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I drove a $90,000 Jaguar F-PACE SVR to see if it's the best value in high-performance SUVs - here's the verdict

The 2019 Jaguar F-PACE SVR arrived at our test center wearing a fabulous "Firenze Red" paint job.

The 2019 Jaguar F-PACE SVR arrived at our test center wearing a fabulous "Firenze Red" paint job.
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The F-PACE was Jaguar's first-ever SUV, and it was absolutely gorgeous. A runner-up for Business Insider's 2017 Car of the Year award, the F-PACE was up there with designer Ian Callum's finest work.

The F-PACE was Jaguar's first-ever SUV, and it was absolutely gorgeous. A runner-up for Business Insider's 2017 Car of the Year award, the F-PACE was up there with designer Ian Callum's finest work.
Read the review.
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I also sampled the F-PACE 30t — a cheaper version of the original, with a smaller engine.

I also sampled the F-PACE 30t — a cheaper version of the original, with a smaller engine.
Read the review.
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The Jaguar F-Pace SVR comes from Jag's Special Vehicle Operations squad, a merry band of engineers that grants leaping cats additional feline powers.

The Jaguar F-Pace SVR comes from Jag's Special Vehicle Operations squad, a merry band of engineers that grants leaping cats additional feline powers.
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The loveliness of the F-PACE is its greatest calling card. It's HARD to make an SUV look good. Jaguar designer (now retired) Ian Callum proved that an SUV could look spectacular.

The loveliness of the F-PACE is its greatest calling card. It's HARD to make an SUV look good. Jaguar designer (now retired) Ian Callum proved that an SUV could look spectacular.
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As with all SUVs, the front is better than the back. In the F-PACE SVR's case, the trick was to capture that inimitable Jaggy sleekness while still managing SUV-esque road presence.

As with all SUVs, the front is better than the back. In the F-PACE SVR's case, the trick was to capture that inimitable Jaggy sleekness while still managing SUV-esque road presence.
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The adaptive LED headlights are suitably catlike in their angularity.

The adaptive LED headlights are suitably catlike in their angularity.
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My tester had 22-inch split-spoke wheels ($1,530) and some hefty brake calipers in red.

My tester had 22-inch split-spoke wheels ($1,530) and some hefty brake calipers in red.
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The hood scoops are a rare aesthetic misstep. They ought to vent the supercharger, but they aren't all that large or dramatic (neither is the blower under the hood), and the plastic looks sorta cheap.

The hood scoops are a rare aesthetic misstep. They ought to vent the supercharger, but they aren't all that large or dramatic (neither is the blower under the hood), and the plastic looks sorta cheap.
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SUV rears, given that they are effectively large doors, tend to be a design challenge. The F-PACE SVR handles the challenge about as well as is possible.

SUV rears, given that they are effectively large doors, tend to be a design challenge. The F-PACE SVR handles the challenge about as well as is possible.
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Like Ferraris, Jags have to be beautiful, in order to earn the leaping cat badge.

Like Ferraris, Jags have to be beautiful, in order to earn the leaping cat badge.
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It ain't perfect. But Callum did bring some dynamic balance to the back end, creating an SUV that expresses coiled power through its ample rear haunches.

It ain't perfect. But Callum did bring some dynamic balance to the back end, creating an SUV that expresses coiled power through its ample rear haunches.
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The quad exhaust pipes add ferocity to the rear-end.

The quad exhaust pipes add ferocity to the rear-end.
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The Jaguar F-PACE SVR has a 34-cubic-foot cargo hold that can increase to 64 when the rear seats are dropped. The vehicle swallowed up plenty of stuff, as I even managed to pack seven plants in on a trip to a gardening center.

The Jaguar F-PACE SVR has a 34-cubic-foot cargo hold that can increase to 64 when the rear seats are dropped. The vehicle swallowed up plenty of stuff, as I even managed to pack seven plants in on a trip to a gardening center.
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The ebony interior is on the severe side of premium, but it's generally very nice.

The ebony interior is on the severe side of premium, but it's generally very nice.
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The quilted, heated-and-cooled seats are well bolstered for spirited driving, but they're also comfortable for everyday motoring.

The quilted, heated-and-cooled seats are well bolstered for spirited driving, but they're also comfortable for everyday motoring.
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Legroom in back is decent.

Legroom in back is decent.
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And the panoramic moonroof solves the problem of the sloping roofline, which could contribute to a small, cavelike cabin vibe without the additional light.

And the panoramic moonroof solves the problem of the sloping roofline, which could contribute to a small, cavelike cabin vibe without the additional light.
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Whew, that's a lotta buttons on the Jag's elegant, leather-wrapped steering wheel. Is there a leaning curve? Yes. But after a few days I was comfortable.

Whew, that's a lotta buttons on the Jag's elegant, leather-wrapped steering wheel. Is there a leaning curve? Yes. But after a few days I was comfortable.
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The analog-digital instrument cluster is crisp and bright and ...

The analog-digital instrument cluster is crisp and bright and ...
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... Eager to bring on Red Alert when Dynamic mode is engaged!

... Eager to bring on Red Alert when Dynamic mode is engaged!
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Power to the F-PACE SVR's all-wheel-drive system churns through a snappy shifting eight-speed automatic, with an auto-manual mode and paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. The drive mode selector sits below that fantastic square of carbon fiber.

Power to the F-PACE SVR's all-wheel-drive system churns through a snappy shifting eight-speed automatic, with an auto-manual mode and paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. The drive mode selector sits below that fantastic square of carbon fiber.
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The Touch Pro infotainment system runs on a 10-inch screen. We haven't been big fans of this setup in the past ...

The Touch Pro infotainment system runs on a 10-inch screen. We haven't been big fans of this setup in the past ...
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... But in my testing, all the features worked well. Navigation was accurate, Bluetooth pairing was a snap, and USB connectivity was fine.

...  But in my testing, all the features worked well. Navigation was accurate, Bluetooth pairing was a snap, and USB connectivity was fine.
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The 825-watt Meridian Surround Sound audio system made some glorious music. I've listened to better, but for $450, it's worth the upgrade.

The 825-watt Meridian Surround Sound audio system made some glorious music. I've listened to better, but for $450, it's worth the upgrade.
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So what's the verdict?

So what's the verdict?

I didn't actually know how much my F-PACE SVR stickered at until I finished testing it for a week — and I didn't look it up! My assumption was something like $100,000.

I was a bit off: the base F-PACE SVR was around $80,000, but my tester came with $10,000 in extras. Still, that's a cool ten grand less than expected. Perhaps the surprise could be chalked up to my not having enjoyed the Jag 5.0-liter V8 in the F-PACE context — this is a darn fine motor, memorable in fact. I guessed it would represent a big bump up from the V6, but I wasn't fully prepared for how big a bump, in the sensory realms.

Mind you, I checked out the F-PACE SVR a short time after experiencing my personal favorite SUV in human history, the Porsche Cayenne, outfitted with a 541-horsepower, twin-turbo V8. OK, that's less than 10 fewer ponies than the F-PACE SVR's supercharged V8 mill — but I kid you not, the Jag felt to me as if it had better than 600hp under the hood.

It was an auditory illusion, of course. The F-PACE SVR delivers the goods with oomph and growl, while the Cayenne Turbo does it with wail and whine. It was the roar versus the shriek. And the shriek does clock the 0-60mph run a tad quicker, in just under 4 seconds versus a hair over for the Jag. But the Jag puts you in the mind of a savage beast, while the Porsche merely gives you a tamed one.

Meanwhile, my Cayenne Turbo tester came in at $136,000. So, well, there you go. I think you might be able to understand why I thought the F-PACE SVR should be priced more richly.

Honestly, it was weird to jump into the SVR right after the Cayenne Turbo. I began to question my priorities. Sure, I'd still choose the Porsche. But yeesh, for $50,000 less, I could select the Jag and be pretty doggone blissed out and, you know, HAVE 50,000 EXTRA CLAMS!!!

Also worth noting: the Cayenne has never been what you'd call attractive, while the F-PACE has always been beautiful.

OK, enough comparisons (I'll do a full-blown comparo later). The F-PACE with the V6 was already a compelling machine, but the SVO treatment does take it to a new level, all without sacrificing any versatility or luxury. I subjected the F-PACE SVR to a wide range of tests, ranging including a freeway jaunt of moderate distance to a few shorter runs, along with some twisty-curvy driving and the usual kid-transport-and-grocery-shopping duty.

The F-PACE SVR can do it all — and when you fire up Dynamic mode and make the instrument cluster glare red like the eyes of an angry panther, the Jag can do it all, PLUS. The fun is basically on tap, but when you aren't funning around, you can dial the F-PACE SVR all the way back to Eco mode and poke around in peaceful, relatively quiet, fuel-sipping mode. (That said, the MPGs aren't exactly stunning: 16 city, 21 highway, 18 combined.)

I'd almost go so far to say that the F-PACE SVR is now my favorite SUV that isn't the Cayenne. The gap between the Porsche and the Jag was once bigger, and the Jag was getting by on appearances to a degree. But the SVR has narrowed the gap, big time.

And I'm sorry, but the price is just unbelievable. I still don't believe it. When you're dealing with a reaction like that, maybe it's time to buy.

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