Have you ever felt so enamored with a car that you couldn’t help stopping, just to get out and look it over once more? This is how I felt when driving the Range Rover Sport SVR the other day. This vehicle delivers so much, on so many different levels, that you just have to step back every now and then in order to come to grips with what you’re driving. It may look like a typical luxury SUV from afar, but get behind the wheel of the Range Rover Sport SVR, and you will swear that you are in a Jaguar F-Type R.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. For as much as I want to call this machine a “car,” it’s still all-SUV, with the same dimensions, stow capacity, and core values that you find in the amazingly good, but far less powerful, Sport model. For those of you who are not familiar with it, the SVR version seen here is a very special, upgraded edition of the already potent Supercharged model, with 550-horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque leading the way, bashing skulls along the way as it delivers heart pounding performance at every inch of the powerband.
This Nürburgring-born rarity is called the SVR (Special Vehicle Racing) which makes complete sense when you realize that all three of these titles pertain to this Range Rover’s DNA. Starting at $111,400, the most powerful vehicle to ever come out of Land Rover is a supercharged, 5.0-liter V8 toting, rev-matching slice of brilliant engineering, complete with a cabin that people either love or hate, and a free-flowing, snarling exhaust that makes a Hellcat sound like a lap cat.
Speaking of the Nürburgring, let’s not forget that this blue devil went around the 12.9-mile track in just 8:14, which made it the fastest production SUV ever to lap that track at the time. But is this all really necessary? Also, since this truck is all track when you get on the throttle, what ever happened to Land Rover’s legendary off-road prowess?
Let’s start by answering the last question first because off-road Land Rover finesse has always been a thing of legend. Believe it or not, the SVR still preserves all of the off-road features you would typically find in a regular Sport version. With a locking center diff, rock crawl settings, air-lift suspension with 9.3 inches of clearance, and a removable front lip serving as proof that sometimes you have to ford a creek, this SUV proves that versatility can indeed be a two-part equation. Now, as far as the second question is concerned… yes, all of this insane performance is completely necessary.
Starting with the SVR’s computer, which has been remapped for higher boost levels, this top tier model features larger intake piping for increased intercooler air charges, along with that quad-port performance exhaust system. Even though this version weighs a scale-breaking 5,500-pounds, it still boasts the same efficiency ratings as its lesser siblings with a 14/19 EPA rating. This is further proof that you can have extreme power and still retain solid fuel efficiency numbers with the right driving techniques, a transmission that shifts 50% quicker, and a lot of lightweight aluminum instead of steel in key areas of a chassis.
What are my driving impressions despite not being able to take this thing off-road? Brilliant. Absolutely, 100%, every step of the way, eye-blinding brilliance. I could write an entire diatribe about how the torque curve and horsepower work together as one thanks to clever vectoring, and how they meet somewhere in the middle to make sweet love above the tarmac. Or how the steering and magnetorheological shocks are so precise that they can only be bested by those massive, six-piston Brembo brakes and 15-inch, over-sized rotors. There is so much to like about the driving dynamics of this SUV that it would be almost a dishonor to jot it all down on something so base as paper or WordPress. This is a machine that’s capabilities must be experienced in order to be understood, and with that note I must move on.
Driving reactions and Rumi-level love poems aside, the Range Rover Sport SVR has to have one of the most space-age, dramatically over-the-top interiors in the history of automotive production vehicles. The minute you retract that gargantuan sun shade, the heavens above reveal a playground for your posterior, and in the case of this “Estoril Blue” beauty you see right here, it was all clad in Star Trek-grade Oxford leather. Sure, they may not be the cushy, Land Rover sofas of plump poshness that buyers are typically used to, and they sure as hell have some firmness to them, but who cares? This is a performance vehicle, and it should have seats to match.
Outside of the seats, the rest of the interior was a carbon-covered version of the regular Sport model, with all of the safety, tech, and infotainment imaginable, and while there is a ton of, well, everything packed into this SUV, almost all of the settings were easy to allocate and dial in. Couple that with LED mood lighting, a banging audio system, and a steering wheel that is both meaty and supple all at once, and you’ve got the supreme being in this quadrant of the universe. Remember, this vehicle still sits in the exact same frame as a regular Sport model, so rear seating space and amenities remain well thought-out, and with backseats that mirror those in the front, no one will bitch about riding in the second row of one of these things.
But perhaps the greatest thing about this car isn’t how it drives, handles, seats, or steers, but how it looks, because if it weren’t for those massive brakes and howling exhaust it would be a total sleeper car. Just look at it. If it weren’t for the slightly more aggressive front and rear bumpers, and downforce-tuned spoiler, you would likely write this thing off as just another British SUV. Hell, even the lip kit on this thing is functionally understated, and I love that. So go out and drive one if you get a chance, you won’t be disappointed. This is what all those decades of automotive design and engineering have led to, and I would encourage NASA to start outfitting space ships with this kind of inspiration, because a vehicle this good proves that automakers are reaching for the stars.