KARL PUTS THE MIGHTY RANGE ROVER SPORT SVR THROUGH IT’S PACES
Review by KARL PESKETT
Price: from $224,500 plus options and on-road costs
Engine/Trans: 405kW/680Nm 5.0-litre Super-charged petrol / 8-speed auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 13.7 l/100km combined
Suspension: Electronic 4 corner air suspension
Towing: 750kg unbraked / 3000kg braked
It’s very easy to write off the Range Rover Sport as a “Vogue for poor people”. It’s not as comfortable, not as practical and it’s not as good off road. But its road-holding, lighter weight and smaller size make it far easier to thread through traffic as well as being able to change direction far quicker, too. Horses for courses, as they say.
But, as ever, there’s someone who has a different course they want their horse to run. And in this case, the horse’s course is around 20km long and runs through the Eifel mountains in Germany. Green Hell, I think it’s called, or at least that’s what Sir Jackie Stewart nicknamed it.
There’s a deranged bunch of Englishmen who appear to have taken in too much midday sun, because they keep muttering “Nordschleife” in their sleep. Yes, they’ve set up shop for the explicit purpose of turning Jaguar Land Rover products into bonkers production machines, and all with the complete backing of JLR. These madmen who work for the Special Vehicle Operations division (SVO) have recently gone to town on the Range Rover Sport. What they’ve come up with is the imaginatively named Range Rover Sport SVR, and let us assure you – it’s insane.
You can see why they used the Sport as the basis; the Discovery is too old and heavy, the Vogue is too big, the Evoque is basically a Disco Sport and the Disco Sport is too small to fit the desired powertrain. The Sport is in the Goldilocks zone – able to receive the hi-po supercharged V8 and, along with it, the brakes and suspension to match. And when we say hi-po, we mean it.
Bumped from 375kW, the Sport SVR’s donk now has a formidable 405kW and a whopping 680Nm, all running through a fabulous ZF eight-speed auto. Now we’re talking about a machine that weighs the better part of 2.3-tonnes, but can haul from 0-100kmh in just 4.7 seconds. And it’s not a steady-state, Boeing-like, long build up to full power, either. Rather, it’s a nose-lifting, rear-squatting, instant launch that pins you to your seat. But the sensation of inertia is only half of it. The Sport SVR has had a bespoke exhaust fitted to it which opens the whole system up, with a decadent result.
There has never been another SUV which sounds like the world’s strongest blacksmith. With a note that mimics a cannon crossed with a hammer hitting an anvil, it’s angry. Very angry. Adding to this is the fuel cut, which gives the Sport SVR a distinctive whump every time you change up using the paddles. People in rearward traffic will probably duck for cover and pedestrians will almost certainly need hearing aids afterward. Oh yes, it’s glorious.
Put away the red mist for a while, though, and the SVR can be civilised. Inside, the fit and finish is perfection. With beautifully soft leather, the sports bucket seats are comfortable and supportive (also heated), and a simple glance at the hand-stitched finish tells you all you need to know about its quality. While the headliner is swathed in soft Alcantara, genuine carbon-fibre is used in place of wood trim and proper metal accents break up the black-on-black theme. It looks a ‘quarter-million-bucks’, which is exactly what it costs.
While the infotainment system is the previous generation software, and is therefore a little slower, the look is still modern enough. The only thing letting it down is the resolution of the screen, and that’s because of the parallax barrier dual display. What this means is the passenger sees one image, while the driver sees another, all from the same screen. It’s a road-safety boon, with the driver only being able to see the sat-nav, while the passenger can watch TV or a movie. And with wireless headphones supplied, there’s no distractions on any level.
The doors shut with a reassuring solidity, while the trim never squeaks or rattles. Even the glovebox is damped to open and close with fluid movement.
The automatic follows in the same vein. Taking programming from the Jaguar F-Type, the eight-speed auto will exhibit creamy changes in everyday driving, but switch to Dynamic mode (using the Terrain Response dial) and it alters to sharp shifts, using the fuel cut when in manual mode or when employing the paddle shifters when your favourite backroad beckons.
The steering is faithful, too, with the typical light feel dialled back slightly, providing more accurate feedback and a feel for what’s happening underneath. When turning, it weights up nicely but the trandmark Range Rover smoothness is still apparent. It combines with the brilliant suspension to enable it to tackle the Nurburgring Nordschleife in eight minutes and 14 seconds – a record for an SUV.
Sounds unusual, doesn’t it? We’re not talking about a sports car here, it’s a genuine off-road machine. But despite its penchant for the racetrack, the Sport SVR is able to handle challenging off-road conditions as well. With the same permanent four-wheel-drive system as every other Range Rover Sport, it uses its locking differentials, Terrain Response stability control and low-range transfer case to get it to the beach and back (or up rocky inclines, if you’re happy to pay for a new set of wheels).
If you’re wondering whether we actually took it off-road, the answer, technically, is no. There was an expedition into some softer sand to see how the Terrain Response system handled it (very well, it must be said) but with the dealership impressing upon us the cost of the wheels, we didn’t go near anything that could scratch those shiny 22s. But having tested a regular supercharged Sport with 20-inch wheels last year, there’s little doubt the Sport SVR has the capability if need be.
Truth be told, it would be a rare sight to see one of these things hitting the dirt. It can do it, but its Stormtrooper bodykit and exhaust cutaways hint at its proper intent. So has the SVO team done the Sport an injustice or made it even better? There are a few ways to look at it, but our thoughts are that it’s now a nicer machine.
Most Range Rover Sports (and indeed Range Rovers) aren’t going to be crossing the Simpson Desert, nor are they tackling the dunes at Lancelin. Instead, they’re cruising the streets, lining café strips and parked in private school pickup zones. The Sport SVR takes that premise and turns up the wick. A lot.
It sounds awesome, goes ridiculously hard and handles brilliantly. It leaves passengers mouths gaping wide, cossets its occupants and deafens bystanders. It’s a ridiculous machine and is all the more endearing because of it.
For the lucky few who get to park one in their garage, there’s no finer way to light up dino-juice.