The F-Pace SVR has flown under the radar for too long - but it deserves its day in the spotlight.
Using an SUV to celebrate a historic win at Le Mans seemed like an odd choice when Jaguar first revealed the Edition 1988 of the F-Pace SVR - surely, the F-Type would have made more sense. But Jaguar's SUV sales outweigh its sports car fivefold, and its Special Vehicle Operations unit has built one of the best performance SUVs on the market.
Not enough people know just how good this car is, so by making just a few hundred units of a special edition inspired by one of its most famous racing car liveries, Jaguar has put it back in the spotlight.
In 1988, the XJR-9 Le Mans car - wearing the iconic Silk Cut purple and white livery - ended a 30-year drought at Circuit de la Sarthe, where Andy Wallace, Johnny Dumphries and Jan Lammers completed 394 laps to claim victory. And that's how many F-Pace SVR Edition 1988 models will be made available globally.
We had the chance to sample one for a few days in London and came away suitably impressed.
Jaguar wants $110,000 - an additional $21,500 over the cost of a stock F-Pace SVR - which, for what is essentially a styling package, seems a bit steep. However, being limited to 394 units worldwide will doubtless make them more desirable in years to come and potentially hold their value better, so perhaps the extra upfront outlay will be worth it if you dig the new looks.
The most obvious visual differences of the 1988 Edition are the subtle Midnight Amethyst paint color and the gorgeous 22-inch Champagne Gold alloy wheels.
I say obvious, but unless you look at the car in direct sunlight, you'll struggle to see the purple tint through the black paint.
The Sunset Gold used on the exterior badges is a nice complement, extending throughout the tastefully finished cabin, on the steering wheel, dashboard, seat bezel, and paddle shifters. Performance seats come wrapped in semi-aniline Ebony leather and are equal parts comfortable (with heating and cooling functionality) and supportive when cornering at speed.
Being a special edition, there are a few extra touches, like a 'One of 394' SV Bespoke graphic and unique treadplates.
And that's about it.
The engine and chassis remain untouched. We would have liked to see Jaguar add some carbon-ceramic brakes or add a few more horses via a remapped ECU to give it F-Type power levels, but the F-Pace SVR is already so well sorted, and with 542 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, we don't blame Jag's white coats for leaving it alone.
In 2021, Jaguar gave the F-Pace SVR an almighty refresh, updating the styling and giving it an interior befitting of a luxury carmaker. From the cockpit, it's not far off the New Range Rover, with a chunky gear shifter, a lovely new steering wheel, the excellent 11.4-inch Pivi Pro infotainment interface (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), a Meridian audio system, and elegant touches of Alcantara, carbon fiber, and aluminum throughout.
In terms of space, two large adults will be just as comfortable in the rear seats as the front, and - for the record - a 32.1 cubic foot trunk swallowed suitcases and a baby stroller with room to spare.
Visually, we have a better-looking, more pronounced grille than pre-2021 models, and most importantly, the hood line has been moved further down, giving it a much cleaner look. At the rear, four chrome-finished exhaust tips might not be to everyone's tastes, but they're the only real visual identifier of the F-Pace SVR's brawny nature.
At just over 4,500 lbs, the F-Pace SVR is 500 pounds lighter than the Aston Martin DBX and Porsche Cayenne Turbo and still 100 lbs slimmer than smaller performance SUVs like the BMW X3 M. On power and size, it straddles these two segments, but it's one of the lightest performance SUVs you can buy. Coupling this relative light weight with impressively nimble steering, the F-Pace SVR feels smaller than its physical footprint might suggest.
The wonderful 5.0-liter supercharged V8 comes to life after pressing the pulsing start-stop button, and the deep purr resonates through the cabin, remaining ever-present but unobtrusively so.
Keep it in Comfort mode, and the F-Pace SVR is perfectly civilized, relatively quiet, and cruises along nicely with occupants unaware of its latent potential.
Switch to Dynamic, and everything gets dialed up - quicker gear shifts and more aggressive throttle mapping are immediately obvious, and the steering reduces the amount of electric assistance to reveal a layer of feedback from the tires missing in the default mode. The exhaust note turns from a menacing burble into a shouty cacophony that highlights one of the best-sounding V8s in the world.
It has superb dynamics, turns in beautifully with the utmost precision, punches out of corners with snappy gear changes, and gets down the road with poise and stability. The added exhaust cackle provides some extra banter and smiles per mile and when you need to slow things down a bit, the brakes provide excellent stopping power.
Anyone in the market for a performance SUV has to look at the F-Pace SVR. It's almost $100,000 cheaper than the DBX, $50,000 less than the Cayenne Turbo, and will do what the Range Rover Sport does on the road, only better, as it's far lighter and more nimble. You won't want to take it offroad, as it has nothing to offer there, but as a road car, it has subtle good looks and easily as good performance as anything else in its class.
Prices for used facelifted F-Pace SVRs remain strong and, even after a couple of years on the market, are holding their value. While not everyone is aware of the Leaping Cat's prowess, people are starting to take this car seriously. The Edition 1988 takes the styling to a new level and will be a rare find; if you have the funds and are considering dropping $100,000 on a no-nonsense SUV, go the extra mile and order one of these before it's too late.