Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) has basically worked with the same set of ingredients for the British automaker’s portfolio of saloons and SUVs. These usually call for stuffing in a version of their 5.0-litre supercharged V8 matched to some trick suspension upgrades, aero, and other go-fast tech.
Whether it’s the Jaguar F-Pace, F-Type, or Range Rover Sport, SVO variants (typically called an SVR) are exciting and desirable, if something of a known quantity. However, with the advent of the all-electric I-PACE, SVO’s been given the possibility of expanding its palette. Granted, it does take them well into uncharted waters as the headroom for high performance is more limited when it comes to EVs.
Still, the JLR skunkworks division seems keen to take on the challenge, as Michael van der Sande, the man in charge of the SVO division, made clear to Autocar recently. No roadmap exists for an I-PACE SVR as yet, but the matter is more a question of “when, not if”.
Of course, the development of cars based on the company’s more volume models will take priority over this hi-po EV project, but it can’t be denied that a fast flagship will significantly boost their profile as a serious contender in the high-end EV space, one that now sees Porsche assert themselves with the Taycan.
A portion of the SVO team is already tasked full time on developing and race-preparing the I-PACE eTrophy vehicles, a single-model race series that precedes the main Formula E championship grand prix starting last December in Saudi Arabia. Early tests and simulations already pegged them at being within 2 seconds of the Formula E single-seat race cars, and the real world lap times only confirmed this.
With a trove of experience under their belt, the SVO team are better poised than most to embark on an effort to adapt these innovations to the road going I-PACE, and should be able to deliver an SVR variant sooner than what might be expected.
More so than the significant light-weighting effort, which ironically is negated by the fitment of the roll cage and race kit, battery management has been a major point of learning for the SVO team. The I-PACE eTrophy's powertrain itself, as well as outputs, remain the same, but the specific stresses and battery cycle duty demanded by motorsport applications differ wildly, necessitating new approaches to heat management and new software to govern charge levels and power distribution. When the call comes, we’ll be ready,” says van der Sande.
Once an I-PACE SVR does break cover, do expect that the SVO team to have fettled the powertrain to improve upon the standard car’s 298kW and 700Nm. There will be significant incentive to better match rivals like the Tesla’s Performance-badged models and the new Porsche Taycan in terms of acceleration times and total output. Currently, the electric Jag dispatches 100km/h from rest in 4.8 seconds.