Normandy hates us now. Well…all the North of France for this matter. The cracks and bangs coming from the exhaust echoing against the wall of the houses are not a very friendly way of announcing your passing through small towns of fishermen. Strict speed limits stimulate your imagination to get alternative ways of having fun in your powerful and exotic machines. When speed is not contemplated, you rely on all the other amenities your machine has to offer: the interior, the burbling sound, the infotainment and if you’re in an F Type SVR, the crackles. Oh yes, the pops and bangs it makes constantly at any speed you’re travelling. 30 mph never felt so fun, ever: put the car into first and hear the . Not that this Jaguar is slow: it’s ludicrusly fast, loud and beautiful. It’s the proper British gentleman on steroids: refined manners blend harmoniously with a ferocious performance, aggression and extreme mechanical grip, suitable enough to annoy France supporters during the final of the Euro 2016 on the night they lost against Portugal. It’s the most fun way to reenact the machine gun sounds of WWII while choking your supercar to the agonizingly low speed limits. It sure is an oddity but the SVR is one of the funniest supercars to drive slowly. Not that you would get yourself this 575 hp beast of a British sportscar in order to make popcorn sounds as you go along slowly but when you’re either stuck in traffic or speed limits rule the road, it’s one of the best features to have
The goal for this escape wasn’t just to act like infantile schoolboys but had a much greater aim: drive in a convoy of other Jaguars to Le Mans Classic and back. Our aim wasn’t to annoy the good people of France, but to join Jaguar in their comeback to the place which made them famous back in the 1950ies.
Fast sports cars are capable of turning two serious and dedicated enthusiasts into two molesting puerile individuals. What else would you do when Jaguar gives you the keys to their hottest new convertible which crackles, bangs and pops at legal speeds? While you can’t really performance test 200 mph Jags through crowded fishermen’s towns, you just cruise respecting the limits making as much noise as possible and serious effort of being hated by local population.
Narrow roads clustered by houses have now become as fun as a tunnel. 1500 rpm in second, 60 kph, release the throttle, put the car into first gear aand “ratatpapaam tatata pam pak!”. F types have always been a caleidoscope of all the sounds every car enthusiasts love. Exhaust bangs? check; Factory-installed loudness? Check; Delicious low rpm burble? Check; Screaming at high rpm? Check.
You shouldn’t be surprised that the F Type SVR is a combination of all of these issues turned up to eleven. Plus the handling and the power of course. This Brit hooligan is pure British Rock n’Roll sound, exactly like Randy Rhoads’ Marshall Plexi Amp cranked all the way to 11.
Besides its acoustic qualities, the SVR is one of those cars that make mad performance numbers suitable for day to day use. As Jaguar puts it, is an “all weather” sportscarconceived by serious performance enthusiasts for performance enthusiasts who hate the idea of exposing their F type to the rigors of the road only on sunny days. It’s no track-day-focused car: although capable, its touch of refinement will remind you about the joys of “power-grand-touring” all the time. Leaving the wonders of the fireworks coming out of the exhaust (and the hateful looks of the French for this matter), the F Type is as serious as Jaguar can get when they let the guys of the Special Vehicle Operations department loose on their most sporty cars.
It’s the first Jaguar to be cured by the SVO department and it seems the next logical step since the great handling and powerful Range Rover SVR. Label it as a Factory Hot Rodding department, their F type is by all means an improved and lightened version of the AWD R version. Both cars retain the same suspension architecture, but the SVR has improved dampers, aerodynamics, a flat underbody, larger rear wing and that tweaked engine of course. While enthusiasts are accustomed to Porsche and Ferrari radically modifying their models this may induce some to believe that it’s all a marketing operation from JLR. Quite the opposite. The new F Type is sharper, nimbler and will go up to the magic 200 mph mark.
The four wheel drive system has been tweaked to have more power to the rear and the new suspension set up has received stiffer roll bars and a completely new balance. In a word, the SVR floats less than the R. Nevermind, driving it won’t hurt your back and will make for an exciting an enjoyable companion during long journeys, especially if you’re heading to Le Mans Classic in a convoy of Jaguars.
To reach Le Mans from Italy, we flew to london, picked up a brand new F Type SVR Convertible in the UK and then drove south through the Channel and into France, directly to Le Mans. On paper, this whole project is the kind of treat which every journalist dream about. Brand new car, a cool event to see and great people to spend your days with. It doesn’t come often to travel with Top Gear’s Chris Harris, Michael Quinn, grandson of Jaguar founder William Lyons and car enthusiast (and lady pleasing) David Gandy. What’s more, the Heritage team had brought over a couple of old Jaguars for us to test during the way down.
The Journey begun from the Royal Ascott Hotel, where driving a left hand drive SVR we rolled on ur way down on the M25 motorway on the way south to Folkestone, to catch the channel tunnel: not a single drop of rain fell on our heads as the top of the car was kept down all the way. As we entered all the security checks of tunnel to France we passed the weapon control: a lovely young British lady asked us if we were carrying any firearms with us: thank God we had to shut down the engine otherwise the loud bangs would have been easily mistaken for machine guns!
On our way to France, we jumped on an early Mk1 E Type and got into the A28 motorway, going south. Not just any E Type: Mike Hailwood’s car, recently purchased by Jaguar heritage and just refitted to an experimental Moss gearbox. We jumped out of the train on the E Type, on the right side of the road, but with the steering wheel in the wrong position. That’s the best way of going to Le Mans, open top and the rumble of the straight six 3.6 liter engine. A torque monster and paired to that amazingly good Moss experimental gearbox, the car was a piece of cake to drive. Flooring the car in 4th from 1500 rpm on the motorway is the best way of savoring the torque and the impressive acceleration. It was made to reach 150 mph and it was made to go fast: it still sticks to this principle.
On the A 28 motorway, going south, with the sun right over our heads and through the French countryside we quietly made through our way to Le Mans where we arrived late in the evening.
For 3 days on the thunder of old machines became a very vivid present reality: the echo of the GT40’ies, D Types, 917’s, Ferrari Daytonas, Alf Romeos…all the greats from the past came back to the place which made them the legend they are now.
Since 2016 marked the 60th anniversary of the historic win of the Ford GT40 Ford brought their best performing cars to do parade laps with the original winning car.
To celebrate the first time of the Jaguar Heritage Challenge Jaguar and the first time ever of the never-raced XJ13, Jaguar has organized something substantial: speed laps during day and night on the track and a parade of more than 100 old Cats, including the 1988 winning XJR9.
Epicness just got over level 9000 as rumbling together, Jags from different eras rolled on the track, ensuring a great spectacle. We were in the middle of it, savoring and enjoying every minute of this unique experience. Nothing ever like it was seen before and being part of it was even more special: something worth telling our grandsons for sure.
Le Mans is one of those places which built the fundaments of automotive passions: it’s one of the staples that helped define our passion. Watching three days of night and day classic racing was the best time capsule an enthusiast could ever hope for. The night before leaving, when most of the crowd left to go to sleep and only tiny group of die-hard enthusiasts was still at the track, we took out our SVR, dropped the top and went for a ride from Le Mans to Arnage, just to hear the cars passing from distance. It all was quiet and calm with the silence interrupted only from the echo of the downshifts. One of those nights to remember.
As we left the day after, still with the sound of the cars in our ears, we just waved goodbye to one of the most magic places on earth: we stomped on the throttle and with the thunder coming out of the quad exhaust pipes we made our way back to London, passing through Normandy.
The north of France is a place that is almost mystic, for it has been one of the main battlegrounds during WWII. We climbed north to Dieppe and then made a turn left to go to the coast and travel all along the way with the channel on our left. The small roads were passing through the typical fishermen towns in a scenery not too dissimilar from Britain.
Cold, windy and rainy but full of character, Normandy is one of the places that should be visited and enjoyed for their unruly weather. Nevermind, a hot bowl of Marmite Dieppoise to fight the harsh environment will warm you up nicely and allow you to continue your journey.
After travelling for a day all along the coast from Dieppe up close to Calais we headed back to England through the channel tunnel.
The last opportunity to experience the F Type SVR for us was a night trip downtown London. Talk about the charm of the night, where everything is quiet and silent and there’s only you around. Canary Wharf, Limehouse, and all the Thames area at night is just better than during the day, and in a certain way, it’s more intimate.
As we tried not to wake up London and to travel as quietly as possible we put the Jag to sleep and organized ourselves for the flight back home the day after. With a freezing cold wind in our hair and with the top always down and the crackles of the exhaust we waved goodbye to the best escape of 2016.