When it comes to car brands, there’s always been something a little seductive about Jaguar. The models that have come from the leaping cat stable over the years have always been classy, but just a touch risque at the same time.
If Dodge Chargers were the go-to motors of choice for blue-collar US antiheroes in films from the '60s and '70s, in the same time period Jaguars were the symbolic ride for a roguish chap of means, quite possibly wearing a trilby but almost certainly a swanky jacket.
That image was definitely part of the appeal – your Ferrari, say, or Rolls-Royce customers were a different breed, and let’s not even talk about those who bought an Austin Allegro. The fact that Jaguar produced the E-Type (arguably the most attractive and alluring car of all time, but certainly so when it was released in 1961) also added to the mystique.
At the other end of the spectrum, SUVs, as a general concept in the motoring world, have seldom been described as seductive, except perhaps by those who find Downton Abbey a subversive viewing choice. We like them, of course, but their sheer practicality is their downfall in the cool stakes.
So what could we expect from an SUV produced by Jaguar? That was a question first posed in 2015, when the brand’s F-Pace rolled off the production lines. And you won’t need the world’s most eminent statistician to tell you buyers liked it as the F-Pace became the marque’s best-selling model within a year.
So much for history though. It’s 2019 now, and the latest and most powerful of Jaguar’s SUV range is here in the Middle East – the F-Pace SVR. And, to give an impression of what sort of poke we’re talking about from the off, this newbie is served by a supercharged five-litre V8 engine.
Now, that sounds more Jaguar-like, doesn’t it?
To give it context, this engine is the same power plant that’s been warming the cockles of the hearts of those driving the similarly titled but rather different F-Type SVR, which is a more traditional, heads-down-and-charge Jag sports car.
Suffice to say, this engine gives a deep, dramatic drawl that would have the tea set shaking if your villa doors were big enough to let an SVR in your living room.
As it stands, motionless, the new F-Pace could be any of the many smart and pristine SUVs available today. Few of those competitors, however, would be able to touch the Jag in terms of performance. This model, which produces 542 horsepower, will do 0-100 kilometres per hour in 4.3 seconds and touch 283kph. Shove that in your pipe and smoke it, Downton-fearers.
Foot down, this car utters a visceral growl before a ferocious, controlled thrust kicks in. And, in cars of this size, the experience is never manic as the sensation of speed is muted. You might think of it as the cabin cuddling you. That comfort doesn’t make the experience of haring along the highway any less stimulating though.
If you really want to rattle your teeth, you can put the SVR in Dynamic mode, a setting which tells the car to significantly sharpen throttle response, increase steering weighting and perform gearshifts at higher engine revs.
The SVR version looks a little different from standard models, as it has beefier front and rear bumpers, and extra air vents on the bonnet and each wing. It also comes with quad tailpipes in polished aluminium, which is all very space age.
And if you choose that appealing Ultra Blue colour the test SVR came in, it's going to set you apart from many of the other, blander-hued SUVs on the roads.
Inside, the car has the usual, reliable Jaguar Land Rover infotainment system and a raft of meshed aluminium veneer. The contrasting stitching is a neat feature, and the bolstered sports seats are actually comfortable. The dashboard is little changed from the standard version, but that’s not really why you’d buy an SVR.
This V8 model is, of course, the top-of-the-range option, but you can get a base model F-Pace with a two-litre engine for Dh198,345. However, even this premium SVR is competitively priced if you compare it to similar, souped-up SUVs.
If you’re looking something a little more interesting than the UAE’s traditional bruisers in this class, you may well have found it in the SVR. And these days, thankfully, you don’t have to be male, roguish, or in possession of a comedy hat to drive one, either.
Engine: five-litre supercharged V8
Transmission: eight-speed automatic