The latest performance SUV from Land Rover turns the wick up to 11 with lashings of power and noise
|V8cyl, supercharged, 5000cc||567bhp @ 6500rpm||516lb ft @ 3500rpm||4.5 secs||280kph||2310kg||$168,500|
|Cabin updates are brilliant, huge performance and epic noise|
|It’s not for everyone, your neighbours might hate you|
Nobody needs a Range Rover Sport SVR. Even the lowliest spec’d Sports are magnificent vehicles – none are slow and all are incredibly capable on and off the road (to put it mildly). An SVR is about as necessary as a LaFerrari or an AC Cobra and, in many respects, just as lairy as either. Nobody needs to be able to hit 100kph from rest in 4.5 seconds in a large SUV and nobody needs a powertrain as insanely rude as this one. It’s mad, bad and gloriously irrelevant; a crazy concept that shows that a new car can be electrifying without being electrified.
Everything about the SVR is in your face, hardcore. It’s loud, literally and figuratively, shouting about its presence with lurid paint jobs, ludicrously large alloy wheels and an exhaust note that makes no bones about the fact that there is a furious rage burning under its carbonfibre bonnet – itself a ridiculous addition to a vehicle that weighs nearly 2.5 tons. But this Range Rover goes about its business for exactly the same reason as Rolls-Royce introduced its Black Badge models: the company saw aftermarket tuners coining it and would rather the mods (and profits) were made in house. Hence, this was the first new car to emerge from JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division four years ago, and what a start it was. Only now there’s a new version.
In line with the rest of the Sport models, the SVR features a slight redesign with new bumpers and headlamps, which do a fine job of subtly modernising a design that’s been around for four years now. Standard wheels are 21-inch alloys and there’s a new 22-inch design available, while the ventilated brakes discs are 380mm up front and 365mm at the rear. Land Rover has also altered the suspension settings, in particular the damping (SVRs use air springs, active dampers and active anti-roll bars at both ends) in order to control pitch under heavy acceleration and braking, and improvements have been made in turn-in, body control and mid-corner grip.
But the biggest and initially most noticable enhancements are in the luxurious cabin, where the ‘Touch Pro Duo’ infotainment system from the Velar now resides, incorporated into two beautifully sleek 10-inch screens that sit in the centre of the dash, one above the other. The cabin also features lighter seats that save 30kg but still feature heating and cooling.
As impressive as all this is, it’s all forgotten about once the engine is ignited. Essentially the same unit as the outgoing model, it remains a 5.0-litre, supercharged V8 but SVO has managed to squeeze another 25bhp from it, bringing the horsepower tally to 567bhp and 516lb ft of twist, all sent to four wheels via an eight-speed automatic. And apart from the aforementioned acceleration, it will power on to a maximum of 280kph. Let’s not forget that, as a Range Rover, it also has to be able to pass muster across muddy fields, icy tundra and punishing desert dunes. To call this machine ‘talented’ would be to do it an understatement.
The driving position, as with any Range Rover, is imperious. Those seats might be new but the way you sit remains unchanged – elbows on the armrests and the adoption of a laid back posture that belies its stratospheric performance credentials. There’s nothing laid back about any other aspect of the new SVR, however. The steering is heavier than the standard Rangie but not so that it becomes a problem and the ride is firm without being uncomfortable, providing a tautness to the car’s handling and it can be driven at an alarming rate of knots if the roads are wide enough. That said, it’s still best to be smooth with one’s inputs because anything that weighs as much as this and is as high as this, will eventually end up running out of electronically-controlled talent if you’re snappy with the steering, braking or throttle. Drive it with respect – smooth and decisive, and the SVR rewards with surprising agility, monumental grip and slingshot performance that’s enough to make you burst into spontaneous laughter.
And then there’s the noise. An always dominating presence, there’s no escaping it (not that you’d want to, but your neighbours might think otherwise). It’s a physical, angry cacophony that only gets louder once you select Dynamic mode and activate the adaptive exhaust. That’s when the full fury is unleashed, although it does still sound great when you’re driving at a fairly sedate pace. Get on the throttle and this thing is noisier even than the hottest of F-Types, lift off and the resultant pops and machine-gun bangs will have you giggling like a naughty school kid. It’s when you experience this side of JLR that you really begin to hope there’ll always be place for a rip-snorting V8 in its line-up.
It isn’t all mouth and no trousers, though, as the performance numbers quoted earlier bear witness. The carbonfibre bonnet might be a touch too much for refined palettes but this Range Rover wears its heart on its sleeve – a brutish, thuggish delinquent that’s resolutely unapologetic in its character. And boy, can it deliver speed enough to satisfy even the most hardened supercar aficionado.
The transmission, the suspension, the handling – everything has been tuned for speed and the SVR destroys practically any road you point it at.
As a statement of intent for the department that delivered it, the SVR is crystal clear: there’s no need for anyone to go anywhere else for extreme performance Range Rovers. And yes, you can opt for that bonnet to be painted the same as the rest of the car should you wish, and not all the colour schemes are quite so challenging.
It’s easy to love this thing even if it’s not to your personal taste, simply because it’s so ridiculous. The SVR is a contradiction on wheels, offering real world practicality and family accommodation that few, if any, owners will appreciate it for. They’ll be more interested in how it looks, goes and sounds, which is a daft thing to say about any SUV. But this sector is rapidly evolving and performance that used to be the preserve of mid-engined exotics is becoming increasingly available in load-lugging behemoths such as this.
For too many of us, fun has become a complete stranger to motoring but that’s exactly what the Sport SVR has as its very reason for being. It makes wildlife scurry for cover, makes pedestrians stop dead in their tracks, possibly cause small children to burst into tears and its occupants roar with laughter – it’s ridiculous and we wouldn’t have it any other way.