Range Rover Sport SVR: King of the SUV jungle
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Now here’s something you don’t see every day: a Range Rover Sport boasting a barking V8 engine and neck-snapping acceleration.
Actually, scratch that: it’s the sort of thing you do see every day, because the standard Sport V8 supercharged model is a raucous, ridiculously fast SUV.
So it’s all the more remarkable that Land Rover has taken that machine and turned the volume up to 11 with the new Sport SVR, which has even more power and performance. Let’s get the salient facts out of the way so jaws can drop, then we can get on with the rest of the story.
The Sport SVR is the first series production model from the newly formed Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Special Vehicle Operations (SVO). Opened just last year, think of it as JLR’s answer to Audi RS, BMW M and Mercedes-AMG. Except the brief is a little broader, because JLR doesn’t just develop the go-faster stuff; it’s also responsible for high-end luxury personalisation and heritage work.
The beauty of the Sport SVR is that it’s a proper production model and as such flies the flag for SVO in the world of performance vehicles for the first time. The Sport is an SVR because R is the badge worn by high-performance Jaguars and Range Rovers.
In truth, there have been surprisingly few mechanical changes from Sport V8 to SVR. The supercharged engine has a lot more power but it’s actually in the same state of tune as the powerplant in the flagship F-Type coupe R. They even share the same electronic control unit. As an aside, Jaguar now makes an all-wheel drive version of the coupe R so it really is a Liverpool-kissing cousin to the Range Rover.
What else? The electronic control for the eight-speed automatic gearbox has been sharpened up, as has the locking rear differential. The SVR has a firmer, more responsive air suspension system and rides on 21-inch wheels as standard. There are 22-inchers available in Europe, but apparently these are yet to be approved for far-off places like New Zealand. Seriously?
The Sport is quite a blingy SUV anyway, but the styling changes for SVR are actually quite subtle. There’s a new front bumper with massive intakes, andblack grilles on the bonnet and front guards. Very Jaguar. The stylistic highlight might well be inside, with four heavily sculpted racing-inspired seats (there is still room for a centre-rear passenger though). You have a choice of colour themes for the perforated leather — single or dual tone.
Anyway, that’s not a lot of development for your $228,000. Certainly nothing near the kind of work that BMW does to create an M-car. You could either take that as being poor value or an acknowledgement that the Sport is pretty, well, sporty already.
The driving experience has certainly gained enough of an edge to give the SVR serious performance-vehicle credentials. After all, it is the fastest and most powerful Range Rover ever made. More to the point, it’s the most outrageous sounding. The V8 exhaust note is less of a burble than a racing-car crackle, with a rocket launcher lighting up every time the transmission grabs another gear.
The Sport SVR has to heard to be believed. Believe us, you will hear it coming. There is a loud button on the centre console for the quad-pipes, which takes the soundtrack from outrageous to absolutely antisocial. The SVR does not do quiet.
Nor can you seriously call a two-tonne SUV nimble, but the SVR does have remarkable handling. It’s capable of high cornering speeds as you might expect, with lots of rubber on the road and a trick torque vectoring system that actively feeds power to the outside-rear wheel through fast turns.
But there’s a lot more talent to the chassis than that. The SVR is genuinely adjustable once you’re in the rhythm of a corner, which is a strange feeling for such a large vehicle. The Sport is well sorted in the first place, but the addition of a more responsive rear axle and sharper suspension means you can alter the angle of the car mid-corner with surprisingly small inputs from the steering wheel and/or throttle.
In that respect it’s a truly enthusiast-oriented machine — however ridiculous you might look showing up at a track day in one.
Or perhaps you’ll make others look ridiculous once the circuit-work starts.
At the end of the day, the Sport SVR will also be valued for its exclusivity.
The example featured here is the only one in New Zealand as I write and there are but seven more on the way for the rest of 2015. Although I’d be surprised (and appalled) if any SVR owner was able to resist driving it in the manner that its maker intended.
RANGE ROVER SPORT SVR
5-litre supercharged petrol V8, 405kW/680Nm, 8-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.
Pros: Sounds outrageous, responsive handling, very exclusive.
Cons: Might look too subtle for some, refuses to lead a quiet life under any circumstances.