When American racing legend Dan Gurney stood atop the podium at Le Mans in 1967 and sprayed champagne over the crowd, he started a trend that has continued for over half a century. Since then, the sparkling golden nectar has become synonymous with motorsport success — so we headed down to northwest France in the raucous Jaguar F-Pace SVR Edition 1988 to test and toast the carmaker’s 24 hours of Le Mans win 34 years ago.
With a motorsport pedigree dating back to the late 1940s, Jaguar is no stranger to the racing world. Names such as XK120, C-Type, D-Type and E-Type send shivers down the spines of even the most reticent racing fans; all of which paved the way for the iconic wedge-shaped XJR-9 Le Man’s monster that raced to victory in 1988.
Marking that momentous occasion is the latest take on the F-Pace SVR, which has been fettled and tinkered with by Jaguar’s Special Vehicle (SV) department to produce a 542bhp, supercharged purple and gold super-SUV that pays tribute to the XJR-9’s iconic Silk Cut livery.
Equipped with the same brutal 5.0 supercharged V8 as the regular F-Pace SVR, the 1988 Edition differs in its unique exterior and interior appearance. Most striking of all is the ‘Midnight Amethyst’ gloss paintwork, and ‘Champagne Gold’ satin 22-inch forged alloy wheels — not just a nod to our destination but to all the racing success Jaguar’s enjoyed over 74 years.
Added to that, Sunset Gold Satin exterior and interior detailing are complemented by laser-etched ‘Edition 1988’ logos and a subtle ‘One of 394’ graphic inside the door. Limited to just 394 examples, that also happens to be the exact number of laps the XJR-9 completed to win Le Mans in 1988. Funny that, hey?
On the inside, the SV team has fitted sports seats, open-pore carbon fibre, lashings of leather and more satin gold trim — lest you forget Jaguar’s many race wins. Once out on the road and en route to France, thankfully the race-inspired aesthetic hasn’t impacted the Edition 1988’s ability to suck up long motorway slogs, with the F-Pace making sort work of the 280-mile drive from London to the ruins of Reims’ historic circuit.
Stopping off to stretch the legs, the well-preserved remnants of Reims circuit still bear the original Jaguar trackside branding from the days when C-Types and D-Types hammered down the long straight. Winning the gruelling 12-hours of Reims in 1953, ’54 and ’56, the circuit serves as a poignant reminder of Jaguar’s legendary endurance racing reputation. With a photo memento captured, we head for the hills of France’s Champagne region to put the pack-leading Jaguar to the test.
Blasting off down the old pitlane straight, the Edition 1988 is certainly not lacking in pace. 0-60mph is dealt with in just 3.8-seconds before topping out at 178mph, while the howl of the supercharged V8 rumbles around the cabin. In an age of lightning-fast electric cars, the drama, sound and smells that come with a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 are a welcome change — a last blast of what will soon be a bygone era of combustion-engined excellence.
Through the corners, the Edition 1988 playfully deals with its two-tonne weight and raised ride height before another straight presents itself, begging you to flick through the satin gold gear shift paddles, which fire each gear into place with force. The combination is a heady mix of SUV practicality with supercar performance.
Priced at just under £100,000, this limited-edition super-SUV represents a welcome return for Jaguar’s sporting prowess. Since the arrival of the F-Pace SVR and its similarly powered Range Rover Sport sibling, both cars have sprinkled some much-needed fun into the never-ending surge of SUVs. Now, with just 394 examples made, the F-Pace SVR Edition 1988 is the chance to channel some of Jaguar’s mighty 1980s racing legacy into your everyday drive.
Become a Gentleman’s Journal member. Find out more here.