Just how bad does the new Jaguar F-Type SVR have to be for those building the new TVR to sleep easy in their beds? After all, cars like this seem to do a pretty effective job of catering to the tastes of those who might once have, or now desire, the kind of machine TVR says it's going to build.
OK, a 1,705kg (plus driver) Jaguar won't deliver on the Gordon Murray designed power to weight excitement we're promised from the new TVR. But as a basic package you're getting one of the ruder sounding V8s ever fitted to a mainstream production car, with 575hp and 516lb ft of torque in a classically proportioned front-engined coupe. It'll hit 200mph, make a wicked noise doing it and can be had in colours and trims varying from low-key to lairy. OK, four-wheel drive and the usual toys you'd expect of a mainstream car at this money are a long way from TVR's thrills, both traditional and (hopefully) contemporary. But it's cars like this they need to tempt people away from to succeed.
They've got a job on their hands.
So has Jaguar, mind. Is there really headroom in the F-Type to nearly double the price of the entry level version and start mixing it with fancier 911s, AMG GTs or Aston Martin V8 Vantages?
This is the first SVR branded Jaguar, following in the tyre tracks of its Range Rover equivalent. Sales of that have 'exceeded expectations' according to Special Vehicle Operations boss John Edwards. But in this day and age a hot Range Rover Sport with a bit of extra bling and a really noisy exhaust wasn't going to be a tough sell. The F-Type has a harder fight on its hands.
It's certainly unapologetic, the SVR additions bristling with aggression and intent from nose to tail with character and style inspired by the limited-run Project 7. There are bigger, sharper intakes on the new nose, slats on the bonnet, wider arches with prominent side vents, proper underfloor aero permitted by a bespoke (and 16kg lighter) twin-box titanium/Inconel exhaust system and a prominent active rear wing. In louder colours like Reflex Blue or Italian Racing Red it's properly in your face. In greys and silvers there's a more understated, brooding menace, set off nicely with the yellow calipers of the optional CCM brakes. And if the wing isn't doing it for you it's a delete option, though you'll have to accept a limited 186mph top speed like the regular R.
Key features for any car to merit an SVR badge have already been laid out. In short they include all-wheel drive, less weight, more impressive performance stats and - where applicable - improved aero.
Spring rates remain the same but the damper programming is all new, with a bigger step between Dynamic and Normal. Anti-roll bars are five per cent softer front and five per cent stiffer rear, all-new (and very trick looking) rear suspension knuckles permitting larger, stiffer rear wheel bearings and significant increases in toe and camber stiffness. Relatively subtle tweaks, but you can see where this is heading - the SVR is intended to be pointier on the nose and sharper steering than the R.
And so it proves. Indeed, compared with modern cars on sale at any price point the sharpness of the SVR's wheel may come as a shock. There's more weight than you traditionally get in a Jaguar and a smooth but instantaneous reaction to even the slightest off-centre movement. Given the way of the market, even at this end of the sports car world, it'll be interesting to see if customers appreciate the response or find it unsettlingly sharp. Keen drivers will love it though, and if this is going to be an SVR dynamic trademark we're all for it.
An AMG GT may have more exotic underpinnings and a favourable transaxle weight distribution. But the Jaguar's response instantly feels more serious and - for want of a better description - manly. The sense of agility it conjures up also does a lot to appease fears of the weight spoiling the fun too. The exhaust and forged wheels (nearly 14kg saved) contribute to much of the 25kg saving over an equivalent R AWD, options like CCM brakes saving a further 21kg of unsprung weight while the (also optional) carbon body panels strip out another 5kg or so. 50kg off a 1,700kg-plus car isn't a huge amount, admittedly. And a rear-driven, 550hp R Coupe is, like for like, 55kg lighter still. But it's a step in the right direction.
It's still a factor under braking, despite all the launch cars being upgraded to CCM brakes. But even on track and using deliberately aggressive pedal inputs they offer strong, consistent power - even from Motorland's 180mph stop into a second-gear hairpin. Which is probably for the best.
If the road offers a sense of the SVR's cornering balance on the circuit you can really exploit it. That turn-in remains absolutely stellar and uncorrupted, the F-Type effectively steering into corners like a rear-wheel drive car thanks to the part-time nature of the all-wheel drive set-up. This encourages you to get on the power nice and early, the initial response being a familiar drive from the rear axle, increasing the rotation into the apex. Through a mixture of active locking diff, torque vectoring and all the rest you're ready for the armfuls of opposite lock at this point. But, of course, it never comes, Intelligent Driveline Dynamics all-wheel drive tactfully bleeding around a fifth of the drive torque to the front axle to let you carve a consistent line through the corner on a planted throttle, even in the mid-way Trac-DSC. For all the electronic cleverness there's a pleasing simplicity to the SVR too, the engineers wrinkling their noses at talk of the multitudinous driver modes offered by some rivals. Dynamic mode can be personalised. But the way it's buried in the settings suggests the ritual of pressing five different buttons to get your preferred mode every time you start it up isn't something Jaguar wants. Bravo.
Back to four-wheel drifting though. It's a weird sensation for anyone familiar with the wild oversteer of rear-driven F-Types. And, like a Focus RS in Drift Mode, it'll slide diagonally through the corner spinning all four wheels and with the wheel dead ahead. Indeed, you have to fight the instinct to throw corrective lock at it - the more you do that the more the computers contrive to straighten the car and the messier it becomes.
But there's an AWD R for that. Shouldn't the SVR be the heroic, madly oversteering hooligan of the range? There's an argument to be made for that. But there's little doubt the calibration of this chassis is sympathetic to the rear-driven character we love in the F-Type. While being a much more effective use of the extra power. And therefore a whole lot faster.
The first few miles in the SVR may fool you into thinking it's little more than an R with an (even louder) exhaust and a bit of a bodykit. The ride feels similarly assertive and, bigger shifter paddles or not, it's still got a conventional (if very crisp) automatic gearbox. The power gains are relatively modest, the familiar supercharged V8 considerably more bombastic and a little sharper but seemingly not massively more potent. But as you start delving into the upper reaches of its performance there's depth and ability way beyond anything we've ever had in an F-Type before. Making the bright colours and big wing almost a distraction.
So to the Convertible for the second stage of the road route. It has a different role to play to the more hardcore coupe, and a five grand price premium too. That puts it in the sights of a different AMG product - the SL63 in this case. Both offer a similar combination of sledgehammer V8 soundtracks, hot-rod driving dynamics and a very exciting way to get sunburn if you're lucky enough to be driving it somewhere sunny.
Much of what has been said about the Coupe applies here too, though the odd tremor through the structure and slightly dulled responses point to the Convertible being more of a high-speed cruiser. The SL is heavier and bigger but thumps the Jag on both raw power and general glitziness of the surroundings. In this form the SVR has a slightly tougher time of it, the more focused Coupe seeming the more natural expression of its extended range of abilities.
Can the F-Type cut it as a six-figure sports car though? As a coupe arguably it does. A 911 Turbo has the chassis tech, the driver modes and - for those that need them - the occasional rear seats too. But the F-Type SVR is cheaper, more charismatic and yet also has that all-weather ability for day-to-day use. Against an AMG GT S it's a tougher call, their characters closer and the Mercedes winning on pose factor, cabin ambience and status. The Jag is more generously equipped, all-wheel drive and has those 200mph bragging rights the Merc can't match for the same money though. Aston? A more evocative badge and nicer looking. Against which the Jag offers a broader range of ability, better auto gearbox and more usable performance.
So yes, then. If perhaps less so as a Convertible. But as the first SVR Jaguar a fine opening gambit. And a teasing taste of what the same formula applied to other models in the range might give us in due course.
SPECIFICATION | 2016 JAGUAR F-TYPE SVR COUPE
Engine: 5,000cc, supercharged V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 575@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 516@3,500-5,000rpm
Top speed: 200mph (195mph)
Weight: 1,705kg (1,720kg, both figures 'from' and not including driver)
MPG: 25.0 (NEDC combined)
Price: £110,000 (£115,485)
Figures in brackets for Convertible, where different
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