LAND Rover, a brand born in the English countryside and built up over decades around the all-terrain ethos, is now talking Nurburgring lap times. Madness, surely.
Well, that’s what I felt during laps of the Monticello racetrack west of New York at the Range Rover Sport SVR launch. I was laughing out loud. Like a loon.
How on earth can a 2.3-tonne brick on wheels that stands 1.8m tall lap the world’s toughest racetrack – the ’Ring – in less time than a Honda NSX? Faster even than a Porsche Cayman S?
I mean, I know how: Tyres and thunder. And two decades of automotive development.
The SVR rides on 22-inch wheels and tyres that grip like a gator – try getting snow chains for those – and a monstrous 5.0-litre supercharged V8 that surely can move mountains. Or move you over mountains, at least.
It even gets a thundering bi-modal exhaust to ensure all that pesky mountain wildlife gets outta the way when you’re doing 0-100km/h runs in 4.7 seconds.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Four-wheel drives like the Range Rover Sport and its Discovery kin have for a long time sold on the power of dreams. The dream of one day going off the beaten track, safe in the knowledge that your big SUV, which in reality will spend its entire life firmly rooted on the bitumen, can deliver that dream.
Now the big SUV fantasy appears to have swung completely the other way.
What if I dream of lapping the Nurburgring in 8min 14sec? Will your SUV realise that dream? This one will. (And, as of January this year, a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S will, too – 7min 59sec – but we’re not talking about that here.)
The fact that you’ll murder those expensive 22-inch Continentals and possibly toast those dinner-plate Brembo brakes in one lap seemingly doesn’t matter. Nor does the fact you’ll probably empty the entire 107-litre tank before making it back to the pits. But, hey; dream the dream, bro!
To demonstrate this bizarre duality of purpose, Land Rover asked us to drive through the muddy woods around Monticello.
Then – after a quick bath to clean the mud from the SVR’s nether regions – we hit the racetrack for a few quick ones.
And, of course, the Range Rover Sport SVR lapped it all up.
It didn’t feel particularly thrilling to be belting this behemoth over ripple strips, or whipping it through the bends. Despite sports-tuned air suspension, it leans a fair bit, although more supportive sports leather seats do their best to counteract a claimed 1.3g
cornering force and keep you behind the wheel. It also dives under brakes, and has a tendency to rear a bit out of corners, but so would you with a 405kW supercharged V8 bellowing at you to get a hustle on. And the steering? Let’s just say it’s effective. You turn the wheel, the car responds with an arc. Any communication of said response is purely visual.
I don’t get it. But I get why cars like it – and the Cayenne, and their M and AMG rivals from BMW and Benz – exist. Some people are very greedy. They want everything. And the Range Rover Sport SVR has, without a doubt, the biggest bandwidth of any vehicle I’ve ever driven.
It’s a very fast sports wagon, an all-terrain mauler and a luxury conveyance all-in-one. If that sounds like your ideal vehicle, then dream on.
Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Range Rover Sport SVR 5000cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, S/C 405kW @ 6500rpm 680Nm @ 3500rpm 8-speed automatic 2335kg 4.7sec (claimed) 12.8L/100km (EU) $218,500 July
Lifeless steering; leans a lot; will highlight the fact you’re rather rich Astonishing breadth of ability; sounds raucous; goes hard; luxurious
The SVR’s visual enhancements are equal parts fashion and aero: the latter has as much to do with cooling vital components like brakes as it does feeding the supercharged V8.
This tough Rangie Sport gets active roll control, which replaces anti-roll bars with hydraulic actuators that apply force in response to lateral roll. Some body roll is allowed “to maintain a natural cornering feeling”.
Range Rover has sold 500,000 Sport models since its launch in 2005. New York City is its biggest metropolitan market.
Not much opportunity for unleashing your 405kW SVR on Fifth Avenue, though.
THE Sport SVR is the first Land Rover product honed by JLR’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division.
Effectively the brand’s equivalent of AMG, SVO is planning to expand the SVR performance line with lighter and more focused flagship models. Alongside the sledgehammer SVR versions will be SVX all-terrain models with added luxury features and enhanced off-road capabilities. See this issue’s Redline news section for more details.
EVEN quicker than the Sport SVR, BMW’s most powerful M-car is also more affordable and more involving. While it lacks the Range Rover’s sense of occasion, the German car counters with a moneyno- object feel to the calibration of its systems and controls.
AMG’s ML63 replacement ups the ante from 386 to 430kW, trumping both the Sport SVR and the BMW X5M’s power outputs and oneupping them with a nine-cog auto.
Buyers get continuously variable damping, a 40:60 torque split and 0-100 in 4.2sec. Due September.