Jaguar’s 1988 Le Mans win is celebrated with this special-edition version of the brilliant F-Pace SVR
It’s a very significant Le Mans 24 Hours race this year. Not only is it the 100th anniversary of the first running of the world’s most famous race, but it also marks the dawn of a new era of multiple manufacturer works entries at the sharpest end of the grid. Oh, and in one for fans of round-ish numbers, it’s 35 years since Jaguar won the race with its famous Silk Cut-branded XJR-9.
That win has been celebrated with this special-edition model of the F-Pace, the Jaguar F-Pace SVR Edition 1988. Thirty-five years isn’t the most obvious anniversary to celebrate, but this car actually came out in 2022, having been revealed at last year’s running of Le Mans… Either way, this is our first go in the model that sits atop the Jaguar range, coming in at £101,550.
That price marks a £20,000 rise over the standard Jaguar F-Pace SVR on which this special is based. You’re buying exclusivity –just 394 will be built, a nod to the number of laps the XJR-9 completed in the hands of Jan Lammers, Johnny Dumfries and Autocar Lifetime Achievement Award-winning Andy Wallace – and also a raft of cosmetic upgrades rather than dynamic ones over the very well-sorted standard model.
These include a very dark purple (‘Midnight Amethyst Gloss’) paint finish with lots of gold detailing, including to the upgraded 22in alloys, in a nod to that purple and gold Silk Cut livery. In duller light, it looks black rather than purple but catch the right ray of sunshine and the colour pops really nicely over what remains a fine-looking SUV, trimmed here in a very tasteful way. Badges and different-coloured trim inside are otherwise it for your near 25% premium over a standard F-Pace SVR.
On that basis, good value it is not, yet the car still reminds us of what ‘old’ Jaguar does very well indeed: creating everyday performance cars that can excite as much as they can cosset, being suitable for all roads and all occasions.
Let’s take that engine, a 5.0-litre V8 supercharged unit we truly will no longer see the likes of again. It’s loud, it’s fast, it pops, it crackles, it sends good vibrations through your hands, feet and backside; it’s brilliant.
The eight-speed torque-converter transmission stops it having the more savage gearshifts and acceleration of rivals equipped with dual-clutch transmissions yet the trade-off is far greater drivability at low speeds and a genuine ability to be driven in a more relaxed manner. It’s not an ‘always on’ performance car, instead the kind that is ready when you are, like a super-sized Volkswagen Golf R.
That greater everyday usability extends to the rest of the chassis and the F-Pace SVR’s dynamic make-up. This is what fast Jaguars have always done best: the duality of being able to be driven as hard as they can and involving and exciting the driver while also providing a comfortable ride, accessible handling and control weights that feel altogether more approachable. The size of the exhausts alone might indicate this is a pretty anti-social car, yet to drive, it is anything but. The trade-off to the driver is only really found when it comes to economy in the teens.
The interior of the F-Pace SVR, like all F-Pace models, was overhauled a couple of years ago in an extensive facelift and it’s remarkable how fresh the car still feels inside despite the fundamental architecture being close to eight years old now. The infotainment is excellent, backed up by nice physical controls for key functions such as the heating/cooling and a general air of solidity and high perceived quality to proceedings. The performance car boxes are also ticked inside, chiefly through superb seats that grip you while remaining comfortable.
Questionable value of the Edition 1988 branding or not, the F-Pace SVR really is a very good car – one of Jaguar’s very best. Which makes it all the more remarkable that cars like this won’t be in Jaguar’s new era, the firm instead switching to electric cars with a luxury focus rather than Mercedes-AMG and BMW M-baiting performance machines like this. Shame.