The latest incarnation of the Range Rover Sport SVR takes Land Rover to even higher levels of performance, finds Alvin Thomas.
Vehicle engineers are a strange breed; a group of highly competitive folks vying to become the best in the world. And in pursuit of glory, a lot of them seem to push boundaries that were once deemed impossible.
For instance, there’s Newton’s second law of motion: the acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the magnitude of force and inversely proportional to the mass of the object. This in car terms means that an SUV, which is big in size, shouldn’t be as quick and nimble as, let’s say, a sports car.
But for years now, the Germans with their Beemers (BMWs) and Porsches have tried their hand at defying physics with their super-fast and nimble SUVs. And there’s no denying that they’re actually quite good at it. But classifying them as thoroughbred full-size SUVs isn’t fair: a handful of them compromise interior space, ride comfort and even off-road capabilities, all in pursuit of speed.
However, there’s something vastly different about the Range Rover Sport SVR. Upon first glance, and in its “Fuji White” finish, it does look fairly similar to a standard Range Rover Sport. But upon careful inspection, I realise that the SVR – the hotter version of an already brisk SUV – actually gets aggressive bumpers that delete the LED fog lamps in favour of larger intakes to cool the engine, larger vents in the fenders, humungous 45cm sports wheels, blue Brembo-brake calipers, quad-exhausts and a few subtle “SVR” badges around the exterior.
However, things start to make a little more sense once you jump into the SUV. For instance, the regular comfort seats have been exchanged for large, white leather-wrapped, racing-style bucket seats. Moreover, SVR embroidered elements and real carbon-fibre trim pieces take up much of an otherwise familiar cabin.
The interior, despite its sports frills, is still a very nice place to be. Of course, the sports seats means you’re trading in the ride comfort of the standard Sport in favour of a slightly harsher ride (but it is still comfortable). You also get Range Rover’s classic thick-rimmed steering wheel and small gear-shifter, which is quite reminiscent of the beautiful British sports cars of yesteryear. But the similarities end there: unlike any British sports car from the 20th century, this British-marquee SUV comes with a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 engine upfront, breathing out an almost unearthly 550hp and 680Nm of raw torque.
The initial tip in acceleration from a standstill is gut-wrenching because a nice chunk of the torque lies within the 2500rpm range. I could even push the car from 0-100kph in a mere 5.2 seconds (although given the right conditions it should break the 5-second mark). That’s quicker than most sports cars of today!
The steering is extremely responsive and does provide a fair amount of feedback. So, you do feel confident enough to push the vehicle into corners. It also firms up when you put the car in “Dynamic” mode. Then, it is so well-tuned, you will probably find yourself pushing the vehicles around corners at speeds you usually don’t push normal cars around at.
The SVR handles well for a vehicle that tips the scales at 2.2 tonnes. Given the right set of skills, you could actually powerslide the SVR. But pushing the vehicle with the traction control on does reveal a slight hint of understeer, which is characteristic of front-engine cars with active four-wheel-drive systems and wide tyres. Mind you, the understeer isn’t as drastic as that of some of its rivals from Germany, though, and lifting off the throttle should bring the car back into line.
The large Brembo brakes are excellent, too. However, they do require a little getting used to, especially due to the way they retard speed. Get it wrong and you’ll find yourself stopping way before your mark. They really are that powerful!
But, the party-piece of the SUV has to be the “Active Exhaust” system. A simple push of the button opens up a set of valves in the exhaust to reveal the true identity of the SUV. I actually found myself driving with the exhausts on full blast. They even crackle and pop like those of a sports coupe.
It’s all very soulful. It’s almost like the car has a heart of its own. Creating the Range Rover Sport SVR has to be one of Land Rover’s greatest achievements to date. And credit has to go to the guys at the “Special Vehicle Operations” department at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) who have tinkered around with an already capable SUV (and maybe even pushed the laws of physics) to create what they have, today.
In my eyes, Range Rovers have always been the pioneers of SUVs: they are extremely illustrious off-road and just as capable on-road. But with the SVR, they’ve gone one step further. They’ve created a vehicle that can go off-road, prowl around the streets, and when the time comes, ace race tracks. This has to be the best all-rounder of all-time. I wouldn’t mind going as far as saying that this is the best SUV that I have ever driven. I’ve really fallen in love with the SVR and I desperately want one.