Seems every luxury automaker has their hot letters: Mercedes AMG. BMW M. Now even Land Rover’s got some: “SVR.” We hammered the $130,000 2015 Range Rover Sport SVR through a forest and straight onto a race track to find out if those initials actually stand for anything.
(Full Disclosure: Jaguar Land Rover put me up in a couple great hotels and fed me some really nice food for a couple days so I could try this vehicle on road and on track at the Monticello Motor Club.)
Here’s the short story; the Range Rover Sport SVR takes every variation of loud, adds noise, and runs it through a stack of Marshall amps. It is an unapologetic assault on all senses, ergo it’s essentially the antithesis to what a Range Rover’s been since somebody decided to add leather and luxury to Spen King’s utility wagon.
Is that a good thing?
Well old chap, that entirely depends on what kind of Range Rover owner you are.
Do you drop your monocle in shock when a guest spears their steak with the salad fork? Or do take your tea with a dram of cocaine and blast your inheritance onto the stage at Spearmint Rhino with a leafblower?
The Range Rover SVR has completely dispensed with the brand’s Rooseveltian “speak softly but be able to blow anybody’s doors off” swagger and replaced it with a 1010-gauss attention magnet.
Sounds... interesting. Show me around this car. I mean, SUV.
It’s a tuner-car take on a Range Rover Sport Supercharged. Bodykit, candy color paint, racing seats, ear-splitting exhaust, more carbon fiber inside than there was in the first three Fast & Furious movies.
All those toys plus big (huge) brakes, about forty horsepower, an even better ZF eight-speed (shift times reduced by 50 percent) and a very sexy SVR badge will set you back about $30,000 over a “standard” top-trim Range Rover Sport.
Exuberant to the point of irreverent, but exceptionally well executed. Land Rover says the Range Rover SVR is the result of about three years work plus some 60,000 miles of testing in the Gulf States, 14,000 miles on the Nurburgring, 38,000 on the Nardo high speed track, and another 20,000 miles off-road under its belt.
Every panel is perfect. Running your hand across any surface is like petting your favorite dog, except instead of oily fur this dog’s made of soft taut leather and gleaming carbon fiber.
Racing seats inside; front and rear, really set the mood and that mood is “mad.” Mad like angry. Mad like insane. Maaad tight, bro.
The SVR can be driven slowly; I think I covered about twenty miles of country roads in eighth gear at 30 MPH without touching the throttle (at 21 MPG!) but the vehicle’s personality is just so intense. At the speed limit it feels like walking a pet grizzly bear and are you sure you remembered to feed him before we put the leash on?
Surely you can turn that crazy stuff down?
Like the regular Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, the Range Rover SVR has a terrain-response knob to shift you between various off-road modes and “Dynamic;” the on-road performance setting. That gives you aggressive throttle response, higher shift points if the gearbox is in “S,” and a few more open baffles to take the exhaust note from “vroom” to “vengeful chainsaw.”
With the vehicle in regular-old “drive” mode and the gearbox in D, the theatre is significantly reduced but you’re still nowhere close to keeping a low profile.
Does it have performance to back up those peacock feathers?
The supercharged V8 you might recognize from the Jaguar F-Type makes 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque here in the Range Rover SVR. That’s a 40 horse, 41 lb-ft bump off the regular Range Rover Supercharged but Land Rover says fuel economy is the same at 14 city, 19 highway. We turned out around 21 hypermiling, 4 race track if you’re interested.
Acceleration is downright wicked — 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds — and combined with the psychosomatic effect of that insane exhaust note you’ll think you could beat a Ducati through that yellow traffic light while towing a submarine on a U-Haul.
The razor-sharp ZF eight-speed is on call 24/7 to let you blaze up and down the gear range at the touch of a “+” or “-” paddle. I dare say it might be satisfying enough to make you forget your last three-pedal tango.
Braking’s good. That’s a little English understatement for you, I’m getting into it see? Braking’s 15” Brembo discs good. You tell the SVR to stop and you might as well have dropped a 12.5 ton anchor from the QE II on the hood; you’re stopped.
Lapping the track in this thing is a unique experience. Despite all the vehicle’s drama, speed comes on rather effortlessly and surprisingly stealthily. I mean, it’s hard to tell how fast you’re going when you don’t have red lights and a Prius in the other lane to blow past for a sense of perspective. The sensation is amplified by the fact that, compared to a sports car, you’re sitting in the nosebleed section five feet off the pavement.
I stole a glance at the main velocimonitor while we were coming toward the end of a straight at Monticello Motor Club; just shy of 100 MPH. Fast.
The Range Rover SVR has a 50/50 torque split and highly complex waterworks of electronic aids helping you look like a hero out there. You bet your ass they work too, otherwise I’d be writing this from a hospital bed and trying to figure out how to pay Land Rover back $130,000.
The vehicle seemed to muscle its way through corners with a lot of yaw, but the crabwalking felt controllable as long as you didn’t slip on the throttle and burp it off kilter. That would get you off the racing line but you’d really have to try and kill this car to get yourself into the weeds.
Suspension’s flat, and not just by SUV standards, but the Rover’s true utility-nature was impossible to defeat completely. Want to see how dramatic that weight transfer is when a pilot really gets on the beans? See below. This isn’t an acceleration from stop, it’s just how the Rover looks coming out of a corner full noise:
There’s no way to make an SUV into a perfect sports car, but I don’t know if it’s possible to get any closer than this. I’ve never felt... less like an idiot driving a 4x4 fast. Porsche Macan Turbo notwithstanding... but that’s really more of a giant hatchback than a small SUV.
But can this Range Rover still off-road?
Truck yeah, boy. It is downright unbelievable what a Range Rover Sport can do off-road on street tires. The SVR retains the same off-road specs; low range, electronically and automatically locking differentials, 33.5 inches of water wading depth, 9.3 inches of ground clearance.
Only the approach angle is hampered slightly by the body kit. Don’t sweat it though, if you’re off-roading this that’ll mean you’re in Dubai and sand is soft... the bumper will bounce off it.
I can’t provide a complete off-road report since Land Rover’s demonstration course was about as rugged as my driveway. But the equipment’s all there, and I’ve seen every other variation of Range Rover do things you’d be nervous to try in a Wrangler Rubicon.
How’s it compare to the AMG G-Wagen?
You’re right to invite this comparison, even though Land Rover’s PR people laughed it off. “That old farm truck? This is a precision instrument!”
SVR and AMG may have dramatically different approaches to the “insane SUV” segment, but these vehicles both sprint hard toward the same objectives; make noise first, go fast second because why not it’s already loud anyway.
I’ll break it down for you as simply as I can; the Range Rover SVR is a more refined and better balanced product, the G-Wagen’s louder and feels faster. Make no mistake, this is a real rivalry and we’ll discuss in detail in an upcoming post.
So is the Range Rover Sport SVR better than a regular Range Rover Sport or what?
The Range Rover Sport SVR delivers on all promises; it’s fast, it’s bold, it’s exciting as hell, it’s still good off-road, and feels every ounce a premium product. But hell no, it’s not “better” than a Range Rover Sport Supercharged.
To answer the real question, it doesn’t really feel faster either. I mean, at least once you get used to the siren song of the exhaust.
I’m sorry Land Rover; maybe I’m not a good enough driver to notice 40 horsepower or slightly-quicker shifts. But even at twice the New York City speed limit (Range Rover’s biggest market, by the way) I don’t think your buyers are either and we all know that’s not what this car is about anyway.
SVR is about taking the idea of a sporty Range Rover to the extreme; and by god they’ve done it. Extreme isn’t for everybody, but this vehicle is just so darn well done that even the “reserved” motoring enthusiast can appreciate it. And I’m sure there are enough egomaniacs and Arabian princes to sell the handful of Range Rover Sport SVRs that will come out of the Solihull factory this year.
Images by Land Rover and the author