LONG BEACH, California — Not too long ago you’d get laughed at for suggesting an SUV could post an 8-minute, 14-second lap around the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Thanks to advances in modern technology, that’s not a joke, but rather the lap time posted by the Range Rover Sport SVR.
The level of effort on Land Rover’s part wasn’t even that significant, as the SVR is largely an aggressively tuned Range Rover Sport Supercharged. Chief among the changes is the supercharged 5.0-liter V-8, which is upgraded to make 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque. The extra 40 hp and 41 lb-ft are nice, but the exhaust fitted along with it is what makes everything come alive, particularly after you press the “make it loud” button on the center console.
To help manage the extra heat generated by the powertrain, the SVR is fitted with larger intakes in the front bumper, the only significant cosmetic change made; additional cooling for the six-piston Brembo front brakes that clamp down on 15.0-inch rotors is added as well. In fact, you have to look closely to see this is a special Rover. SVR badges are limited to one in the grille and one on the tailgate; the only other visual clues that there’s a steroidal engine under the hood are the rear spoiler, quad exhaust tips, and rear diffuser. It’s basically, dare we say, a sleeper.
Bury the throttle, however, and the whole neighborhood will know it’s not your banker’s Range Rover. The snarling fury intensifies rapidly as the tachometer climbs toward redline; the Sport accelerates just as rapidly, hitting 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds — before you brush that off as unimpressive, keep in mind that this is a 5,148-pound four-wheel-drive SUV that’s as capable off-road as any other Range Rover (just like you can’t have a poorly driving Porsche, you can’t have a Range Rover that can’t get dirty). The standard version doesn’t even come with summer tires, with Continental Cross Contact all-seasons being the rubber fitted to the stock 21-inch wheels. Check the box for the optional 22-inchers, though, and you’ll get Continental Sport Contact 5 performance rubber to go with them.
In normal mode, the SVR behaves largely like the RRS Supercharged, but with better baseline handling characteristics thanks to performance tuning for the air suspension, magnetorheological dampers, rear differential, torque-vectoring system, and active-roll-control system. Steering is revised as well, featuring additional weighting from the variable-ratio electric power assist system, while the eight-speed automatic returns shifts that are 50-percent quicker (it will also hold its gear through a corner and blips the throttle during downshifts).
In Dynamic mode, throttle response is sharpened, the exhaust crackles on throttle lift, and the gearbox will hold gears when shifted manually, bouncing off the rev limiter if you don’t shift up yourself, and downshifting only to prevent stalling. The combined aural experience makes the RRS SVR a hoot to blast from stoplight to stoplight. It’ll hustle through switchbacks respectably as well, but the level of fun to be had while hustling two-and-a-half high-riding tons of British luxury SUV through curves is limited. No matter how good an automaker’s engineers are, they can’t make the laws of physics take a time out.
Unlike the outside, the inside of the SVR looks and feels properly special. The carbon-fiber-trimmed, red-and-black two-tone interior makes for a sporty and youthful cabin fitting of a Range Rover custom ordered by a pro athlete. Front seats offer sporty levels of bolstering and will keep your torso in its appointed place should you decide to hit the canyons. The upholstery is part of the standard price, but the carbon fiber will separate you from an additional $2,300.
For those times when the V-8’s snarl is not the desired soundtrack, the optional 1,700-watt Meridian Signature audio system will fill your ears with as much aural pleasure as they desire — or blow your eardrums out, whichever comes first. It adds an eye-popping $4,450 to the price, so if you’re not an audiophile and are not paid like a European footballer, the standard 825-watt Meridian audio system will probably suffice.
The one area where the RRS SVR is truly lacking is presence. The need to maintain Range Rover’s signature off-road capability means an aggressive factory body kit wasn’t going to happen, and the subtle cosmetic modifications do nothing to make it stand out more than a standard Range Rover Sport. It’s up to you if this is a good or bad thing. Fortunately, there are plenty of aftermarket offerings out there to spice up your SVR if you so choose. Regardless, if you absolutely need to get through the OHV park as fast as possible, this Range Rover is an excellent choice.
2016 Range Rover Sport SVR Specifications
|PRICE||$112,345/$123,532 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||5.0L supercharged DOHC 32-valve V-8/550 hp @ 6,000-6,500 rpm, 502 lb-ft @ 2,500-5,500 rpm|
|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 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.5 sec|
|TOP SPEED||162 mph|