It would be fair to say that the Range Rover Sport SVR - Gaydon's 2.5 tonne, 174mph SUV - polarizes opinion a fair bit. More than a little bit, if we're honest. The model is as divisive as a cheese and pickle sandwich made from a hot cross bun. To some it's a compelling combination of must-haves. For others it borders on anti-social, being thought not only too fast, too heavy, too noisy and too expensive - but also, that most heinous of crimes, being too vulgar as well.
I'll admit to some sympathy for anyone who has arrived at the disdainful end of the spectrum. Questioning the 'appropriateness' of a popular and profitable car is entirely redundant from a business point of view, of course - yet there's no doubt either that Land Rover (or more specifically, its newly formed Special Vehicle Operations wing) fashioned the original SVR to be a particularly unapologetic and in-your-face prospect. Why? Because that was the salient lesson taught to it by both the aftermarket industry and the in-house German tuning divisions that informed its creation.
In updating the model, SVO has hardly backed off the conceptual pedal marked 'loud'. In fact, if anything, it has doubled down on the excess theme. Where once there was 550hp from the 5.0-litre supercharged V8, there is now 575hp - meaning that the Range Rover Sport now receives the engine in the same state of tune as the F-Type SVR and the XJR 575. There's more torque, too: 516lb ft of it. Brass tacks, it'll now do 0-60mph in 4.3 seconds and very nearly crack 175mph.
What it can't do - or won't - is keep a low profile. As standard, the car gets 21-inch wheels clad in road-bias Continental tyres; the car we drove featured the optional 22-inch set. Endeavouring to remove some weight from the car, Land Rover has fitted it with its first carbon fibre composite bonnet, which is very laudable - when body coloured. The exposed, £6,225 gloss finish version seen here though? Not so much. Ditto the paint jobs called 'Velocity' and 'Madagascar'. Or the trim pack which festoons the car with numerous other (much less significant) carbon fibre 'finishers'.
These will continue inside if you get the box ticking all wrong. Elsewhere in the updated cabin you'll find the impossibly glossy twin screen arrangement that premiered in the Velar (bringing with it much the same Monopoly board of changeable functions) as well as some new front seats that are apparently 30kg lighter than those they replaced. Stick with the standard black leather trim and the latest interior is mostly impeccable though. Much like the last one.
It sounds much as did before, too. Which is to say enormous and earth-shattering. The shameless SVR snarl, elicited from what you'll assume is a dozen tailpipes, ought to be familiar by now but still prompts a bewildered shake of the head. Followed by an additional, confirmative prod of the accelerator for good measure. Do this once more with the eight-speed ZF automatic finally engaged and the car sails forward, feeling about as heedful of its weight as a large helium balloon.
The quality of the throttle response has been a preoccupation of Gaydon's, and it's the first iron-clad reminder of what you tend to forget about the SVR when removed from it for a while; namely that it drives - and there really is no question or doubt about this - sublimely well. There are several facets to this, not least the relentlessly biddable V8, but the most notable virtue of the latest version is just how consummately it now rides.
In this regard there seems to have been noticeable improvement. Its predecessor made a fair fist of difficult ground, but there was no escaping the fact of its firmer approach, delivered by new pistons for the air springs and tougher bushes. Now though, and somehow without any discernible sacrificing of body control, the Mk2 SVR could almost be said to glide. Not, obviously, in the lazy-river manner of a full-size Range Rover, but rather in the pleasantly supple yet solid way a very well damped performance saloon goes about its business.
According to SVO, the pursuit of enhanced comfort was a target for the Range Rover Sport's update across the board, and has been partly achieved in the SVR's case by a better differentiation between the chassis's comfort and dynamic settings. Whatever the reason, its ground covering ability at seven tenths - and on 22-inch wheels remember - has been elevated to a level where its honestly hard to think of a rival of any stripe that makes a better or more satisfying job of UK roads.
Certainly it means that the car is capable of indulging its driver at almost any speed. Its immaculate step-off and physics-defying get away make light work of town driving - a useful asset when you're fleeing startled pensioners and crying babies - and while its brand of long-travel buoyancy is kept strictly in check compared to the standard model, there's still just enough waft plumbed into the height-adjustable chassis to make the SVR considerably less wearing to drive over long distances than practically anything else outputting close to 600hp.
The Land Rover has no qualms about deploying the power either. Naturally it pitches back slightly under duress - more so than a Porsche Cayenne - but it surges explosively forward too, typically accompanied by an involuntary chortle from your inner nine-year-old. The steering isn't exactly what you'd call communicative, although it's so viscous and accurate that you don't tend to notice - not least because you rarely approach the SVR's handling limit; its unlikely combination of size, speed and (under braking) heft being the limiting factor of any sane driver's decision-making.
Instead, even when gifted sufficient time and space, you tend to dip into the car's massive performance only periodically - which, if anything, makes the roundedness and directional certainty you find at speed even more enlivening. The car's endearing habit of pivoting around its middle under throttle appears to have been made the preserve of the stiffer, pointier dynamic mode, yet even when kept in comfort the absence of any aloofness (of the sort common among its heavy, high-sided rivals) is surely the SVR's overriding triumph. In its reactions, roll-resistance, balance and grip, it aligns almost exactly with your loftiest expectations for what a very fast Range Rover should be about.
Its weapons-grade achievement in this regard is so compelling that any misgivings about the SVR expressed while getting in are squashed flat after only ten minutes or so of actual driving. In terms of fulfilling its niche, it's almost certainly the best car Land Rover makes. Possibly JLR, too. Of course it starts at £99,680, and will struggle to ever meet the 22.1mpg that Gaydon has claimed for it, but the first generation model has already proven those numbers a mere formality. The follow-up SVR is arguably no more tasteful to look at, listen to or even think about. But it is objectively better. And, believe me, that's good enough.
|Range Rover Sport SVR - Specifications
||4,999cc, V8 supercharged
||8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
|Torque (lb ft)
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