If a vehicle is a statement, this Range Rover Sport SVR is a string of violent obscenities, spoken with a perfectly elegant enunciation. Partly, you’re a bit shocked. But mostly, you’re massively impressed. It’s a vehicle that can’t help but command your entire attention.
The main headliner of the SVR is, naturally, the engine. It’s a 5.0-litre V8, called the A113. It uses a supercharger for forced induction, which results in a fairly preposterous 423kW at 6500rpm, and 700Nm between 3500 and 4000rpm. This runs through an eight-speed gearbox and two-speed transfer case, permanently powering all four wheels.
Costing a shade over a quarter-million dollars, the Range Rover Sport SVR sits amongst other equally ludicrous and enticing high-performance large SUVs.
Think the recently updated $247,000 Mercedes G63 AMG, making 430kW and 850Nm from a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. Don’t forget the dated BMW X6M, with a relatively meagre price of $197,629. It too uses a twin-turbocharged V8 engine, which makes 423kW and 750Nm from its 4.4-litre displacement.
And of course there's the Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Owning that particular 404kW/770Nm twin-turbo V8 will set you back $239,000.
In this fairly dazzling white-on-black colour scheme, the SVR is a brutish take on the somewhat svelte and flowing shape of the Range Rover Sport. While the roofline ducks gracefully towards the rear in a typical style, the front bumper is pumped out (for extra airflow) and the ride height is lowered.
Optional 22-inch shiny black alloys, wrapped in 295/40 R22 Continental Conti Sport Contact rubber, finish the angry look.
Not many new vehicles are supercharged these days, giving the SVR a nice point of difference. Those five litres of forced induction are a constant companion, never leaving your thoughts for more than a moment. While punting around peacefully, the SVR thuds deeply and reassuringly. A gentle reminder that, at any moment's notice, you can unleash a furious barrage of angry power and unrelenting torque.
Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) department has devoted a fair bit of effort to extracting more grunt from the V8 with this update, with a few subtle tweaks under the bonnet. The Eaton supercharger has more urge thanks to a larger pulley ratio, and the intake and exhaust systems have been redesigned for less restriction and weight.
The wheels and bonnet have also been on a diet, with the use some exotic materials.
Compared to the soft, stately feeling you get from piloting a regular Range Rover, the Sport SVR feels decidedly hard-edged and tight. The steering is heavy and meaty when at speed, befitting the 2.3-tonne weapon you’re piloting. You never feel like you’re commanding a lightweight vehicle, but at the same time the SVR wants to be driven. And gosh, it’s addictive.
Those eight ratios from the ZF gearbox give you smooth, easy progress, with a kind of salubrious efficiency befitting the brand and price tag. Revs barely edge above idle during normal driving, and the suspension irons out bumps and noisy surfaces very nicely. Sport mode shifts the tacho up towards the decidedly snarly 3000rpm mark, and really changes the overall character of the vehicle.
If you want to seriously make some noise, press the little exhaust icon on the lower centre screen. The exhaust noise goes from deep shouting into a manic, frenzied howl. The decibels rise incredibly quickly, with a thick drum beat of deep and heavy barks, beating faster and faster. Chase the redline and the V8 absolutely bellows, with a really vicious edge.
You relent, probably after stealing a glance at the speedo, but the drama doesn’t. The engine crackles and snaps on overrun with huge volume. Perhaps too much for some, it’s wickedly loud. Looks aside for a second: if we're talking vehicles that want to be heard, this beast is hard to go past. There is a two-stage dynamic exhaust system on the SVR, which exits at the rear through four large squares pipes.
I’m not as experienced as others in terms of high-end exotic cars, and most green-oval vehicles I’ve driven are flat out getting to a hundred kilometres an hour. But I have to say, this thing has a sound like nothing I’ve experienced before.
0-100km/h is achieved in 4.5 seconds, which is quite an achievement for something the size and weight (2.3 tonnes) of this. It’s the same deal with the braking performance, which is mainly handled by 380mm diameter Brembo-sourced front rotors. It’s excellent.
Another big point about the SVR Sport is the interior. Rather than having the airy feeling of a big SUV, the Sport feels much more concise and tight. Door and window apertures are smaller, thanks to the raking roofline. And a built-up centre console makes a big dent in the airiness.
It picks up a few tricks of storage nooks from the Discovery, particularly the big void below the cupholders, as well as a tricky little compartment in the door. Other than that, the Sport's interior doesn’t drip practicality or family friendliness. But christ almighty, it’s nice to look at.
The seats are an all-new design, sportily cosseting, but also comfortable for long driving stints. They’re beautifully finished in Windsor leather with lots of eye-catching details, and also save a significant 30kg over the old SVR.
What this new Range Rover scores is some pretty impressive interior controls, using not one but two high-definition 10.0-inch touchscreens, in the style pioneered by the Velar. Only two physical dials are there, plus a small volume knob. Otherwise it’s all digital, easy to use and stunning to look at. The instrument binnacle is all digital, as well.
Body roll? For a vehicle of this size, there's barely any at all, and the car handles big weight transfers in corners particularly well. Four big, wide tyres give stacks of mechanical grip on typical road surfaces. And if you’re getting too aggressive with the throttle, traction gives way fairly predictably, neither oversteering or understeering avidly.
This is thanks to the smart torque vectoring system, relying on the brakes to help reduce excessive wheel spin and traction loss. Steering is likewise very quick and responsive, and nicely weighted for twisty roads.
Let’s talk off-roading. We didn’t take this SVR to within a bull’s roar of anything barely resembling off-road, because I don’t have the cojones to potentially damage it. Those 22-inch wheels, with barely a liquorice strip of sidewall to play with, doesn’t inspire much confidence in terms of incident-free off-roading. We actually managed to get a flat by popping up over a gutter in town.
Although the ride height drops down, and the wheels/tyre package have a 100% on-road performance focus, the Range Rover SVR is still quite adept at off-roading. Unlike Jeep’s Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, this doesn’t throw away all off-road ability in the hunt for black-top shenanigans. The basic suspension's setup remains largely the same as standard, with height-adjustable airbags allowing for extra ground clearance and some articulation.
Most importantly, the SVR still has a low-range transfer case and Land Rover’s superb off-road wizardry: Terrain Response. Turning the dial tunes the suspension, engine, throttle, steering and driveline to work better on all kinds of terrain.
Like other well-specced Range Rovers, the SVR also keeps the locking centre and rear differential. God only knows who would want to go rock crawling or mud plugging in this thing, but power to you (and please send pics): The SVR remains properly capable off-road.
If you’re wanting a big, luxury SUV with truckloads of power and performance, you’ve actually got quite a few options to work your way though.
And what folks will choose to spend their quarter-million on in this regard is hard for me to put a finger on. What I love is the the fact this Range Rover does feel special. While the interior is far from practical, it is beautifully finished and detailed. There are shades of Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde in the SVR’s nature.
The effortless rumbling of a high-capacity engine, along with a luxuriously smooth ride, transforms into a maniacal demon without missing a step. Plus, it can go off-road, which I think is important, even if you’ll never dream of doing it.