JURASSIC BARK
MOTOR Magazine Australia|October 2021
WE GO IN SEARCH OF POWER AND GLORY IN JAGUAR’S F-PACE SVR
CAMERON KIRBY

THE AIR IN Beech Forest is still and undisturbed. The waters of Bass Strait meet the lazy flow of Skenes Creek 15 kilometres to the southeast as the magpie flies, but there is no salty sea breeze rustling the trees in this once-bustling timber town. Instead, on an overcast and drizzly day in the middle of yet another open-ended statewide Victorian lockdown, the living world has seemingly abandoned Beech Forest, population 82, altogether. The door to the only pub in town is locked indefinitely, and there isn’t a single visible soul wandering the streets. The only sign of life here is the soft sound of birdsong that emanates from the myrtle beeches.

The inside of the Jaguar F-Pace SVR is an Alcantara and leather-trimmed cocoon, helping shield me from the light misting of rain that is falling. The clouds hang low, as nature slowly encroaches on the edges of the narrow tarmac scar – C159 – that runs through the hamlet. It’s a path that a few kilometres from here transforms into Turton’s Track, a road that when looked at on a map promises to be as challenging as the finest WRC tarmac stage. Traditionally clogged with tourist traffic, it is currently bereft of travellers. That is, except for me and the Jaguar F-Pace SVR.

Ba-bum. Ba-bum. Ba-bum.

There is no sound, but the SVR’s starter button flashes with the anthropomorphised rhythm of a resting heartbeat.

Ba-bum. Ba-bum. Ba-bum.

The constant but silent beat compels me to press down, firing the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine under the SVR’s bonnet to wake from its slumber. The chirping of birds is drowned out as combustion chambers ignite and four exhaust tips flare into a rasping report. Subtlety will not be today’s overarching theme. This engine is on death row, and its final meal is set to be the 32 kilometres of tarmac between here and the outlet of Skenes Creek, washed down with a tank of premium unleaded.

Logging of the Olongola Plantation to the south of Beech Forest is in full swing. We head east from the centre of town, and just before the protected native flora encloses around C159 the road passes a large cut of land that has been cleared. Lush green is replaced by the stark sand-coloured skin of felled timber. It’s here that the only proof that Beech Forest remains populated can be seen, with workers operating machinery to move the fallen Californian Redwoods onto trucks to be transported to the next stage of their life. The town has been home to plenty of colourful characters in the past, with arguably the most famous being Cliff Young. In 1983 Young was a 61-year-old potato farmer that decided to enter the inaugural Sydney-to-Melbourne Ultramarathon on a lark. He ended up winning the entire 960-kilometre event, running the course in five days and fifteen hours – nearly 10 hours quicker than his nearest competitor.

Just as Young’s competitors were left slack-jawed at his incredible endurance, so do Jaguar’s rivals often underestimate the F-Pace SVR’s unique place within the Australian motoring landscape. It’s one of the more compelling but overlooked performance bargains on the market. Want 400kW under your right foot? With a starting price of $142,300, the F-Pace SVR is the cheapest way into that exclusive power club. This is thanks to the now distinctly old-school combination of a relatively large capacity V8 with an Eaton-style supercharger placed atop to force great gales of air down its gullet.

There is all the usual luxury you’d expect of a full-fat performance SUV: comfortable and cosseting seats, heavily improved infotainment, heated seats and steering wheel, an expansive moon roof and more. But it’s that eight-cylinder tribute to the gods of fury and anger that dominates almost everything to do with the F-Pace SVR.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely? Not here, with engineers tweaking the SVR to deploy its brutal payload more effectively than ever. When the F-Pace SVR was launched locally in 2019 it was a crude instrument of blunt force. Fast, yes, but not at rewarding of subtlety. Attempt to trail brake into bends, or do anything more complex than apply the simplest (and gentle) inputs and the SVR would throw its arms up in the air in a mess of discombobulated body roll.

This updated facelift though, this is something altogether more refined. The engine remains unchanged and is as bombastically unrelenting as before, but it’s everything that surrounds the supercharged centrepiece that has been upgraded, tweaked or adjusted to better allow it to achieve its lofty highs. This included raiding the parts bin of its sedan siblings for a new transmission.

Jaguar has given the F-Pace SVR the eight-speed torque converter automatic found in the XE Project 8 super sedan that was bolted together by JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations skunkworks. This means all 405kW and 700Nm of the forced-induction V8 can be deployed in every gear, where previously torque figures were limited in lower ratios. Peak torque arrives at just 2000rpm, and is available all the way to five grand. There has also been a raft of tweaks to get this SUV to dance better on its toes.

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