First Drive

2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR First Drive [w/video]

How To Do Everything, Fast

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  • Engine
    SC 5.0L V8
  • Power
    550 HP / 502 LB-FT
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • 0-60 Time
    4.5 Seconds
  • Top Speed
    162 MPH
  • Drivetrain
    All-Wheel Drive
  • Engine Placement
  • Curb Weight
    5,148 LBS
  • Seating
  • MPG
    14 City / 19 HWY
  • Base Price
  • As Tested Price
Perhaps you live on a bucolic estate, hardily guarded by rocky terrain or deep forest, yet with access to one of the world's great super highways. Or are a reclusive country millionaire, sneaking from your abode in the remotest part of Talladega County to rip off joy rides down 'Dega's back straight.

Creating an owner-template to suit the wide-ranging abilities of the Range Rover Sport SVR is a silly exercise. Land Rover proved as far back as the Range Rover Classic that one could blend the seemingly unmixable talents of off-road ability and high luxury into a salable tincture. Outright speed and handling performance is simply the newest aspect of that luxury, despite the disparate nature of racetracks and muddy ruts.

It's not a new formula. Porsche ships more Cayenne tonnage than any of its other models. BMW will sell you a 567-horsepower M utility vehicle in X5 or X6 flavor, painted to match a KLM stewardess. Mercedes counters with a 518-horse M-Class that vents biturbo V8 exhaust like a Berliner drum and bass DJ. And Land Rover has been effectively supercharging its own Range Rovers for a while now, though none to so potent an effect as this 550-hp SVR rocket wagon.

2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

Range Rover's newest product creates blue sky between it and its competitors with legitimate off-roading prowess. The all-wheel-drive system is permanently active, and can be quickly bolstered with a two-speed transfer case with a low range. The system defaults to a 50/50 front/rear torque split, but 100-percent of twist can be routed to either axle via a central differential using a multi-plate clutch. There's a rear diff, as well, which will lock up to drive torque to the wheel with the most grip.

I drove over rocks, through deep mud and puddles, and wove deftly up and down grades on a short trail that the Land Rover minders had constructed. All of which was far less aggressive than any true ORV-fan would hope for, but instructive in the vehicle's abilities, nevertheless. Essentially the Terrain Response 2 system makes going off road plug and play; set the dial to match your surroundings, watch that you don't clip your mirror on a tree, and the Rangie will blithely chug on. I'd be a lot more worried about damaging one of those 22-inch wheels than cresting a challenging ridge.

Off-roading with poise is part of the Range Rover DNA. So that half of the SVR personality only seems outlandish in contrast with its standout quicks. The tale of the tape is impressive and incongruous: 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque driving 5,148 pounds to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds, and up to 162 at the upper reach. That's a staggering output, even for a heavy truck, and more accessible on a day-to-day basis than the mud-chugging bits.

Starting out in New York's crammed SoHo neighborhood, my drive route took me out of the city aiming 100 miles to the northwest for the Monticello Motor Club. Dicing with city traffic proved simple in the muscly SVR. Visibility was excellent thanks to the ride height and glassy cabin, and the sharp throttle response helped me hit traffic gaps just as they opened up. Anyone that says 550 horsepower is overkill for commuting hasn't done enough research.

Useful or no, it was more entertaining to use all of that power as the roads opened up and got curvy. As the landscape changed, I flipped the familiar drive mode switch into Dynamic and tapped the shift lever to Sport. The eight-speed automatic transmission aggressively held on to lower gears as I picked up the pace, and the unmuted exhaust flooded the cabin with every stab of the throttle. You might take issue with the SVR for a number of reasons, but its sonic punch won't be one of them. Close your eyes, listen to for a fourth-to-second downshift, and you'll swear you're hearing Jaguar's F-Type R roar forward.

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Handling on those same great A-roads leading to the track was superb, and at least up to snuff with the likes of the Cayenne, et al. Steering effort from the electrically power assisted rack is low, but response is quick, even, and effortless. There's something uncanny about getting a SUV this large to change direction so quickly, but I was able to avail myself of great corners with great confidence. Ride quality is excellent, as well. The air suspension mitigates impact harshness that you might expect from those strappy 22-inch dubs, and generally levels the drive without wallowing in the bends.

Over the years I've driven fast SUVs from Jeep, BMW, and Porsche on tracks across the globe. My typical response to this unnatural test of dynamic range is something along the lines of, "Hmm, better than I expected." The magics of traction control, good tires, and great spurting gouts of power are powerful persuaders.

2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

The SVR is convincingly the most track-ready Range Rover that I've ever encountered, but it doesn't veer from the formula above. A heavy body and high center of gravity are evident at speed, though in my few laps I found all tamed well enough that I could turn some quick corners. That fast, efficient steering I'd enjoyed on the road held up at track speeds, even surprising me with willingness to make mid-turn corrections. I also got a few giggles after finding I could tighten my entry with some lift-off oversteer. If I have to compare the odd experiences, I'd say that BMW's X6 M is more technically proficient (with pin-sharp engine response) than the SVR, but the Range Rover felt less high-strung and edgy on a circuit. (If ever SCCA opens a four-wheel-drive, over 5,000-pound class, there'll be a hell of a fight for the podium.)

Mostly I wanted to use the AWD to throw down all that beautifully soundtracked power coming out of the corners. The track setting offers a richer version of something that every SVR owner should delve into when they have a clear road and an itchy trigger foot.

I'm not totally convinced the go-fast styling of the SVR is an improvement on an already attractive Range Rover Sport. But it's fair to note that I feel the same way about the M and AMG versions of those BMW and Mercedes SUVs ­– perhaps I just don't like the genre. Embellishments to the exterior and interior are uniformly applied, with a ready-for-sport vibe ladled on by way of body kit, black accents, and carbon-fiber trim. I found the seats to be wonderfully suited to their task of keeping my ass in one spot, though I can't quite endorse their comic-book-body-armor design. (Seriously, are they trimmed in Power Ranger hide?)

2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

There is, of course, and amped-up price point to go with all of this enhanced power and design. And again, it's right in line with the German über sleds. Land Rover will ask $111,470 (that's including the $995 destination fee) for each SVR it sells. That's a jump from the $99,650 BMW X5 M, though the Range Rover has greater off-road chops and a fuller base options set. The Porsche Cayenne Turbo requires $115,695, the Mercedes ML63 AMG is $99,325. You pay your money and you take your choice when it comes to which brand you love the best, but you see that everything in this class is effectively six figures out the door.

I doubt that many Range Rover Sport SVR owners will spend a great deal of time driving on either the track or a true off-road course. But, in a segment of vehicle that defies logic, I like that the SVR has limits in the extreme ends of both worlds. That's what you're paying for, after all.

More importantly, as a vehicle that's so easy to enjoy in real-world situations, with a world-class exhaust note and a superlative pedigree, buyers should be thrilled to have this bimodal beasty in the garage. The SVR may cross circle drives and lawns more than high-speed ovals and mountains, but even the suburbs need heroes.

Land Rover Range Rover Sport Information

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