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Car reviews - Land Rover - Range Rover Sport - SVR

Our Opinion

We like
Understated, muscular presence, great packaging, awesome soundtrack
Room for improvement
stock tyres simply not up to the job of managing so much grunt

Land Rover logo11 Jun 2015

By TIM ROBSON

AUSTRALIANS love a hot version of just about any car you care to name – and there have been a few odd ones in recent years. A supercharged Toyota HiLux? Check. A turbocharged, rally-tweaked Mitsubishi Colt? Check.

Jaguar Land Rover Australia now has a similar device in its stable. The range Rover Sport SVR is a ferociously powerful, V8-powered rocket disguised as a 2.3-tonne luxury off-roader.

Priced at $218,500 before on-roads, the SVR packs 405kW and 680Nm of supercharged grunt under its clamshell bonnet, yet it supposedly retains all of the off-road ability that the marque is justifiably famous for.

Its performance numbers would make a pukka sports car blush it’ll do 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds (0.1sec faster than a current Porsche Cayman GTS, for example), and it’ll top out at a limited 260km/h. That’s pretty quick for a 2350kg rig.

Clamber behind the wheel of the SVR, and it’s a familiar layout of bold, simple controls and large touchscreen with digital dash. The new sports seats feature adjustable side bolstering but are surprisingly narrow across the base, perhaps too narrow for bigger occupants.

The full suite of off-road options remain in place via Land Rover’s Terrain Response panel, alongside a couple of new switches. One is marked Dynamic, and the other depicts a pair of exhaust pipes.

These small buttons set the SVR apart from its more pedestrian protégés. Flick the Dynamic toggle, and the SVR’s shift map sharpens – JLR Australia says it shifts 50 per cent faster than the regular Sport – as do the throttle and adaptive damper settings. Push the exhaust button, and a small flap in the rear half of the exhaust system opens up, increasing the noise output markedly.

And what a noise! A recalibration of the SVR’s engine management computer deliberately dumps fuel into the hot exhaust system, resulting in a volley of loud pops and crackles on throttle overrun. The Jaguar F-Type displays similar traits, and when you’re in the mood, it sounds absolutely brilliant.

The handling package, as you’d expect, has been massaged for a more aggressive behaviour, with revised air springs, tweaked dampers and stiffer bushings in the rear five-link suspension arrangement. The brakes, too, come in for a considerable upgrade, with 380mm front rotors and six-piston Brembo one-piece callipers.

It’s from this point, though, physics start to get in the way of Range Rover’s ambitions to create a vehicle with uncompromised performance both on and off road.

Whichever way you slice the cake, the Sport SVR is a hulking, 2350kg, bluff-fronted four-wheel-drive. It is some 800kg heavier than the F-Type from which it takes its engine, not to mention considerably taller.

The suspension tune, even in Dynamic mode, is surprisingly soft, with noticeable pitch and dive, as well as a large degree of body roll.

JLR proudly states that the Sport SVR retains the same ability off road as it does on road. In order to meet the ‘do everything’ brief, engineers need to leave a large degree of off-road capability (longer suspension travel, for example) in the suspension system, which then compromises its on-road behaviour.

And with more than 400kW under your right foot, on-road behaviour is of paramount importance.

Our brief test of the SVR revealed a glaring issue the standard issue 275/45 R21 Continental CrossContact AT tyres are not, in our opinion, up to the task of managing the prodigious output of the Sport SVR when speeds increase.

On a closed circuit at moderately high speeds, the SVR felt very grip-compromised under both cornering and braking loads. It would break away very early under long lateral loading with little warning, and provided very little in the way of feedback to the driver under cornering or braking.

While our testing environment was a closed circuit, the track’s construction closely mimics that of a well-maintained country road.

Given the extraordinary capabilities of the powertrain, we would strongly recommend perspective owners take up JLR’s offered option of wider, softer 295/40 R22 Continental SportContact 5 tyres on 22-inch rims, although GoAuto was unable to test the bigger tyre package.

There is no suggestion that the SVR presents a danger to potential purchasers, but with most owners likely to stay on-road for a majority of the time, we feel the optional 22-inch package might be a more sensible standard inclusion.

We question just how many prospective owners will actually take their $218,500 SUV into terrain any tougher than a graded gravel road to a far-flung beach hideaway. The notion of ultimate off-road ability is a noble one, but it required a number of compromises that blunt the SVR’s on-road manners.

Range Rover’s Sport range is incredibly successful, and the SVR is a rolling tribute to the depth of the group’s engineering ability. We just wonder if it’s a step too far for everyday use.

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