Does Jaguar's V8 super-SUV still have a role to play?
In 2025 Jaguar will re-emerge, butterfly like, from its chrysalis. A brand reborn. That’s the plan at least: all-electric, all-new, a change of direction, an abandonment of the past. So Jag’s existing range has to soldier on for the next three years, without an update or a facelift. Tough gig. It’s meant Jaguar is slipping off our collective radar. They still sell the XE - did you know that?
They do an F-Pace plug-in hybrid, too. It promises 33 miles of e-range, a stepping stone into that brave new world. Uh, this isn’t that. Because the dawn of an all-electric Jaguar age means no more supercharged V8. So what we have here is an F-Pace SVR with a supercharged V8. Once again: supercharged V8. How good does that sound tumbling out of your mouth? I can’t say it without smiling.
Partially out of self-conscious guilt, if I’m honest. I’ve long struggled to see the point of any super-SUV. I know they sell hugely, but it tends to be to the kind of people who, well, let’s just say they appreciate cars in a different way to me. And I’m coming in to this from a Porsche 911 that trod so lightly and efficiently in all it did: tyre wear was minimal, it did 28mpg no matter what I did, it was a low impact, high reward sports car. And what I’ve replaced it with seems, on first inspection, the inverse of that.
So the F-Pace is starting out on the back foot. And it hasn’t really got on the front foot yet. It doesn’t ride nearly as well as the Porsche – it’s tall and heavy and needs to keep control of itself, so it’s stilted and jittery. I drove it to Wales for a wedding and while I enjoyed the massive torque and thunderous noise, it wasn’t actually very relaxing. You know how you’re more aware of a car’s deficiencies when you have a passenger? Well the F-Pace has deficiencies – it’s noisy on concrete motorway sections (I have sometimes found myself reaching for the knob and then realising you can’t turn the volume up on a conversation), moves and jiggles and from the corner of my eye I could detect my wife being buffeted. It’s not a comfy cruiser, although I struggle to think of any equivalent SUVs that do better. Like them, the SVR is trying too hard to be sporty, where the Porsche did it effortlessly.
These drawbacks don’t stop people buying fast SUVs though, do they? So I need to persevere and see if I can discover what the fuss is about, the reason for their success. This one, relative to others, isn’t too objectionable, isn’t much more aggressively styled than the regular F-Pace.
It helps that it’s on the regular 21-inch wheels and hasn’t ‘benefited’ from exterior black packs, deployable side steps, carbon mirrors and so on. Firenze Red is free and tasteful. Extras include a panoramic roof (£1,275), Meridian surround sound (£420), matrix LED headlights (£1,300) and wireless charging (£300).
Knowing Jag is on the verge of this major restructure, I had anticipated the F-Pace would already feel dated. It doesn’t. Its screens, menus and controls are the same fitted in the brand new Range Rover. It’s a good size too, that bit bigger and more useful than a Merc GLC or Porsche Macan without being as unwieldy as a Range Rover Sport or BMW X5.
But here’s the bigger question: does any super-SUV have a relevant role to play? Especially now, as petrol is winding down. I’ve never run one before, and although I’ve driven them extensively for group tests, this feels like new territory. I’m yet to be convinced by what I’ve found.