It’s quick, certainly… but only for an SUV
I always find it a great comfort when I discover my view of a car is at significant variance to that of most industry colleagues.
I think I am supposed to fear I might have misjudged the car, but rather arrogantly I don’t: instead I am reassured that my mind remains capable of independence.
And so it is with this new Range Rover Sport SVR, a car that has been so praised by my peers it risks total submersion in a sea of purple prose.
It is Land Rover’s most sporting model to date and the first production car to come from JLR’s Special Operations department, a better-late-than-never rival to BMW’s ‘M’, Mercedes’ AMG and Audi’s Quattro GmbH. It’s fitted with the most powerful version of the company’s supercharged 5-litre, raising power from the standard supercharged Range Rover Sport’s 503bhp to 542bhp. It has a stronger transmission, too, which means Land Rover no longer has to restrict torque in lower gears, and firmer suspension. Interestingly, though, there is no perceived need for additional braking power. Visually there is the inevitable suite of embellishments to the bumpers, lights, wheels and skirts, aimed at carving the car an individual identity without going to the expense of changing sheet metal.
What the SVR undoubtedly achieves is access to the club comprising the world’s fastest SUVs, whose members already include the likes of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and the BMW X5M. The British car not only looks better than either, but sounds it too. And because it uses a supercharger rather than turbos, it is more responsive. Yes, it’s hideously thirsty, but what owner of a car like this is really going to care?
As for its handling, I was genuinely impressed by how fast a car of this size and immense weight (2.3 tonnes) could cover the ground. It clings on doggedly in the corners and, while there’s not much feel from the steering, it’s probably no worse than either the Porsche or BMW in this regard.
So what’s not to like? Three things, the first applying equally to all superfast SUVs. And that is that they are only superfast by the standards of other SUVs: ultimately they’re not that quick at all. Would it surprise you to learn, for instance, that this Range Rover Sport’s power to weight ratio is only a touch better than that of a base Golf R? And because it is almost an entire tonne heavier, in the real world the SVR would not see which way the Golf went on a give-and-take road.
My second issue is that the Range Rover Sport’s ride is now a lot less lovely than it was, in my view a price too high for such a qualified level of additional dynamism.
My biggest concern, though, is the absence of third-row seating, because of what I am told are back axle loading issues. That destroys one of the car’s key class USPs. Moreover, so heavily bolstered are the rear chairs that while it has five seat belts, it is actually no better than a four-seater for all bar the shortest journeys.
So for all the SVR add-ons, this new variant takes away more. I am on record as saying the Sport is my favourite large SUV and nothing here changes that.
But were I choosing one, it is to the truly effortless, sumptuously comfortable and far cheaper V8 diesel version that I would turn.
Engine: 5.0 litres, 8 cylinders, supercharged
Power: [email protected]
Torque: 501lb [email protected]
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Top speed: 162mph