2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible first drive review: more growl than bite

I’m headed to Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois, and I’m a little nervous. Just yesterday I took delivery of a 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR Convertible, and today I’m going to drive it for one 20-minute session on Autobahn’s 1.5-mile North Track. Thing is, I’m not sure I can handle this thing.

This car seems twitchy. The throttle is sudden, and this English Corvette can hit 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. The steering is quick. It has all-wheel drive, but the rear end seems to want to kick out rather easily. And that engine note that sounds so cool when you goose it in a straight line is intimidating when it might send you careening out of control. I don’t want to mess with it on the street. Maybe the wider, more controlled dimensions of a racetrack will reveal a more controlled character. Or maybe I’ll spin it and make a fool out of myself.

That would be a shame because this car isn’t cheap. My tester has a $129,795 base price (including destination), and is fairly lightly optioned. A carbon fiber center console adds $750, illuminated treadplates cost $450, an Extended Leather package tacks on $1,100, and a Car Care Kit ($50) and a Wheel Lock LP Frame ($138) round out the add-ons. That brings the total to $132,283.

More than an R

The F-Type R is already a bonkers sports car, but the SVR ups the game even further. Instead of 550 horsepower from the supercharged and super throaty 5.0-liter V-8, it blasts out 575 horses and 516 pound-feet of torque, gains of 25 and 14, respectively, thanks to an SVR-specific engine calibration. An Inconel Titanium exhaust sheds 35 pounds of weight and acts as a Marshall Stack for the Jag’s heavy metal soundtrack.

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All-wheel drive is standard on the SVR, and it’s tuned to send more of the power to the rear wheels. The only transmission is an 8-speed automatic, which has been tweaked to shift quicker. The tires, 20-inch Pirelli P Zero PZ4s, are slightly wider, with 265/35s up front and 305/30s in the rear. The steering, damping, and stability control are tweaked for the SVR, and the stability control can be turned off completely. I will not be doing that.

The front roll bar is 5 percent softer, while the rear bar is a bit stiffer and so are the rear suspension knuckles. A softer front and stiffer rear is a formula for oversteer. Oh boy, that’s scary.

It gets some exterior changes, too, mostly in the name of aerodynamics and cooling. The front fascia has bigger air intakes and the hood has vents for better cooling. To handle the convertible’s 195 mph top speed (the coupe hits the 200 mph mark), the front fenders get vents to quell front axle lift, underbody trays smooth out airflow underneath, and the rear has a unique diffuser and a prominent and active carbon fiber wing that raises at 60 mph.

Inside, the SVR comes with 14-way power adjustable performance bucket seats, contrast stitching, and a 770-watt Meridian audio system.

I use that audio system to listen to my “Game of Thrones” audiobook during my 80-minute drive to Joliet. The stark violence helps calm my nerves before the track battle I face.

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