When the current generation Range Rover Sport was launched two years ago, it represented a giant leap forward for the model compared to its predecessor.
It reduced its weight by as much as 400kg, thanks to the extensive use of aluminium construction, which brought major improvements in fuel consumption and overall dynamics. Now the manufacturer has added a more sporting model to the range in the form of the SVR, from its Special Vehicle Operations division, a wing of the company responsible for making bespoke luxury, performance and capability items for its vehicles. The Range Rover SV Autobiography and the Range Rover Sport SVR are the first models to come from the specialist division, as well as the recently unveiled armoured Range Rover Sentinel. We will also see the name on some Jaguar products, too, but that is a topic for another day.
It is evident the designers wanted to give the Range Rover Sport SVR a more aggressive and authoritative look to distinguish it as the flagship variant. For starters, the grille is finished in a gloss black honeycomb design, as is the larger lower valance (replete with the SVR motif) and equally bigger air vents. These give it a much sportier look than the standard Sport variant, although I would have preferred a slightly sportier set of wheels than the ones shod on our test car. It is the rear that enjoys the most significant changes, as well quad exhaust pipes that look big enough to spew out an entire Range Rover Evoque.
More changes come in the form of the interior, which has sporty bucket front and rear seats, replete with SVR embossing, while the rest of the cabin is festooned in carbon fibre and it has an Alcantara roof lining. The form hugging seats add a hint of sportiness, while the seating position itself is fairly good and rather comfortable. Under the bonnet still sits the 5.0l V8 supercharged engine that puts out 405kW (as opposed to 375kW in standard guise) and 680Nm versus 625Nm. All that power is transferred to all four corners of the vehicle via an eight-speed gearbox.
The engine itself has a great deal of character in that it fires to life in a manner not dissimilar to a pride of lions roaring in unison. This is even before the exhaust flaps button has been depressed, but push the said button and blip the throttle, particularly in an underground parking garage, and you would be hard pressed to believe that an SUV and not a sportscar would emit such a glorious rumble. While the exhaust flaps could be kept closed, I had them open as my default setting, even when pottering about town. It is the sort of noise that engulfs the entire cabin even under partial engine load. On the road with the suspension settings Set to auto, the model drives in a similar manner to the Sport variant, which means comfortable ride quality despite the low-profile tyres.
Mash the throttle from standstill and what truly impresses is the instantaneous throttle response as it roars ahead, leaving all and sundry in its wake. Switch the vehicle into dynamic mode on the Terrain Response System, and both the suspension and steering wheel assume a sportier setup. Straight line performance remains impressive, but I am not sure it can do enough to show the BMW X6M a clean pair of heels. It does, at times, feel a little ungainly, something that is also evident around corners, but the engineers have done well to make the vehicle dynamic without foregoing any of its off-road ability.
That said, the SVR is entertaining to drive briskly and that exhaust as it roars, splutters and pops in equal measure is addictive. It is easily the best sounding SUV in its segment. While performance SUVs in general are considered to be rather pointless, the Range Rover Sport SVR and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo can redeem themselves as having a dual purpose with genuine on and off-road ability. If there was one criticism I would level at the model is that it needs a more flamboyant wheel design to go with rest of the package, and the brakes could be a touch sharper to counter the combination of speed and weight.
That aside, it is intriguing to see that the company has decided to bring such an unapologetic, totally bonkers and fiendishly sounding vehicle to the market. Unlike some of its rivals, the Range Rover Sport SVR Manages to be all things to all people looking for a performance oriented, yet capable SUV. But If I were buying a dual purpose, high-performance SUV though, I am not sure It would tempt me away from the Cayenne. (Speak for yourself — Ed.)
*This article first appeared on Business Day Motor News
Engine: Supercharged V8 4, 997cc
Power: 405kW at 6,000r/min
Torque: 680Nm at 2,500r/min
0-100km/h: 4.7 seconds
Top Speed: 260km/h
Fuel Consumption: 13.8l/ 10 0 k m
CO2 Emission: 322g/km
Warranty: Three-year/unlimited km; Service Plan: Three-year/unlimited km
Lease*: R41,404 per month