Range Rover Sport SVR review: Land Rover lets its hair down

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Does anyone really need a Range Rover that can hurl itself from 0-60mph quicker than a Ferrari F355 while making a sound like a thunderstorm trapped in a bass drum? Probably not. But boy-oh-boy is it fun.

Frankly, we could probably conclude the review there, as the decision to pick this bonkers 575bhp hotrod over the standard Range Rover Sportwill always be ruled by your heart rather than your head.

To leave it at that, however, would be doing a massive disservice to this car. Because underneath the garish carbon fibre-adorned exterior the RR SVR is a remarkably talented machine.

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The Range Rover Sport SVR is a product of Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division. That might sound like a covert organisation operating deep behind enemy lines, but it’s more like Q-Branch, tasked with creating one-offs, halo models and special editions.

Here, the division began by taking the 5-litre supercharged V8 that sits at the top of the regular Range Rover Sport range and turning the wick up to 575PS (567bhp) and 700Nm of torque – the same stats as you get with the Jaguar XJR 575 and the F-Type SVR.  Next, came a raft of tweaks to the air suspension system aimed at improving turn-in while reducing pitch and body roll.

The brakes are giant ventilated discs (380mm at the front and 365mm at the rear) fed by a revised front bumper to improve the flow of cooling air. A new carbon fibre bonnet design adds more vents for the engine bay, along with shedding a few extra kilos over the front end.

Lightweight front seats also help – tipping the scales at some 30kg less than the standard items – although all this talk of weight reduction remains a relative term, with the total mass still a not-inconsiderable 2,310 kg.

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What’s it like to drive?

In a word, the RR SVR is ballistic. Like all in Range Rover’s range it features permanent four-wheel drive, and with such vast reserves of grip and grunt that the standing start performance is electrifying – in any conditions and on almost any surface.

It keeps going too. At Land Rover’s Fen End test track we saw 150mph and it wasn’t until 130mph that there was any significant let up in acceleration. Top speed is quoted as 174mph – and we can well believe it.

Tip it into a bend and the SVR responds brilliantly for such a big, heavy car. It uses an active anti-roll bar system that keeps the body movements well in check, while the steering feels precise and alert – albeit a touch light on feedback. You do still get a slight sense of the height and mass if you’re really pressing on, but it’s remarkably well suppressed. There’s even a smidge of adjustability before the electronics discretely intervene.

All this is underscored by a soundtrack of almost comical exuberance. At one point during our lunch stop another SVR started up in the downpour outside and it genuinely sounded like a rumble of thunder.

Keep the throttle pinned and in it turns into a NASCAR-like roar before unleashing a fusillade of pops and bangs when either self-preservation or legality finally forces you to back off. It’s magnificent, in a slightly childish sort of way.

At the other end of the spectrum the SVR will cruise with the sort of peerless refinement you’d find in any other Range Rover.

The only problem lies in-between, when even with the exhaust in quiet mode, it can be difficult to make discreet progress without the V8 suddenly waking up. There again, if you’re looking for discretion, an SVR in Velocity Blue with an unpainted carbon bonnet isn’t the machine for you.

For the record, Land Rover claims a fuel economy figure of 22.1 mpg, but expect that to dip into the teens if you’re driving at all enthusiastically. And frankly, in a car like this, you should be.

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Like any Range, the SVR is very much still a proper off-roader. It has all the usual Land Rover off-road modes, alongside the same ground-clearance and wading ability as the regular Range Rover Sport. Towing capacity takes a slight hit compared to the normal V8 petrol and diesel models, but it’s still ample at 3,000kg.

Even in torrential rain on standard summer tyres the SVR made short work of Land Rover’s off-road course, conceding little if anything to the full-fat Range Rover we tried out at the same event.

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Aside from the new sports seats, the SVR benefits from a range of interior tweaks designed to reflect its position at the top of the Range Rover Sport line-up.

The cabin is decked out in perforated Windsor leather, with lashings of carbon trim and a sprinkling of SVR logos thrown in for good measure. It looks and feels every penny of its nigh-on £100,000 price tag (in fact, with a few choice options, our test car came in at £111,185).

Like the rest of the range, the SVR now comes with Land Rover’s Touch Pro Duo infotainment system, which uses two 10-inch HD touchscreens to create a beautifully elegant buttonless dashboard. It’s slick to use and stunning to behold.

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A virtual instrument cluster and a head up display unit (HUD) put even more information at your fingertips, while an inbuilt Wi-Fi hotspot provides connectivity for up to eight devices, plus direct streaming from online services such as Deezer and TuneIn.

In all respects the SVR is a surprisingly well-rounded package. There’s an underlying firmness to the ride, but it’s nicely dampened and more than justified by the improvements to the body control. By any normal standards, it’s still a relatively supple platform. The seats, meanwhile, pull off an impressive trick of feeling firm, supportive and also very comfortable.

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Verdict

The SVR treatment adds relatively little over the Range Rover Sport if we’re talking in cold, rational terms. And certainly don’t buy one if you want to stay under the radar.

But the fun factor is off the charts. Indeed, the SVR concedes so little in other areas that you could even argue it has the broadest skill set in the Land Rover range. It’s an awesome machine.

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The Porsche Cayenne Turbo is a similar sized and has a similar price. It’s even better to drive on-road, but the SVR blows it out of the water for noise and theatre (and, most likely, off-road ability too).

Even more power meets even more mass in the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S. It’s less extrovert than you might expect from a big (5.5-litre) AMG V8 and not as sporting as the SVR. But it’s almost discreet to look at by comparison, which will be important to some.

A genuine rival for the dynamism of the Cayenne and the SVR, the BMW X5 M sits towards the more hardcore end of the performance SUV spectrum. Arguably the best of the big off-roaders to drive when you’re in a hurry, it’s not quite as cossetting or as charismatic as the SVR when you ease off.

(pocket-lint.com, https://goo.gl/WpNCfq)

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