2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR
– Fast on straights and corners
– Class-leading cabin styling
– Offroad capability retained
– Quite expensive
– Harsh ride on some surfaces
– Potentially high fuel bills
The current Range Rover Sport set a benchmark for luxury 4x4s, combining sporty handling with decent offroad capabilities. It is better than its predecessor in every way, and in supercharged form, it is truly unbeatable in its breadth of abilities. However, Range Rover saw it fit to push the boundaries even further, creating a “Special Vehicle Operations” division, and its first mass-produced product being this blue beast — the Range Rover Sport SVR.
While the bulky design of the current Range Rover Sport doesn’t quite grab your appreciation like the first-generation Sport did, the SVR livens up the overall styling with black trim and badges, bigger vents up front and along the sides, blue brake calipers, and fruitier quad exhaust tips. Oddly enough, the standard 21-inch alloys are exactly the same as those available on the regular Sport Supercharged, although larger 22-inch ones with more aggressive tyres are optional. That blue paintjob is a head-turner.
The Sport SVR’s interior is largely stock, continuing Range Rover’s tradition of clean cabin designs with excellent use of premium materials. The upper dash is upholstered in stitched leather to match the beefy multi-adjustable seats, buttons reduced to a minimum with the use of a touchscreen for most multimedia functions, while thankfully still retaining knobs for the a/c controls. Almost all surfaces are padded, with some metallic trim spread about, while hard plastics are relegated to a few out-of-reach areas. The most obvious changes for the SVR are badges and, well, four racing-style seats with fixed headrests!
Cabin space is great up front, and the well-bolstered seats are still fairly comfortable. Space is merely adequate in the rear, with some space taken up by the somewhat-concave shape of the front seatbacks, which is unfortunate given the Sport’s overall large size. The rear middle seat is only fit for small kids. And the step-in height is oddly high with no side-steps. The carpeted boot is big though, and there’s also enough covered cup-holders, armrests and pockets to rival a business jet.
The Sport is expectedly loaded with gadgetry, including power-adjustable front seats, electronic gear-selector, climate control with rear vents, rear camera with parking sensors, standard HID headlights with LED running lamps, smart keyless entry with starter button, panoramic glass roof, numerous airbags, adaptive cruise control, heads-up display and an LCD screen for a gauge cluster, aside from the usual multimedia/navigation touchscreen. The screen has a neat party trick where the driver and the passenger can look at two completely different things on the same LCD panel. The screen’s graphical interface looks outdated though.
Powered by an upgraded version of the company’s 5.0-litre supercharged V8, it makes a formidable 550 hp from 6000 to 6500 rpm as well as 680 Nm of torque from 2500 to 5500 rpm. Combined with the smooth 8-speed automatic, intelligent all-wheel-drive and an all-aluminium structure, the Sport did the 0-100 kph sprint in 4.7 seconds during our July test, not much quicker than the regular Sport Supercharged, but still enough to become the fastest SUV we’ve tested till date. It burns petrol at the same rate as the regular model too, at 18 litres/100 km, although it is very easy to go well beyond the 20 l/100 km mark with a heavy right foot. The big trucklet just wants to lunge ahead at the slightest push of the throttle pedal.
But the SVR is more than just a brute with a big engine. With active roll-control and torque-vectoring systems, it takes corners as if it were literally on rails. Body roll is minimal and tyre squeal is held off for an unfathomably long time. The electrically-assisted steering is respectably accurate, although feedback is minimal. Apparently there aren’t any major changes to the suspension, gearbox or brakes, which would probably explain why the drive never felt hugely different from that of the already-capable Sport Supercharged, aside from the raucous grumble and crackle of the adaptive exhaust. The adjustable suspension is just tuned to be a bit firmer, while the respectably-strong Brembo brakes are no bigger, but cooled better to reduce fade during, say, racetrack use.
And track it we did, at the Monticello Raceway during the U.S. launch event earlier. 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. The lack of steering feedback became more obvious here, although the wheel is still very responsive. It’s not that hard to reach the limits of the 275/45 tyres on the sharper corners. The complicated racetrack that had us braking in the middle of long high-speed curves going into near-90-degree corners, and the SVR mildly understeers in such situations, although it is still possible to tighten the line with a dab of the brakes mid-corner.
While the driving dynamics are excellent, the ride quality takes a hit in the chase for lap times. It feels noticeably firmer on the highway, bordering on harsh when taken over uneven surfaces, but the quiet cabin ambience is retained.
It’s a pretty good offroader, with height-adjustable suspension, electronically-locking center and rear diffs, and an all-wheel-drive system backed up by proper low-range gearing. There’s also a terrain-management system that includes “sand” and “mud” modes, among others. Once lifted at the touch of a button, ground clearance and wheel articulation aren’t a problem on the dunes. The only thing to watch out for are that the low-profile tyres and open-spoke wheels dig into the sand rather easily, so you have to keep the power on and keep moving, but also be careful not to apply too much power, of which there is an abundance of. With a deft right foot, it can go pretty much anywhere as long you don’t overdo it with jumps and such. In mud, most of the work is taken care of by computers distributing power to each wheels as needed, so we didn’t have to do anything except maintain a steady low speed.
Our conclusion for the SVR is basically the same as what we said about the Sport Supercharged — here’s a car that’s as quick as a serious sports car, as agile as a sports sedan, and as offroad-capable as a Range Rover should be. It’s a bonus that it looks even better. However, considering the harder-riding SVR is almost as expensive as a Range Rover Autobiography, most buyers will be happy with “just” the regular Sport Supercharged, which is more comfortable and almost as capable.
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