Maranello has its famous Ferrari track. Germany has the Nurburgring. New York has tunnels. As it prepared to show off its six-figure sports car this week, the ever-Churchillian Jaguar Land Rover said, “That’ll do.”
The blue-blooded British brand convinced the city (with a handsome payment, no doubt) to close a 1,600-foot strip of tunnel running under Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan for a singular and sensational purpose: Allow the select few to hop in the 2017 F-Type SVR and drive it from end to end like Batman flying out of his cave.
After signing an insurance waiver, we rode along with a Jaguar driver named Stuart, who had the lean-jawed, low-ballcap look of most journeymen throttle jockeys.
The car goes from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds, but the sound is faster than the speed. There are (slightly) quicker cars. There are (slightly) faster cars. But nothing has the barbaric yawp of this Jaguar.
Stuart hit the gas and the thunder commenced, caroming off the tunnel walls and back into the open cockpit. It was a bit like sticking one’s head in a giant drum kit with a squad of demons on PCP going mental with the sticks. Or, in the words of a succinct analyst on Instagram: “That noise is how babies get made.”
It's also no mistake. Jaguar's first contemporary F-Type was loud. This, however, is the souped-up SVR1 version, designed to compete with Italian thoroughbreds and the high-performance Mercedes AMG unit. In addition to being a lot lighter and a lot faster2, the car is a lot louder than its siblings. Jaguar put in a whole new exhaust system and retuned the valves to make it so.
"I think this car will prove to be something that can take on the rest of the supercars out there," Jaguar design chief Ian Callum said shortly before our drive.
At the far end of the tube, the giant ceramic brakes brought the experience to a confident halt. Then it came time to swap drivers. Jaguar, ever proud of its heritage, has left the steering wheel on the right side to further rattle the American press.
Putting the pedal to the mat was a bit of cinema, with the tunnel narrowing and lengthening like a scene from a bad horror movie. The words of the man who distributed the insurance waivers came to mind: “Don’t succumb to that kind of red mist.” Translation: Brake before you careen into the crowd of taxis.
Like most things involving sports cars, it was silly, childish, and deliriously fun—possibly the best car-show PR stunt since Ford pinned a Mustang on top of the Empire State Building. Although Jaguar showed the car in Geneva on March 1, it is making its U.S. debut at the auto show in New York on Tuesday, March 23.
Did I mention it was loud?