Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2018 Jaguar F-Type SVR Coupe

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Do you smoke after sex? The old Austin Powers line would be to reply, “I don’t know – I’ve never looked.” Be that as it may, there was a time when an on-screen cigarette was shorthand to let the audience know some successful hanky-panky had occurred. Tobacco wasn’t just a way to make your shirt stink, it was both a vice and an indulgence.

This is enough Look at Me trumpeting to make a Lamborghini Aventador the subtle choice.

In retrospect, out of breath after a long flight of stairs, perhaps huffing back a Marlboro or two wasn’t such a great idea. Will we remember the internal combustion engine in the same light? Today we love the noise, the power, the lift-throttle crackle and rumble. Tomorrow we might wish we’d kicked the habit a bit earlier.

The last car to burn a metaphorical dart after a roll in the hay will probably be a Jaguar. Despite the fact that the all-electric I-Pace is receiving critical fanfare and will even soon have its own racing series, Jaguar is still very much the brand of choice for rogues and ne’er-do-wells. A big, powerful Jag’s long been the preferred ride of bank robbers and aristocratic cads. It’s basically James Hunt as a car company. And, if you’re looking to smoke ’em while we’ve got ’em, the 2018 Jaguar F-Type SVR is your ticket to flavour country. Light it up.

Your regular, low-tar F-Type is already a pretty ridiculous car. The supercharged V6 is incredibly loud, and the eight-cylinder version is even more raucous. When Jaguar Land Rover’s skunkworks, Special Vehicle Operations, gets hold of things, they crank it up to the proverbial eleven. One more than ten, innit?

On the outside, some of that noise is visual. The F-Type coupe is a very handsome car, managing to be a little less busy than some of the efforts from the German competition. It’s not quite as timelessly clean-lined as a Supermarine Spitfire, but it does pull off a certain lasting elegance. The SVR version adds front and rear spoilers and a couple of hood vents, all done in carbon-fibre, and all looking a bit Essex. At least with the coupe, the effect is less tacked-on than with the convertible.

The SVR’s 20-inch alloys are unique, as are its yellow-painted calipers. This particular model, in Velocity Blue, looks a bit like it was configured by someone who has owned at least one Subaru. Still, you can option your SVR a little more subtly – British Racing Green, please – if you’re looking for something that offers Aston Martin presence at Porsche 911 pricing.

Though not quite Porsche 911 practicality. The SVR comes with all-wheel drive standard, making it an all-weather proposition, but the interior requires a bit of a compromise.

Again, the coupe is at least better here than the convertible, which offers about as much cargo capacity as a Mazda MX-5. The SVR gets lovely-looking stitched quilted seats and interior door panels, lots of leather and Alcantara everywhere, and the theatrics of a pair of central vents that rise from the dashboard for no discernible reason. I gave my five-year-old a ride in the car, and she asked me why they did that.

“Um, because it’s a Jaguar,” I answered.

This is also the answer that will be given a short time after the warranty expires when someone asks why those vents are now permanently stuck closed.

Either way, the Coupe is very pretty inside, but does only have a small and shallow trunk. The official rating of 408 L is a bit deceiving, as with the cargo cover in place there’s really only about half that available. You’ll need to pack light for a couple’s weekend away. Something like a Porsche Cayman is a lot easier to live with.

Having said that, a Cayman only has half the cylinders of this big-hearted Jag, so advantage to SVR. Prod the 5.0L supercharged V8 to life and it barks loudly, settling down to a full-throated rumble.

The new Acura NSX has a stealth mode that allows you to sneak out early in the morning without disturbing the neighbours. The Jaguar has no such feature, bellowing on start-up as if it’s just stubbed its toe in the dark. It’s a trifle obnoxious, but then, perhaps that’s the point.

There are three driving modes, controlled by a toggle switch just to the left of the shifter. This is a great setup, as it offers no-look flexibility anytime you want to flick the Jag into loud mode for an onramp or similar, or knock it back into relatively quiet when you’re pulling up to the grocery store or what-have-you.

It being July, there was no opportunity to test the snow mode. As mentioned, the SVR comes equipped with all-wheel drive, and – with the correct tires on it – should be fine.

In the dry, what’s on offer is tremendous grip. One imagines Jeremy Clarkson saying something like, “This car has claws!” and roaring off down the street before running over multiple squirrels and maybe an old lady or three. Jag claims a 0–100km/h time of around three and a half seconds, and if anything, the SVR feels even quicker.

The 5.0L supercharged V8 makes 25 more hp than the standard eight-cylinder F-Type, but really the SVR is more about the noise. The SVR-specific lightweight two-mode exhaust is positively deafening when you get on the throttle. Above 4,000 rpm, it sounds not so much like a roaring jungle cat, but a drunken Tyrannosaur.

Lateral grip is immense too, with the SVR capable of pulling more than a G on the skidpad. The all-wheel drive system is primarily rear-based, and only slightly tames the old F-Type’s tail-happy tendencies. You can get on the power early out of a corner, and all 575 hp will come thundering through the driveline, rocketing you forward.

All is as expected, with the surprise being relatively communicative steering and a chassis that feels playful and nimble. This is not a light car, what with all that V8 and all-wheel drive, but the short wheelbase and slightly nervous suspension give the SVR a touch of old-school Mustang, albeit with much higher limits.

Put the SVR through a couple of sweeping bends, and you can practically hear the tut-tutting from Stuttgart. “But this is not the most efficient way to get around a corner,” say Porsche’s engineers. “This is how you English say – over-egging the pudding?”

“Also, bitte, why are we all now deaf?”

If you can practically hear Germany’s bewilderment, know that they can definitely hear the SVR hitting an onramp in large parts of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Antarctica, and possibly the moon. This is enough Look at Me trumpeting to make a Lamborghini Aventador the subtle choice.

For a while, this is fun. Especially with a five-year-old in the passenger seat, and my inner eight-year-old at the wheel. RAAARRRGH blat-blat-blat tee-hee-hee. That sort of thing.

But when time came to hand the keys to the SVR back, I was not at all sad to see it go. It felt getting through the week without getting a talking to from the RCMP had been getting away with murder. Every time I snickered at the bellowing rage released by tickling the SVR’s loud pedal, I also inwardly cringed. I’m not James Hunt, and I also don’t want to come off as the sort of person whose behaviour, er, rhymes with his name.

Dropping it back felt like stubbing out a bad habit. I still loved the SVR. It spoke to me of early mornings and empty roads, of a rising crescendo of passion out somewhere that you weren’t bothering anyone. It’d be the ideal machine for a strafing run on your favourite abandoned mountain pass.

Yet for the rest of the time, driving the SVR felt a bit like blowing smoke into the faces of rest of the people you share the road with. It was jolly good fun while it lasted, but perhaps, in a Jaguar, there’s something to be said for hiding your light under a bushel. Sexy can be subtle, too.

Engine Displacement 5.0L
Engine Cylinders V8
Peak Horsepower 575 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Peak Torque 516 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
Fuel Economy 15.6/10.4/13.3 L/100km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 408 L
Model Tested 2018 Jaguar F-Type SVR
Base Price $140,500
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,995
Price as Tested $168,105
Optional Equipment
$25,510 – Ceramic brake package $13,260; fixed panoramic roof $1,230; Velocity Blue paint $4,590; interior carbon-fibre trim $820; power hatch $510; exterior carbon-fibre package $5,100