Push the de rigueur start button, located high atop the leather-covered dash, and the silence is broken. Actually, it isn’t broken; it’s blown to smithereens. Forget silence: Whatever you were listening to — the noisy ministrations of New York City sanitation professionals, the sound of trust-funders’ wailing preschoolers, the clanging racket of a pile driver building luxury condos –- all the morning sounds of Manhattan’s SoHo are obliterated by the ripping blast of evil intent that greets occupants and those in the general vicinity of the new 550-horsepower 2015 Range Rover Sport SVR when ignition is ordered.
We sampled the 2015 Range Rover Sport SVR — the first product of Jaguar Land Rover’s bespoke Special Operations, er, operation — on a trip to the track at Monticello, N.Y., up from Greenwich Street, New York City, and the very downtown Hotel Hugo. If you want to jump to the end of this review, it is that sound we’ll remember most. Think race car. Which it’s not. We know, we’ve driven it on the track: great for its weight and height and plenty fast, but not a real race car.
Not that the SVR doesn’t look the part. For a hearty $30,480 on top of the $80,990 you’ve forked over for the Range Rover Sport Supercharged, you would expect that. Beyond the SVR’s supercharged-eight’s 40 additional horsepower and 41 lb-ft increase in torque (to 502 lb-ft) and past the blue front Brembos of stupendous size, you’d have to figure you were getting some conspicuous interior mods such as race-style seats and an honest dose of body-kit-special-paint-big-pimp-race-style for your money. If there was any doubt, our test car, rolling on special 21-inch SVR wheels and massive 275/55 Continentals, was finished in Estoril Blue, an additional $1,800 way of more surely imprinting upon onlookers its robust message of cashed-up swagger.
JLR emphasizes that its hi-po highway star is still fully capable off-road. The automaker made this case on an admittedly tame off-road demonstration course it had built adjacent to the Monticello Motoring Club’s paved track, which we’d also experience. And what you get with the SVR is decidedly more oriented to the road. This is reflected in its performance — 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, top speed of 162 mph electronically governed — and in more vulnerable body kit, with special spoilers and bumpers fetchingly painted to match a contrasting color roof but which move approach and departure angles, so critical to off-roading, in the wrong direction. And where are those air-conditioned seats?
As you might hope, the 2015 Range Rover Sport SVR handles really well for such a big thing. It’s a model of refinement when tearing up the highway, the quiet inside making it only the latest hide-swathed antithesis of the din one experienced driving any Series Land Rover back in the day on any improved surface anywhere. But step into its supercharged 550-horsepower V-8 and you are startled again — first-time, every time — by an exhaust note that, thanks to a two-stage active exhaust, compares in malevolence to the stentorian bellow of a B-29. The most sporty of Range Rovers tears the aural fabric, just like hotted-up Jaguar relations that share this engine, then shreds that fabric to fine bits. Floor the SVR once underway and it bypasses mild and heads straight for wild, with a sound that coaxes you into revisiting its quad-piped hot-rod glory over and over again.
Welcome then the first Land Rover product to deploy the SVR moniker. It is what Land Rover calls “the most dynamically focused Land Rover ever.” It might well be that, although it could be argued that nothing equipped for serious off-roading gains focus by adding more horsepower, torque, and vulnerable body kit. Viewed through rational eyes, the SVR is, at least arguably, ridiculous. But you can’t blame Special Operations.
This is no GMC Syclone or AMG Gelandewagen, a cob of a truck with a chassis from the Mesozoic Era and more horsepower than sense. With body structure constructed entirely of aluminum, SVRs recently circled the Nurburging in eight minutes, 14 seconds, which make them only a tick slower than Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo S — the vehicle most clearly in Land Rover’s crosshairs. Silly as Special Operations concedes it might seem, the team will probably be back at the ’Ring soon, looking to shave a few more seconds off as it tries to gain, however temporarily, the sporty SUV crown. This may be an absurd achievement, but surely there are dumber things than this car.
Besides, if you’re prepared to hand over a hair more than $125,000 for an SUV, or indeed any car, chances are rationality isn’t at the top of your shopping checklist. So you well might also opt for the 1,700-watt Meridian Signature audio system ($4,150) or adaptive cruise control ($1,295). You’d probably want to carbon fiber things up with the $2,300 interior veneer package and $2,000 carbon-fiber engine cover of our test car. There’s a market for these things and the way the people at JLR see it, they’d be fools not to cater to it. When someone comes in and wants to buy the “best” Range Rover Sport there is, that person can buy the 2015 Range Rover Sport SVR. Making it a win-win for both customers, who can be satisfied that they’ve bought the most exciting Range Rover Sport, and for the company, which in the case of our tester can take pride in having added more than $45,000 to this already expensive model’s basic sticker, a whopping percentage of which premium will go straight to elevating its bottom line.
Fast and racy SUVs are in general a bad idea in our book. Why make vehicles designed to go off-road and too fast on-road when the laws of physics are so strongly not on their side? But as bad ideas go, the 2015 Range Rover Sport SVR is a rather good one. It sounds great and goes very well, indeed. Meanwhile, it ought to make lots of money for the company — and that’s the special-est operation of all.
2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR Specifications
- Base price: $111,470
- Engine: 5.0L supercharged DOHC 32-valve V-8/550 hp @ 6,000-6,500 rpm, 502 lb-ft @ 2,500-5,500 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, 4WD SUV
- EPA Mileage: 14/19 mpg city/hwy
- L x W x H: 191.0 x 78.1 x 70.1-72.6 in
- Wheelbase: 115.1 in
- Cargo Room: 62.2 cu ft (behind 1st row); 27.7 cu ft (behind 2nd row); 17.3 cu ft (under luggage cover)
- Towing Capacity: 7,716 lb
- Weight: 5,148 lb
- 0-60 mph: 4.5 sec