The Range Rover Sport SVR is the ultimate expression of performance and luxury in a fully fledged off-road vehicle. But the fact it can tackle a racetrack with ease and cross the Simpson Desert without breaking a sweat is no accident. Jaguar Land Rover’s SVO division has some pretty good tricks up its sleeve.
If you’ve ever heard the name “John S. Holler”, then you’ve either done some serious research, or you know a lot about Swiss army knives.
You see, Holler was a cutlery producer. A very good one, mind you, and he thought that showing his wares overseas, away from his native Germany, would be a good way to get his company’s name out there.
New York seemed like the ideal place. But how do you get people to notice you? You put something in the store window.
Holler designed the world’s first, and most expensive, multi-tool. It was to outshine even the greatest Swiss Army knives.
With dozens of uses (including a proper, working pistol), the Holler multi-tool can even be seen today, on display at the Smithsonian Institute. And now, Range Rover has created the automotive version of that famous creation.
The very first Range Rover Sport came out just over a decade ago, and it did for the brand what the Cayenne did for Porsche. Despite having excellent off-road skills the name meant that it was also able to handle. It used a modified version of the Discovery’s platform but was much more agile.
However, its weight still, ahem, weighed it down. Which is why the switch to aluminum for this current generation was welcome. It’s now bigger in every dimension, yet lighter, by almost 1000 lbs. That’s enough to reduce its inertia when handling, creating an even more lithe vehicle.
And then, Jaguar Land Rover’s SVO division (Special Vehicle Operations) was given free reign to create something even more special. The goal of SVO was to give the Range Rover Sport even more ability. Off-road it didn’t need it, so the goal was to turn it into a Cayenne Turbo rival.
For the most part, the Range Rover Sport SVR, as it’s known, has succeeded. Sure, it’s never going to match the Cayenne in outright speed – it’s far too big for that – but getting from 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds isn’t exactly slow.
Where the Sport SVR really makes itself known is its sound. There has never been another SUV which sounds like the world’s strongest blacksmith. With a note that mimics a cannon crossed with a hammer hitting an anvil, it’s angry. Very angry.
Adding to this is the fuel cut, which gives the Sport SVR a distinctive whump every time you change up using paddle shifter. But put away the red mist for a while and the SVR can be very civilised.
Open the front doors and you’ll find a typical Range Rover interior. That means a cabin filled with lots of metal, leather and, in this case, real carbon-fibre trim. It’s all been put together with precision, but the seats are very different from what you’d expect.
Not that they’re bad – they’re very comfortable – but because they’re race buckets, it doesn’t look quite right in a Range Rover. Who cares, though, when they feel this good.
Sure, most people will focus on the engine and its tremendous noise, however, the cabin is a very nice place to spend some time. And you’ll be glad you do spend time there, thanks to an excellent Meridian stereo, and crisp climate control.
It’s also quite practical, too, with massive cargo space, door pockets which flip out and various storage space dotted around the interior.
And while the SVR has been lowered more than the regular Range Rover Sport, it still gets air suspension and the ride is very impressive indeed. Sure, it’s a bit stiffer than the standard Sport, however it’s still more comfortable than even a Lexus LX with the same size wheels (22-inch).
Put the SVR into Dynamic and it lowers again, creating a very sports-car-like feel, yet in Auto mode, it feels just like a Range Rover should – pliable, comfortable and, above all, regal (Not that there’s anything regal about that Stormtrooper body kit).
The auto suits the split-personality of the Range Rover Sport SVR, which is able to offer smooth shifts between ratios, or a more sudden, short shift which feels quite solid. It all depends on the drive mode you’ve chosen, and it never puts a foot wrong.
We’re also impressed by the steering, which isn’t light like other Range Rovers. Instead, it offers real-world feedback and you know exactly where and what the wheels are doing with your fingertips. It’s smooth and offers a good turn-in for a vehicle of this size.
And yet, even with that race-track focussed ability, this SUV is perfectly capable of heading off-road. And that’s what makes it so appealing.
It has a proper low-range transfer gearbox, has a full-time all-wheel-drive system, is equipped with locking diffs, and Land Rover’s renowned Terrain Response system which uses various programs to lock and unlock diffs and activate stability control to seek out more grip.
It’s a very effective setup and puts crossovers with sporting pretensions to shame. Of course, you do have to watch out for those wheels if you’re climbing mountains, but it will do it, no questions asked.
When creating the Sport SVR, you get the feeling that the engineers and designers at Land Rover sat down with a checklist. Stylish? Tick. Powerful? Tick. Comfortable? Tick. Capable? Double tick.
It’s definitely gunning for the title of the most purposeful vehicle ever created.
Able to go from the racetrack in the morning to the outback in the afternoon, the Range Rover Sport SVR’s breadth of ability is astonishing. This car is better than any Swiss Army knife. Better than Holler’s display knife, too.