Jaguar Land Rover has announced the formation of the SVR, Special Vehicle Operations, to tackle projects outside the usual scope of engineering and manufacturing. Limited-run vehicles, personalization, heritage vehicles and branded goods will all fall under the control of what is being described as a business within a business. John Edwards, managing director of SVR, explained, "Tata has given us freedom, autonomy and, most importantly, the confidence to do all this."
In case anyone has been living off the grid for a while, Tata Motors, an Indian company, bought Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford in 2008. And it's had the good sense to provide money and resources to pull both marques from the Blue Oval blues.
At this year's Monterey Car Week, JLR rolled out the first three fruits of SVR's labors. In a move that probably wouldn't have been possible under previous overlords, Jaguar is building 250 examples of the F-Type Project 7 first shown at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Project 7 was named in honor of the seven Le Mans victories in Jaguar's history. Design director Ian Callum explained how the car's styling originated with a sketch of a modern sports car inspired by the D-Type. "I love this car," he said. "It's rebellious and shows what you can do if you put imagination into something."
European-spec cars will get a lower windshield with lowered seats, while U.S. cars will stick with standard windshield and seats. Other exterior modifications will be shared.
A larger front splitter, side skirts, rear diffuser and rear wing are all constructed of carbon fiber and increase the Project 7's downforce by 177 percent compared with a regular F-Type convertible. Output from the supercharged 5.0-liter V8 has increased to 575 hp, which Jaguar claims will result in sprinting from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds.
Project 7 isn't just about performance. It's also about building something special and it's a statement that the real passion is back, along with the courage to build a limited-run car that won't appeal to everyone, but to the right ones.
Land Rover isn't so much looking back as forward with its maiden SVR offering. The Range Rover Sport SVR takes the current most rapid of Rovers to the finest edge of performance technology. The 550hp SVR has a claimed 0-to-60-mph time of 4.5 seconds. But more impressive is a Nurburgring Nordschleife lap of 8 minutes, 14 seconds. Even with all the on-road performance, the RRS SVR is still as capable off-road as the standard Sport model. Land Rover USA's Brand Vice President Kim McCullough said, "We always have to be mindful of our core values and expand from there. Technology has made it possible to build a car with this kind of performance without sacrificing off the road. No matter what, that's a Land Rover badge on there."
Again, McCullough gave credit to Tata for the ability to do this. "Under previous ownership, this would have been seen as a distraction. But with M and AMG building vehicles in this category, customers expect a vehicle like this from Land Rover." If a run of 250 cars is still too mass-market and a luxury SUV with sports car performance too predictable, then the Continuation Lightweight E-Type might be more your speed. SVR is building the final 6 of the intended 18 cars from the original 1963 run of these incredibly rare racers.
It could be argued that these continuation cars might actually be better than the originals. While they will be faithful reproductions, they are built to the original drawings and not patterned after a particular car. In the early '60s, quality control and manufacturing tolerances weren't what they are today. If you were to compare dimensions and individual components of two of the original E-Type Lightweights, you might think they were different models. Variances in critical dimensions like wheelbase and track, even overall length and height, could nearly be measured in inches. With the new cars, these variances will be measured in thousandths of an inch.
Fans of Jaguar and Land Rover will contend that cars like the XKRS-GT and Autobiography Range Rovers were the precursors to all this. Maybe they were. The formation of SVR, however, shows a long-term commitment to vehicles that perhaps don't make perfect logical sense but fulfill an emotional need that had been missing from the lineups. Embracing the heritage of these legendary marques, while exploring the future by melding it with the latest innovations, is a winning formula.
Apparently Projects 8, 9 and 10 are already under way for SVR, and we will see another one within 12 to 18 months. It could be anything from another continuation car to another fast Jag. No matter which way it goes, the rest of the industry will be watching. The British are coming back and coming back fast.