With the introduction of the 2015 Range Rover Sport SVR, Land Rover is taking on the elevated performance of its rivals with an ultrahigh-performance model of its own. The all-aluminum four-door SUV gets a standard 550-horsepower supercharged V8 along with other enhancements that make the SVR a precise and exceptionally raucous on-road companion. Better yet, the heightened level of street performance comes without unduly compromising its off-road prowess.
What Is It?
The Range Rover Sport SVR is a performance-oriented variant of the Range Rover Sport, a slightly smaller version of the flagship Range Rover. It's the sportiest Sport, in other words. More power and torque were liberated from its supercharged V8 and a firmed-up, retuned suspension has been devised. New seats and exterior bits unique to the SVR aid performance and visual differentiation.
The Sport SVR marks the first use of the SVR badge on a Land Rover. It's also the first volume-oriented product turned out by Jaguar Land Rover's newly minted performance arm, Special Vehicle Operations (SVO). SVO will serve in a capacity similar to BMW's M Division, Audi Quattro GmbH, Cadillac V and Mercedes-AMG, turning out high-performance and/or limited-production luxury-oriented variants of Jaguars and Land Rovers.
What's New Under the Hood?
Although the SVR is powered by a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 like some of the non-SVR models, the version used here gets a retuned ECU and more squeeze from its supercharger, which results in a total of 550 hp and 502 pound-feet of torque. That's 40 hp and 41 lb-ft more than the Sport Supercharged model.
Traditionally, track-testing an SUV is mostly a symbolic event, but the SVR promised more. The SVR got to 60 mph from a stop in 4.5 seconds and ran the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds at 109.5 mph. Stopping from 60 mph took 122 feet and its all-season tires howled around the skid pad for an average of 0.81g.
Thanks to the full-time four-wheel drive and eight-speed automatic transmission (the only drivetrain available) doing mid-4-second runs to 60 takes about as much effort as squashing a spider: Plant your right foot and keep it down until you think the job is done.
The transmission has lightning-fast upshifts, accompanied by the way-louder-than-anyone-expects-to-be-legal roar of the V8. It's the same internal combustion-as-theater noise the Jaguar F-Type V8 makes, but seems somehow sillier coming from a big SUV.
What Else Is New?
The SVR's keener athleticism is borne from a comprehensive fine-tuning of nearly every system on the vehicle rather than hardware changes. The SVO calibration team retuned the SUV's electronically controlled rear differential, magnetorheological dampers, brake-differential function and active stabilizer bars. The engineers also stiffened the bushings that support the rear subframe and revised the air springs' pistons. All in the name of getting this fat man to dance.
Body enhancements include a revamped front bumper that channels more air to the hungry engine, bigger hood vents, new front fenders with larger perforations (are you getting the picture here?), quad tailpipe tips, a new rear spoiler and side sill extensions. The brakes are the same six-piston units found on the Sport Supercharged, but receive new carbon-fiber ducts that direct more cooling air to them.
Our test vehicle sits on 275/45 all-season Michelin Latitude Sport tires on 21-inch wheels. Other markets will receive 22-inch wheels and optional summer tires. Someday Americans will understand the benefits of separate winter and non-winter tires. Today is not that day.
How Does It Drive?
Our initial drive of the SVR was on the smooth asphalt roads of upstate New York and a few laps around a racetrack. We had no testing equipment beyond our well-calibrated backsides. It was stellar in those conditions.
The SVR we tested here was still impressive, but it took the rips and seams of Los Angeles' highways and canyons to tease out the subtle fact that this SUV simply isn't as well sorted as those from BMW, Mercedes and Porsche.
It doesn't want to be thrown around with abandon, as the truck's mass and height will ultimately send the chassis and the stability control into lumbering fits if you do. But if you dial in your inputs smoothly, you'll run into the tire's limits well before the rest of the suspension gives way. Still, this thing hauls the mail. Coupled with the poke underhood, which never seems to run out, the SVR can swallow ground at an astonishing rate.
Downshifts are now rev-matched, but don't expect the same speed and smoothness as the Porsche PDK transmission. Try to go down two-plus gears quickly and you'd best be prepared for some lurchiness. At least the supercharged engine makes all the right V8 whomps and crackles thanks to a two-mode exhaust. It's silly and adolescent, yes, but then, this 550-hp SUV isn't about subtlety.
The ride quality hasn't been spoiled in the process. It'll round off the sharp edges well enough that it could easily serve as daily transport. Better yet, very little off-road capability has been lost in the conversion to SVR guise. The Sport SVR loses a bit of approach and departure angle owing to its deeper front and rear valances, but all the suspension travel and clearance is retained, as is the low-range transfer case. We reckon the SVR will ford rivers and climb stumps and ruts better than any other SUV in its class.
What's the Interior Like?
Because it's a sport SUV, sporty SVR-specific seats have been fitted. And while the harness holes in the front seats are cute affectation and the styling is without peer, they're just not as comfortable as those in the Supercharged. Blame stiffer padding, bigger bolsters and fatter seams on the near-perfect leather.
Other than the seats, the interior is carried over intact. Leather and carbon fiber are everywhere, and you get that characteristic upright driving position and excellent visibility.
How Much Does It Cost?
The Sport SVR commands a healthy $30,480 over the base Sport Supercharged and includes all of the features of the Autobiography trim, the 550-hp V8, 21-inch SVR wheels, SVR badges, blue brake calipers and those 14-way sport front seats.
The SVR's base price of $112,345 wasn't it, though, as our tester came with a smattering of options that drove the price to $126,360. Some standout features include a $2,000 SVR carbon-fiber engine cover, $1,800 for unique paint, $1,295 for adaptive cruise control and a whopping $4,150 for the Meridian stereo system.
What Competing Models Should You Also Consider? BMW X5 M: Its twin-turbo V8 belts out 567 hp and 553 lb-ft. Hilarity is guaranteed.
Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S 4Matic: Replacing the ML63, the GLE63 adds even more thrust to the equation, bringing the total to 577 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque. There's even a low-range transfer case available.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo: The 520-hp Cayenne is a relatively cohesive and sharp on-road-biased SUV, weighing several hundred pounds less than the others. It is also a shade more expensive.
Why Should You Consider This SUV?
If you plan on doing off-road work in your performance SUV beyond perusing a basic dirt road, the Range Rover Sport SVR has an edge among its peers. It may not deliver the last word in on-road handling prowess among its rivals, but it's no slouch there. Its unapologetically exuberant exhaust note gives it a shot of brash personality that the Germans just can't match.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
Maintaining the off-road capability that's a pillar of the Land Rover brand enacts a price on the SVR's ultimate handling limits. If you're never going off the beaten path, some of its competitors might be more to your liking. Further, the Land Rover lacks a level of comfort and sophistication offered by the others.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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