Jaguar Land Rover SV range (and more besides) on track: eight is enough
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Jaguar is a brand that most associate with large, classy sedans. In the age of the SUV, it has had to move with the times, and now offers just as many SUVs as it does “traditional” cars in New Zealand. Before you nod off as we start talking about family-friendly SUVs, there are a couple of letters that Jaguar is very proud of, and should have no trouble grabbing your attention: SV.
If you aren’t familiar with the work of Jaguar’s Special Vehicles Operation (SVO), you should be. It builds some of the fiercest V8-powered cars currently on the market, and it means business. While no single vehicle is SVO’s pride and joy, every new vehicle adorned with the prestigious badge gets the same 5.0-litre supercharged V8, which has more than enough power, and makes all the right noises.
Under the SVO brand falls three categories, with each being the most extreme of its type. SVA or SVAutobiography accounts for the most luxurious Range Rover models. There’s SVX, for the most hardcore off-road Land Rovers. Finally, the star of the show, the SVR range, which is built for all-out performance.
SVO vehicles account for a significant portion of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) sales in New Zealand. JLR boss Steve Kenchington speaks of the incredible demand for Land Rovers in NZ, not to mention more than 200,000 Defenders pre-sold internationally.
To celebrate this local love for everything SV, JLR recently held a drive day at Hampton Downs, focusing on the SVO range – but with plenty of other JLR product to showcase.
JLR had all the bases covered, from track cars to SUVs. There were a few we couldn’t drive: Simon Evans’ championship-winning I-Pace, the ultra-cool Land Rover Defender Works V8 70th Edition and a multi-million dollar Jaguar XKSS Continuation (also an SVO creation) were on display.
As for the cars on offer to drive: the highlights were the new two-door Defender 90, the Jaguar F-Pace SVR, and the ultra-rare XE Project 8.
As well as celebrating everything SVO, the point of this day is to get customers, prospective customers, and special JLR guests into these vehicles in a supervised track environment, where they can push the limits without getting into trouble.
Canterbury | Sockburn
$1,048.64 p/w $4,194.57 p/m
Manawatu / Wanganui | Palmerston North
$685.60 p/w $2,742.39 p/m
Canterbury | Sockburn
$362.96 p/w $1,451.86 p/m
Auckland | Auckland City
$573.95 p/w $2,295.81 p/m
As a Jaguar ambassador, local legend Greg Murphy was one of the instructors. Another was Simon Evans, winner of the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy championship in Europe.
There was the standard ABS test in an incredible sounding F-Type R P575, and a slalom challenge in an F-Pace P400.
We also managed to get off-road in the new two-door Land Rover Defender 90 and the Discovery. Here, both off-road SUVs excelled in the rough and uneven terrain, and expertly demonstrated the hefty 900mm wading capability.
We had a play with Jaguar’s “Smart Cone” challenge in an E-Pace, where a driver has to change direction according to lights on cones, making it just as much of a reaction test as a driving challenge.
I managed to walk away with the win here, achieving 100 per cent accuracy, and not only beating editor Dean Evans, but more importantly Sam Wallace.
Then we were on to the main attraction — track laps around the Hampton Downs National Circuit.
An assortment of JLR’s best was on offer to drive, including the Range Rover Sport SVR, the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace, the F-Pace SVR, and the XE SV Project 8.
If you aren’t familiar with that last one, here’s a crash course: it’s based on an XE sedan, but features a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 that has been tuned to 441kW. Power is sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission, and it’ll hit 100km/h in 3.7 seconds before topping out at 321km/h. It still holds the record for the fastest production sedan around Nurburgring, and Jaguar only built 300 of them, all in left-hand drive.
In terms of track performance, these supercharged V8s are addictive no matter what the application is. Obviously, the Project 8 felt the most at home on the track with the signature blower whine and carbon ceramic brakes holding everything together, but the Range Rover Sport was no slouch either. The perfect “Goldilocks” zone was found in the F-Pace SVR, which devoured corners like a low-slung sedan, not the family-friendly SUV that it looks like.
Known for his success in V8-powered race cars, Greg Murphy could only sing the F-Pace’s praises in-between directing drivers towards braking zones from the passenger seat.
As a whole, it’s clear that JLR is still keeping the enthusiast candle burning with the hardcore SVO range. From the mighty F-Pace SVR, and the extremely limited Project 8, this current performance range feels like a fitting tribute to high-performance vehicles of yesteryear.
But while it seems like Jaguar’s supercharged V8 is living on borrowed time, we’re happy to welcome in vehicles like the all-electric I-Pace as the next-generation of performance vehicles.