Jaguar's F-Pace SUV gets high-performance treatment

This year, a somewhat sad occasion occurred at the Jaguar factory in Birmingham, England. The last XJ sedan was built, ending a 50 year run. Sedans just aren't the go-to for upscale buyers anymore, though there are rumors the XJ may come back someday as a premium electric vehicle.

But where sedans are slipping, SUVs are picking up the slack in many ways. Jaguar's F-Pace quickly became its hottest selling model after going on sale in 2016. Now there's a hot factory muscle version called the F-Pace SVR.

Just as they've done with other models, Jaguar's Special Vehicle Operations team applied all the cool tricks to make this one fast sport utility. Under the hood, 550 supercharged horsepower from an aluminum V8 engine. Significant improvements to the brakes, wheels and tires are also included. And the interior features lightweight racing style seats to hold you in place. Which you'll need sometimes, as the F-Pace SVR really sticks to the road when cornering. Of course it carries a somewhat steep MSRP too: $80,600 before options. The basic Jaguar F-Pace starts at about $45,000 so the SVR model is a pricey upgrade.

But SUVs are taking over for sedans in many areas, even when performance is desired. Another example is Maserati's Levante, which is in a similar position to the Jaguar model. The Levante shot to the top of Maserati's sales charts shortly after debuting, also in 2016. Now, the high-performance Trofeo model is here. It has all the tweaks typically given to a serious sport sedan, including a supercharged V8 for 590 horsepower, and accompanying chassis improvements. And the Trofeo has an exhaust note that's pure Italian music, especially when you select Sport or Corsa mode. The Levante Trofeo is definitely an exotic among SUVs, as its base sticker price is around $170,000.

Not that the Jaguar F-Pace SVR is a slouch in the audio department. It makes a deep guttural growl from its quad exhaust tips, evoking a sound not unlike that of a Detroit muscle car. Jaguar even provides a small button on the console with the pictogram of twin exhaust pipes. Press it, and the sound intensifies just so.

While some may think that an SUV can't possibly be a performer, keep in mind that many of today's crossover SUVs are very similar to cars underneath. Beneath the body of the Jaguar F-Pace SVR there's a sophisticated all-wheel drive system to get all 550 horsepower to the ground. There's also an electronic suspension that provides both a smooth ride, and crisp handling response. And, massive brakes (behind huge wheels and tires) to slow this family hot rod down in a big hurry. It's made to look like an SUV up top, but down below, it's essentially a high-performance sport sedan.

Gas mileage? Don't even ask. It's pretty bad, but no worse than other vehicles with this kind of power. (The vehicle is rated by the EPA at 16 mpg city and 21 highway. But I was barely able to get the on-board computer into the 15-16 mpg range in mixed driving.) Oh, but Jaguar's got you covered if efficiency is more important to you. The new I-Pace electric SUV is part of a trend among European manufacturers. SUV utility without the guilt, and a 234 mile estimated range per charge.

But if you do like a guilty pleasure on the road, don't worry that performance sedans may be fading. Performance SUVs are here to give thrills, in a new shape.
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