2014 Pebble Beach: Jaguar Land Rover launches speed-seeking SVO division

The cats at Jaguar and Land Rover are hunting new prey.

Seeking to compete with performance arms like Mercedes-Benz’ AMG and BMW’s M, the British duo are launching a new performance division called Special Vehicle Operations, or SVO. Both Jaguar and Land Rover brought their first vehicle from this new outfit to Pebble Beach for Monterey Car Week and will debut it Thursday night.


The move comes as the two brands, which are owned by India’s

Tata Motors

, are hitting their stride with consumers. Sales are up more than 10% for the first seven months of this year.

Jaguar has an all-new compact sedan called the XE set to debut soon, and a compact crossover SUV is due in the next 18 months. Land Rover is expected to announce a new Discovery Sport model later this year.

“The foundations of our business are now steady,” said John Edwards, director of the SVO team. “Four or five years ago, they weren’t, and I don’t think we really could afford the time to do projects like this.”

The speed-hunting division will have several goals. The first will be to build high-performance versions of existing models on a large scale. These Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles will wear an SVR badge.

The first model to do so is the all-new Range Rover Sport SVR, which will make its global debut Thursday night in Pebble Beach. This SUV packs a 550-horsepower, supercharged V-8 that moves from zero-60 mph in 4.5-seconds.

A retuned eight-speed automatic transmission pushed power to all four wheels, and the suspension and chassis have been upgraded for more prowess on a racetrack than most buyers will ever need. A mischievously loud exhaust system is standard, as is various exterior and interior trim upgrades.

The Range Rover Sport SVR will start at a cool $111,400 and go on sale in 2015.

The company hasn’t said which model will get the SVR treatment after the Range Rover Sport, but made it clear not all Jaguar and Land Rover models will have an SVR variant. Expect the next model to debut in 12 to 18 months, Edwards said.

On a smaller scale, the new SVO division will build special project vehicles in limited numbers, such as the Jaguar F-Type Project 7. Only 250 copies of this 575-horsepower, supercharged convertible will be made worldwide; an unknown number will come to the U.S.

The street-legal Project 7 will do zero-to-60 mph in 3.8 seconds after shedding 176 pounds by ditching the power-operated convertible top. In its place is a manual version that’s hidden under a tonneau cover reminiscent of Jaguar’s iconic D-Type racers from the late 1950s.

Expect to pay in the ballpark of $160,000. Jaguar expects to fill numerous orders this week in Pebble Beach.

“Vehicles like this are the reward,” said Ian Callum, Jaguar’s design director. “You go through the fundamentals, and then you go and develop something more fun.”