The Barcelona café La Vinoteca Torres offers a confection named “chocolate textures.” This nondescript-sounding desert is created by layering chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup and chocolate crumbles. It is chocolate to the absolute, gloriously over-the-top maximum.
Driving the new supercharged 575-horsepower, 200-mph 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR at the Motorland Aragon circuit a couple hours drive from Barcelona suggested the same type of triple-distilled dosage as chocolate textures, only the overload is the sensory experience of the F-Type SVR’s combination of unmatched speed and sound.
The SVR is available in both drop-top roadster form ($129,795) and as a closed coupe ($126,945) whose slipperier aerodynamics let this cat shred the atmosphere like sheer curtains, to a top speed of 200 mph. Sun-loving convertible drivers will have to satisfy themselves with a few mph lower top speed of 195 mph.
A regular F-Type provides the kind of exciting driving experience and dramatic performance that pleases even jaded sports car enthusiasts. The base six-cylinder is even seen by some as the essential F-Type, by dint of that engine’s lighter weight and the availability of a properly traditional manual transmission.
The V8 F-Type is, naturally, faster still, and boasts an active muffler bypass valve to produce a high-decibel soundtrack that is either glorious or obnoxious. The deciding factor in determining that view is probably a matter of real estate. If the F-Type is parked in your garage, its exhaust is surely glorious. If it is parked next door to your garage, the opinion might be different.
For the F-Type SVR, it is more of the same. Now, the raucous V8 makes still more power and the bypass valve shortcuts the muffler even more frequently. Dissecting the mountainous switchbacks en route to the racetrack, the SVR’s potency lets the car dispatch slower traffic with the alacrity of a sport motorcycle: floor it and the car that was ahead is now behind.
But when ripping past riding what feels like the sonic bow shock of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the F-Type is so fast it gives the driver so much surplus speed that it is easy to lift off the gas when coming abreast of the overtaken car in an effort to quiet the beast and maybe ruffle fewer feathers of fellow drivers. Alas, this gesture is fruitless, as the F-Type’s snarling engines fires off some noisily dissatisfied pops and crackles through the tailpipes in complaint at being reigned in.
Appropriately, when driven more gently, the SVR’s cabin is as placid as a Jaguar driver would expect, with hushed exhaust and surprisingly well-muffled wind noise even at high speeds, leaving only the inevitable thrum of the ultra-performance Pirelli P Zero tires on the pavement.
That exhaust is a significant source of the SVR’s bigger price tag compared to other F-Types. That’s because its exhaust system is made of Formula 1-grade materials; titanium and Inconel, a metal whose high strength lets expert craftsmen stretch it thin as a teenybopper’s gum bubble when welding together the engine’s resulting featherweight exhaust headers. Total weight saving from this exotic exhaust: 35 lbs.
Maximum weight reduction for the entire car is 110 lbs., if you choose the optional carbon ceramic brakes ($14,450!), carbon fiber roof panel ($3,200) and carbon fiber bodywork package ($4,000 on the coupe, $4,500 on the convertible).
A costly bit of unseen kit is the main chunk of the car’s rear suspension. Alternatively called a hub carrier, an upright, suspension knuckle or kingpin, it is the main piece connecting the wheel and brake assembly to the spring, shock absorber and attaching links.
The one in the SVR is intricately die-cast aluminum, creating a part that is nearly half-again stiffer than the regular car’s part, providing the peace of mind that even with the SVR’s astonishing ferocity accelerating through Motorland’s seemingly endless high-speed last curve leading on the back straight that the car’s suspension will not snap under the strain and fling the car into the nearest trackside retaining barrier.
That increased stiffness also emboldened Jaguar’s suspension tuners to get a bit more daring when choosing the car’s specifications because stiffer parts perform more predictably and need less margin of error built in. In search of extra speed, engineers made the front anti-roll bar 5 percent softer than the one in the regular V8 F-Type, while simultaneously stiffening the rear bar by a like amount. This dials out more of the inherent understeer, or tendency to slide the front tires in a curve before the rears.
That makes the car’s steering more responsive on twisty roads and when whipping the steering wheel hard left for Motorland’s hairpin turn at the end of the straight. The F-Type has a switch to adjust the car between normal and settings for sport driving and for slippery conditions.
In the sport setting, the car’s variable steering becomes so hair-trigger quick as to make the car twitchy. Pro drivers on hand to show journalists around the track insisted that this was ideal, but I definitely preferred the option of a custom setting that returned steering boost to the regular setting, while preserving sport mode’s more aggressive settings for the shock absorbers, 8-speed automatic transmission shift programming, and propensity for the muffler bypass valve to open.
The monstrous 380 mm front and 376 mm rear carbon ceramic disc brakes provide faultless stopping power, even when arresting the SVR’s 170 mph terminal velocity at Motorland. Unlike some similar systems, the Jaguar suffers no embarrassing brake squeal in street driving. The brake pedal is also not needlessly sensitive in low-speed driving, which can give some carbon-braked supercars’ drivers the appearance of drivers’ education students when parking.
The SVR’s aerodynamic details, with a pop-up rear wing, front splitter, rear diffuser and smooth underbody tray, lend the car uncommon stability needed for a vehicle that goes as fast as it does. The stiffened shock absorbers in sport mode also provide the necessary control at that pace, with the SVR avoiding the out-of-control bouncing that can occur over bumpy pavement at this car’s stupendous speed.
The overall effect of Jaguar’s strategy of intensifying every possible aspect of the already wonderful F-Type is the same as that of chocolate textures: delightful sensory overload. We’ll have seconds.