On a tranquil fall day in wine country, I found myself apologizing to people in parking lots every time I started the car.
If you’re not a Jaguar fan – and you’re not paying attention to the carbon-fibre and SVR badges – you might think the Jaguar F-Type SVR is just a handsome convertible. But when the engine roars to life when you hit start, the car announces every one of its 575 horsepower. Everybody looks and that’s a big part of the point. It’s not a car you drive if you don’t want to be noticed. Unlike the various other versions of the F-Type, which starts at just more than $70,000 with a more-than-respectable 296-horsepower four-cylinder, the SVR (special vehicle racing) is all about more.
Roadsters don’t make a lot of sense anyway, especially when they get into supercar territory. Sure, they’re about enjoying the drive. But they’re also about showing off. They’re built for sunny days where you can keep the top down, so people can see who you are. And they’re built for slamming on the gas and leaving lesser cars behind.
The two-seater soft top is not a car meant for Vancouver rain and traffic jams. It’s for weekend getaways, as long as you’re not bringing much with you. So, a 390-kilometre drive from rainy Vancouver to the Okanagan seemed like an ideal fit.
Slogging along the highway at 40 kilometres an hour in a downpour on the way to out of town, the SVR felt like too much car for the job. The engine sounded ready, but there was nowhere to go. But once it hit the Coquihalla, and blue skies, down went the top – and the gas pedal. The top speed is 312 km/h. The Coupé version goes 10 km/h faster. The speed limit is only 120 km/h. The SVR easily did 180 km/h if I wasn’t paying attention. That’s more than fast enough to get the car seized by police on the spot. It’s a fraction of how fast the SVR can go, but it’s faster than I should have been going on winding roads shared with transport trucks, angry tailgaters and a surprising number of deer. I should have been using the electronic speed limiter, which won’t let you go faster than whatever speed you set. But it feels unnatural not to be able to really step on it if you need to.
When I finally got to Kelowna, picked up a friend and started driving around the lake to Naramata, a village surrounded by wineries, it finally started to look like a car commercial. Blue skies let us keep the top down, although it made it a little too noisy for conversation. For a starting price of just less than $145,000, would a retractable rear windscreen that automatically goes down when the top goes up, like you get from BMW or Mercedes, be too much to ask for? Instead, there’s a flimsy plastic windscreen that you have to keep in the trunk. It’s tricky to put in and take out.
It’s a minor thing, but it’s noticeable because the SVR is otherwise beautifully appointed. Out here, where nobody seemed to be in a rush and people lazily drove from one winery to the next, the SVR’s power seemed rather unnecessary.
If you’re looking to show off a little in a convertible, and still have fun driving, the cheaper F-Types – besides the inline-four, there are also V-6 and slightly less-powerful V-8 versions – might be enough. So might other convertibles that cost less. And they’ll do it a little less conspicuously.
Base price/as tested: $143,500/$177,380 (not including $1,600 freight/PDI)
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V-8, with 575 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque
Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/AWD
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 15.6 (city), 10.4 (highway)
Alternatives: Audi TT, BMW Z4 M40i, Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, Mazda MX-5, Mercedes-AMG GT C, Porsche 718 Boxster
It’s not flashy, even though it’s dripping in optional carbon fibre. But it’s stunning and it draws stares. For a roadster, it’s a big, serious sports car and it looks the part. This one came in a $13,000 orange that got people calling out “Nice colour!” from the street. The F-Type has been around since 2014, but it doesn’t look dated.
It seats two, very comfortably. Both driver and passenger are cocooned in leather, suede and carbon fibre. It’s got all the bells and whistles. Controls make sense and are easy to use, although the shifter takes some getting used to. There’s a button to turn down the exhaust note. It’s relatively quiet, although it’s noisier than some other convertibles with the top down. Rear visibility is poor.
Like most sports cars these days, it’s got more power than you’ll probably ever need. Jaguar says it goes from 0‑100 km/h in 3.7 seconds. The $13,000 ceramic brakes are grippy. Handling is solid, although you feel the car’s weight on sharp turns. With lane-keeping assist on, it felt a little less steady on the road. There’s no rear-wheel drive version of the SVR.
For 2019, it finally got Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The cruise control isn’t adaptive.
This isn’t a car for trips to Costco. There’s a small storage bin in the centre console for a phone, some sunscreen and maybe a water bottle or two, but there isn’t room inside for much more. The 200-litre trunk is tiny, oddly shaped and only fits a couple of bags. It has the same space whether the top is up or down.
If you’ve got to have the best Jaguar has to offer and you can afford it, the SVR is built to perform – and impress. But some might find it a little too athletic for daily driving.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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