Automobile

2018 Range Rover Sport SVR

We understand if you already think the trend of high-performance SUVs has jumped the shark, high-fived a grinning octopus, and helped a wild orca escape the cruel captivity of an amusement park and return to the deep blue ocean. Yet the unlikely genre shows no sign of going away. Now Land Rover equips the just-revised Range Rover Sport SVR with a carbon-fiber hood and the option of a styling package that leaves the center section unpainted in the manner of an overgrown street racer. The lack of paint is an element of motorsports-grade weight-shaving in a vehicle that tipped our scales at 5495 pounds in our most recent test.

This market isn’t about rational argument, of course, but rather the sort of lizard-brain emotion that drives the urge to acquire toys or weapons, the SVR qualifying as both. Although it is far from what we would regard as a genuine performance car in anything other than its astonishing acceleration, it is still remarkably well rounded.

The distance between the extremes of the SVR’s split personality was ably demonstrated on the launch event in the United Kingdom. This included some reasonably strenuous off-roading, driving through the sort of rainswept, muddy conditions that Blighty excels at delivering. But we also got the chance to experience an indicated 150 mph at Jaguar Land Rover’s Fen End test track. This was done in the exact same vehicle wearing the same set of summer tires throughout.

Mechanical alterations from the previous SVR are slight. Like its predecessor, the facelifted model is powered by the long-serving supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 featured in the upper reaches of the company’s portfolio and which has been tweaked to deliver 575 horsepower, a 25-hp improvement. Torque also has risen slightly, from 502 lb-ft to 516. The well-aged engine exhales through an appropriately Jurassic performance exhaust, one that in its louder Sport mode is sure to get your homeowners’ association starting abatement petitions.

The NASCAR soundtrack makes unleashing the SVR a more visceral experience, but ultimate performance is startling in its own right. Land Rover claims a 4.3-second zero-to-60-mph time, a feat we achieved in a 550-hp 2015-model-year SVR. Stomp on the accelerator and the big Rover responds as if its tail has been set alight, accelerating at a startling rate until well past 100 mph. Given a long enough straight, it will reach a governed top speed of 176 mph, Land Rover says.

We’re told that suspension revisions have been limited to new settings for the adaptive dampers. The SVR certainly seems to have less of the nose-up attitude its predecessor adopted under hard acceleration; we suspect there is less dive under braking as well. Lateral roll remains more of an issue, with the Sport ultimately losing its attempt to gain exemption from some of the more basic rules of Newtonian physics. At reasonable speeds, cornering forces are well contained and the SVR steers with an accuracy and agility that belies its size and height. Understeer is gamefully resisted, with the assistance of brake-based torque vectoring across the rear axle. But increased loads have it leaning hard as the forces involved in altering the vector of such a tall, heavy object become more apparent. The SVR doesn’t have the active anti-roll bars used by Audi and Bentley to fight roll in the Q7 and the Bentayga, and fast progress along a twisty road will soon turn passengers green.

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