Our first go in the F-Pace SVR was back in April, where it excelled on the billiard table-smooth tarmac of continental Europe; there it was hard not to be impressed by its dynamism and that familiar V8 soundtrack. But things were not done and dusted in the south of France; there were concerns that the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio had the Jag beat for excitement. Which is why, this time, we're on the lumpier and bumpier roads of the Cotswolds, barely 50 miles from where the SVR was built, to see if things seem any different with a home advantage.
Barring the movement of the steering wheel to the correct side, nothing's changed since we last drove the F-Pace. Most will now be familiar with the model's slick cabin, complete with its widescreen central infotainment system and sharp instrument cluster graphics. It can't quite match the fit and finish of the Porsche Macan (what can in this class?), but it certainly leaves the Alfa's cabin looking old fashioned. The Jag's got lovely sports seats that can be set low, while the wheel can be placed close to your chest, although in this regard it's the Alfa that does a better sports car impression.
Starting up that ubiquitous supercharged 5.0-litre V8, here in 550hp and 502lb ft form, there are no doubts about its intentions. It's little different in this application to any other from Jag's performance car, but then again that deep throated growl and underlying supercharger whine never get boring. There's reward in pushing it hard, with the motor only offering its best when you spin it beyond 4,000rpm. It's less explosive than the Alfa's turbocharged V6, but the pace is still nothing short of rapid.
That characteristic is mostly mirrored by the eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is quick to upshift and also responsive back down, but it can't match the instantaneousness of a PDK Macan, nor is the act of shifting as rewarding as it is in the Stelvio. The paddles behind the wheel, for example, feel too small; the Alfa's are sculpted to encourage their use where the Jag's feel very much like they're presented as a second option. But there is reason to use them, because each upshift is met with a sharp, racy 'crack!' from the exhaust, and it's extremely entertaining to be the one encouraging more revs from such a vocal powerplant. Ten years into the 5.0-litre's life and there's still much to enjoy.
With such an immense powertrain the F-Pace SVR might easily have been overwhelmed by its brawn, but the cohesion we sensed in the South of France remains on show in Britain. The chassis can't quite match the responsiveness of the Quadrifoglio, nor does it feel like it has as much mechanical grip as a Macan. But the Jag is sweetly damped, so remains composed and confident without being harsh through corners. It's a neat match to that powerplant, as is the steering, which is consistent and offers feel when the car's loaded up, although it's not as fast as the Alfa's so the chassis feels less agile. There's also more body roll than in the Alfa, something Jaguar has surely opted for in order to make the F-Pace more forgiving. It's the less busy car on a bumpy British road, so we suspect that in slipperier conditions, the Jag will also be the nicer car to drive quickly - if not the fastest.
That said, the F-Pace certainly feels more than SVR enough in its dynamic balance; with a little commitment (and a lot of space), the F-Type-donated differential makes it throttle adjustable, although the car remains planted unless really provoked. There's a lot of Pirelli wrapped around those optional 22-inch wheels (21s are standard), after all, and there's always torque being sent to the front axle. You're encouraged to drive the F-Pace with more fluidity, which is rather different to the aggression the Alfa wants.
As we suspected in France, the loud, thunderous Jag remains the more mature option compared to the Stelvio. But on a bumpy British B-road, that's no bad thing, particularly when these broadly talented cars will often be someone's main source of transport. If you're after maximum theatre, speed and excitement, the Alfa's ranking is unchallenged. But as an ownership proposition for someone faced with UK weather and roads, the SVR might just have it beat.
SPECIFICATION - JAGUAR F-PACE SVR
Engine: 5,000cc, supercharged V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 550@6,000-6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 502@2,500-5,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.3 seconds
Top speed: 176mph
Weight: 2,070kg (to EU, with 75kg driver)
CO2: from 272g/km
MPG: up to 23.7
[Pics: Dafydd Wood]