First drive: 2015 Range Rover Sport SVR in New York USA
Does an SUV belong on a racetrack? There are several German brands trying to answer that question, but their offerings are so compromised in the pursuit of Nurburgring lap records that they hardly qualify as SUVs. And then there’s the new 2015 Range Rover Sport SVR, which set its own ‘Ring record for SUVs, however briefly it held. The difference between the SVR and other super-SUVs is that it can still go offroad. We drove one of these battering rams at a media event in New York last month.
The SVR is the hottest version of the already-hot Sport Supercharged. Externally, they look similar except for the aggressive bumper intakes, larger fender vents, big special wheels, blue Brembo brake calipers and the fruitier exhaust system that pops like a rally car, among other items.
Inside, it’s largely the same as any other Sport except for the racing-style bucket seats, SVR embroidery and other minor trim bits.
Powered by the same 5.0-litre supercharged V8 as, well, the 510 hp Supercharged model, the SVR’s motor is uprated to 550 hp with 680 Nm of torque, which is supposed to make the SVR a few tenths of a second quicker. When playing with acceleration that’s in the sub-five-second range, it’s hard to tell if an extra 40 horses make a huge difference — they’re already very fast.
Too fast actually, as it’s easy to get into potential trouble with the law in and around New York’s heavily-policed roads. The big SUV just wants to lunge ahead at the slightest push of the throttle pedal.
As we started our drive towards the Monticello Raceway track well outside the city, we were reminded of a few familiar things that made us love the Sport, such as the cabin quietness and the amazing grip on public roads at above-average speeds. We also noticed that the ride was pretty firm thanks to the stiffer suspension and standard 21-inch alloys, bordering on harsh when driving over some of the nastier potholes littering the countryside roads.
And then we hit the track. It drives pretty darn well for such a big SUV, taking corners with minimally-noticeable body roll and superb composure. There’s just tons of juice to power out of turns, and the automatic gearbox does reasonably well in keeping up with the car’s crazy speeds.
However, the steering feels a bit lifeless on the track, lacking enough feedback although it’s pretty responsive. Also, it’s not that hard to reach the limits of the 275-width tyres on the sharper corners of the complicated racetrack that had us braking during long high-speed curves into near-90-degree turns. Incidentally, larger 22-inch alloys with 295-width high-performance tyres are optional, and probably the ones that set the ‘Ring time of 8 minutes 14 seconds.
Understeer sets in gradually, smooth enough that you don’t break a sweat, and lifting off a bit usually tightens the turn-in. The brakes are also very strong, and you can feel the battle raging beneath your feet as the Brembos defeat the aluminium-bodied SVR’s 2200-kilo curb weight.
Since we drove it back-to-back with a Jaguar F-Type R coupe, it became clear that the SVR is a monumental achievement in defying physics, but it’s not going to help you chase down a real sports car on tight courses. Let the road open up a bit though, like the hilly routes through forests we drove on, and with a bit of guts, you can actually keep up with anything and everything.
Just to throw some salt on the egos of the German super-crossovers, Land Rover actually set up a muddy offroad trail through some dense forestry just to show that the SVR is still offroad-capable to a fair degree. With the terrain-management system set to “mud”, suspension raised and low-range selected, the SVR made short work of the tight course at slow speeds under constant throttle, never struggling. The only hair-raising moments were when we had to slip between trees through gaps barely wider than the car. The same cars were then given a pressure-wash and sent to the racetrack.
The SVR is a niche product. It’s fast, expensive, capable and even a bit too aggressive due to its pursuit of ‘Ring times. But we like the fact that it did not compromise on its offroading heritage. The regular Range Rover Sport Supercharged is already capable and more than enough for anyone’s needs. The SVR just pushes the former’s abilities to another extreme.
For prices and specs, visit the Range Rover Sport SVR buyer guide.
Photos by Jaguar-Land Rover.