a bow tie and caviar spoon.
All is forgiven though, because last year the F-type marked the return of the predatory cat, and this gorgeous front-engine, rear-wheel drive Jag has clearly been sharpening its claws with an eye towards Teutonic rivals. It’s not so much a E-Type reboot, which they wisely avoided claiming with the name change, as a an extension of the E-Type’s legacy.
Consider, for example, that the E Type’s designer Malcolm Sayer cut his teeth designing planes, so perhaps it’s not surprising that he was the first designer in automotive to bring the complex aerodynamic design approach of aviation to motoring, prefiguring the modern day CFD systems (computational fluid dynamics) that help today’s cars (like the fantastic F-Type) slip through the air.
Lowering myself down into the cockpit of the F-Type SVR I was greeted by surprisingly generous headroom and an unobstructed view afforded by the gargantuan, pillar-less side windows. You can’t help but feel slightly privileged the moment you plant your rear in the F-Type’s Performance seats, with their inflatable side-bolstering and jutting wings put in place to grip the driver during high-speed cornering.
That feeling is only enhanced when you finger the start button, firing up the muscular feline’s 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine, delivering seering performance and driver experience. The recalibrated engine, adopted from the F-Type Project 7 – wrings out 575HP and 516-lb.ft. of torque. Open the throttle and the kitty will roar— it literally made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
All that raw power translate into a head-snapping 0-100kph time of 3.5 seconds. This copious reserve of speed is paired with laser-honed capability and intuitive, if rather laissez-faire, driving dynamics. Traction control and stability control are present, naturally, they just give you plenty of room to really feel what this sports car is capable of and more or less expect you to know what you’re doing in return.
This SVR is perhaps less forgiving than its siblings, although not disconcertingly so. A set of high-strength, hydro-formed aluminium beams in the roof rails help see to that sizable increase, but this is every bit a Jaguar to be sure, meaning you could drive it every day. It’s also quite keen to scratch up your local track.
While the R is certainly no slouch, handling is improved here in large part to a significant weight savings— with no optional equipment, the SVR weighs 25kg lighter than the AWD F-Type R, and as much as 50kg lighter with options such as the Carbon Ceramic Matrix (CCM) brake system and carbon fiber roof fitted.
Aerodynamics are further enhanced to improve high speed drivability, and a standard active rear spoiler delivers reductions in lift in both the raised and lowered position. Furthermore, the valves inside the continuously-variable dampers have been revised and the control software has been recalibrated too. The overall effect is that both low speed comfort and high speed control are improved.
To further sharpen its claws, this supercar has had its rear knuckle remade. Now an intricate, weight-optimized aluminum die casting, the design of the part enables a 37 percent increase in camber stiffness and a 41 percent increase in toe stiffness, which translates into greater control of the tire contact patch and an even more connected steering feel.
The rear anti-roll bar has been thickened, while the front anti-roll bar diameter has been reduced slightly. Together with the revised damper control software, and a model specific tuning for the Torque Vectoring system which is designed to enable more precise control of the braking applied to the inner wheels, the changes mitigate understeer – even at high corner entry speeds. Jag’s new second-generation electronically controlled differential also helps keep the ride stable during spirited driving.
The SVR gets the glorioulsy titleds Super Performance braking system featuring large, 380mm and 376mm front and rear steel brake discs. Or, the F-type SVR can be specified with the Jaguar Carbon Ceramic Matrix (CCM) brakes, with even larger 398mm and 380mm discs and six- and four-piston monobloc calipers.
One thing you won’t be able to stop: people turning their heads for a longer look at the ride as it passes by. The SVR rolls on wider, specially-developed Pirelli P Zero 20 inchers, which provide exceptional levels of grip and excellent ride quality. The arcing roofline meets the tapered windows to create an effect that is partly recognizable, but also, something new.
The F-Type coupe looks bruising and aggressive— the most villainous of its good-to-be-bad stable mates. At the same time, athleticism and luxurious refinement, hallmarks of Jag, are present in every element of this beautiful and terrifying car.
If you don’t like the F-Type SVR, we have a timely medical suggestion for you: check your pulse. What’s that? You still have one? Good, then go out and drive this superlative car— we’re confident you’ll come to appreciate it.
By: Adel Habib