On a recent trip to the United States, we had the opportunity to lay our hands on the most powerful Range Rover Sport ever produced: the SVR. We started our journey from New York and ended up in New Jersey. After our first drive of Land Rover's latest SUV, we found out that it was just as capable at conquering corners as it was gulping throughout the mud and the dirt of an off-road trail. We jumped out to the Monticello Motor Club race track, where both on-road circuit and off-road trails were scheduled!
The story behind the Range Rover Sport SVR
The Range Rover Sport SVR has been created by Jaguar Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations team and will be built alongside existing models and sold through the Land Rover dealer network. Range Rover Sport SVR - designed, engineered and built in Britain - amplifies the engineering integrity, robustness and attention to detail that are Land Rover hallmarks.
In initial tests, Land Rover's most dynamic SUV has lapped Germany's legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife racetrack in 8 minutes 14 seconds, one of the fastest times ever recorded by a standard production SUV. The new SVR unleashes the full potential of the Range Rover Sport's lightweight and robust all aluminum architecture, while retaining the refinement, luxury and off-road capability for which Range Rover is world-renowned.
At the Range Rover Sport SVR's heart lies an evolution of the all aluminum 5000cc supercharged V8 engine with its cast-iron cylinder liners and cross-bolted main bearing caps providing a combination of strength, performance and refinement. The engineers at Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations have carefully optimized the Bosch management system and retuned the supercharger's electronic bypass valve to increase maximum boost pressure during high performance driving, while retaining the V8 engine's exceptional flexibility for off-road versatility and effortless on-road acceleration.
Power and torque increase by a substantial 40PS and 56Nm to 550PS and 680Nm, giving the SVR a 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 260km/h where conditions allow.
The Range Rover Sport SVR's unique design enhancements also contribute: larger air intakes in the front bumper increase airflow to the two charge air coolers. This reduces the temperature of pressurized air generated by the supercharger before it enters the engine, maintaining excellent performance even in extreme conditions.
A solid platform provided by the aluminum monocoque, along with uprated suspension and firmer bushings, has allowed Land Rover engineers to further increase the incredibly potent engine's responses. Once the driver lifts off the throttle, for instance, the air-charge is reduced far more quickly than in existing Range Rover Sport derivatives, leading to an instant response for greater driver engagement. In Dynamic mode, these characteristics are intensified thanks to sharper throttle response and more incisive gearshift logic. In addition, the fuel supply is no longer cut on the overrun, creating a characterful crackle through the exhaust.
The SVR's fuel economy and CO2 emissions are unaffected by the extra performance and remain identical to the V8 Supercharged derivative at 12.8 L/100km and 325g/km. This is due to the engine's advanced and highly efficient design characteristics, which include: class-leading levels of low internal friction; high pressure direct injection with a centrally mounted, multi-hole, spray-guided injection system; dual independent variable camshaft timing (VCT); and an advanced intelligent Stop/Start system that shuts down the engine at idle and restarts it when the driver releases the brake.
The Range Rover Sport SVR's smooth and responsive 8 speed ZF 8HP70 automatic transmission has been optimized for additional performance.
The transmission is controlled via either steering wheel-mounted paddleshift controls, or the gear lever. Drivers can default to full automatic mode, make occasional manual interventions, or push the gear lever to the left to gain manual control. In manual mode, gear changes are made via the paddleshift controls, or by pushing the gear lever forwards for downshifts and pulling back for upshifts, echoing the shift logic of racing cars.
In Dynamic mode, the shift strategy is further intensified: the transmission will not upshift at the redline and only downshift to prevent engine stalling.
The Range Rover Sport SVR has been engineered to deliver the incredible breadth of capability for which Land Rover is famous. The SVR is fitted with permanent four wheel drive and a two speed transfer case, with a low-range option for demanding terrain and a 50/50 percent torque split front-to-rear.
Optimum traction is maintained with the aid of an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch in the center differential, which distributes torque between the front and rear axles - up to 100 percent can be channeled to either axle in extreme conditions. Sophisticated electronic traction-control systems further contribute to the trademark Land Rover capability.
The transfer case offers selectable low- and high-range, using a two-speed fully synchronized ‘shift on the move' system which allows the driver to change between the two at up to 60km/h for exceptional flexibility. High range provides a direct drive ratio of 1:1, while the low-range ratio is 2.93:1, providing an extremely low crawl speed.
To further optimize traction and stability the SVR's Dynamic Active Rear Locking Differential has been recalibrated. The differential now locks earlier and to an increased extent, satisfying performance minded drivers and ensuring torque is transferred to the rear wheel with most traction, increasing agility.
Torque Vectoring by Braking is also uniquely recalibrated. It uses the car's brake system to imitate the effect of a torque-vectoring differential, constantly balancing the distribution of engine torque between the four wheels during cornering, for improved grip and steering, and reduced understeer.
The system monitors the vehicle 100 times per second via the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) module. As the car accelerates through a corner, the system uses yaw sensors to detect the beginning of understeer. Imperceptible levels of braking are then used to correct the vehicle attitude, while engine torque is transferred to the outside wheels, which have more grip, thus maintaining traction and steering control.
Designed exclusively by Jaguar Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations (SVO), the Range Rover Sport SVR makes a strong visual statement, courtesy of a wide range of enhancements. These include a new front bumper with muscular trapezoidal air intakes, dark Range Rover script on the clamshell bonnet, which also features revised bonnet vents, and a new grille in a dark finish that contrasts with the headlights' striking LED signature graphics. At the side of the vehicle, an all new aluminum fender panel incorporates a distinctive new design of fender vent, while unique side moldings add further muscularity. At the rear, prominent Range Rover Sport SVR badging and a pronounced high level spoiler with an eye-catching centrally mounted brake light signal the vehicle's sporting intent. The unique rear bumper features a gloss black diffuser, which incorporates the SVR's unique quad exhaust pipes, instantly differentiating this high performance derivative.
New wheel arch extensions contain the optional 22 inch multi-spoke alloy wheels, creating a muscular, broad-shouldered stance to complement the extra performance and handling capability.
Many of the design revisions enhance the SVR's high performance capability. The larger air intakes in the front bumper create additional airflow for the charge air coolers that channel air to the powerful 550PS supercharged engine.
The new rear spoiler reduces lift, and has been carefully balanced with the new front bumper. Beneath the front bumper a new NVH comb is fitted, which reduces wind noise to ensure maximum occupant refinement and further improves aerodynamic efficiency. It also reduces front-end lift to ensure the front tires retain high levels of grip during enthusiastic driving. The deeper front bumper's more aggressive lower section can also be removed for extreme off-roading.
Additional brake cooling has also been introduced for the six-piston Brembo brake setup, ensuring optimal stopping power.
A choice of seven color palettes is available, including the striking Estoril Blue, exclusive to the Range Rover Sport SVR.
A Santorini Black contrast roof is available as standard equipment and combines with body-color side moldings to emphasize the SVR's squat, muscular stance.
Meanwhile, exterior trim detailed in High Gloss Black and Stealth Pack headlights with black casings round-off the design enhancements, creating a premium impression and a visually imposing road presence.
Inside, Jaguar Land Rover's Special Vehicle Operations has strikingly differentiated the SVR from other derivatives, thanks to distinctive leather sports seats more typically found in high performance cars. These comfortable seats offer additional lateral support during spirited driving.
Full 16-way electric adjustment is offered and the vehicle's Sports Command Driving Position and generous rear legroom are unaffected.
The sporting theme continues with the rear seats, which have been completely redesigned to echo the performance-oriented front seats. The result is an eye-catching four seat aesthetic, with space for an occasional fifth passenger. The new rear seats recline for maximum comfort and offer full 60/40 folding capability and up to 1761 liters of load space.
The seats are finished in luxurious Windsor leather with ribbed, quilted centers, Ebony Black top stitching, eye-catching reflective piping, and all feature the Range Rover Sport SVR logo. Four striking interior colorways are available: Ebony Black; Ebony Black and Cirrus White; Ebony Black and Pimento Red; Ebony Black and Tan.
As standard, the vehicle is supplied with turned aluminum interior trim details, but owners can specify carbon fiber trim for the door panels, center console, dashboard and steering wheel bezel.
The exhaust sound of the SVR
In a first for Land Rover, the Range Rover Sport SVR is equipped with a two-stage active exhaust featuring electronically controlled valves. The system optimizes sound quality, performance and aesthetics.
The new exhaust features larger diameter underfloor pipes - up from 55mm in the Supercharged V8 to 60mm - for enhanced flow characteristics. This is just one of the measures used to help the highly tuned V8 power plant achieve its staggering 550PS output. Quad exhaust pipes protruding from a redesigned rear bumper visually differentiate the top-of-the-range premium SUV from other Range Rover Sport derivatives.
A new racecar-like soundtrack audibly distinguishes the Range Rover Sport SVR, with a purposeful, modulated pulsing at lighter throttle openings combined with a higher frequency, increasingly urgent staccato sound as peak performance is unleashed.
Crucially, the electronically controlled active valves largely eliminate exhaust flow noise, creating pure engine sound through to peak engine revs. This is not possible with passive valves.
At lower revs, the electronically controlled valves close off two tailpipes for maximum refinement. As engine speed and load increases - typically around 3000rpm - the valves open, allowing greater flow through all four exhaust pipes and increasing the volume and quality of the acoustics without introducing an abrupt change of character. A symposer further enriches sound quality, filtering desirable induction noise into the cabin.
Together with bespoke engine tuning that cuts the air charge far more quickly when the driver lifts off the throttle, the new exhaust also creates a pronounced crackle on the overrun for an even more vivid driving experience.
The driver can select a quiet mode, whatever the engine speed. The new active exhaust system has been designed to ensure the Range Rover Sport SVR's outstanding off-road performance is unaffected should owners decide to exploit its 850mm wading capability.
The Range Rover Sport has been praised for its high levels of comfort and extremely agile handling. The SVR takes that capability to the next level courtesy of extensive development on British B-roads, derestricted autobahns and the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
The result is a chassis that provides tighter body control, higher cornering velocities and an increased sense of connection to the road. Indeed, peak cornering g-force has increased from 1.1g in the V8 Supercharged to 1.3g, a pronounced improvement easily detected by performance minded drivers. Yet the Range Rover Sport SVR retains exceptional levels of on-road comfort and class-leading off-road capability.
• Enhanced suspension and steering
Land Rover engineers have tuned the Range Rover Sport SVR's chassis for enhanced agility. Constructed mainly from lightweight aluminum components, the suspension is fully independent and double-isolated, with wide-spaced double wishbones at the front and an advanced multi-link layout at the rear.
The Range Rover Sport SVR also features cross-linked, four-corner air suspension and Adaptive Dynamics with continuously variable magnetorheological dampers. Adaptive Dynamics monitors vehicle movements at least 500 times a second, adjusting the damping force almost instantaneously in response to changing road-surface conditions and driver inputs.
The air springs feature a modified piston profile to ensure even sportier handling and composure, while the Adaptive Dynamics damper settings have been optimized for an unrivalled combination of increased agility and occupant comfort. In both cases, recalibrated management software complements the changes. Rear suspension subframe bushes, uprated by 20 percent ensure an appropriately connected response to all driver inputs.
Despite offering the level of performance normally associated with low-slung performance cars, the vehicle's high levels of comfort and off-road capability have not been sacrificed: the ride quality retains its compliance and the ride height is unaltered, with an adjustable range from 50mm in access mode up to 235mm for off-roading. Wheel travel also remains identical, with a class-leading 260mm of movement at the front and 272mm at the rear. Wading depth continues to be a best-in-class 850mm. Six Terrain Response 2 settings continue to be available: General, Dynamic, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl. Alternatively, the Auto setting intelligently selects the most appropriate mode.
The revised Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) system featuring variable-ratio, speed-sensitive assistance complements the chassis revisions, with added weight for a more immediate and connected feel at high speeds.
Unlike hydraulically assisted power-steering systems, EPAS does not rely on an engine-driven pump, reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
Although the Middle East is well-known for people who like extravagance, especially Range Rovers, some people will take any old SUV 4x4-ing off-road - that's the trend. But, in a segment of vehicles that challenge rationality, I loved that the SVR has limits on the extreme ends of both worlds: racetrack and off-road courses. That's what you're going to pay for at the end of the day, right? Shoppers of the SVR will essentially be people excited to have this monster in their garage.
Rivals: BMW X5M, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Mercedes GLE63 AMG,
Pros: tremendous engine and exhaust sound, excellent on and off-road, pleasing handling, welcoming interior cabin
Cons: only two functional seats in the second row, expected to consume fuel
One word: special