When is a Land Rover not a Land Rover? When it's also a track car.
That's the logic behind the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR, a more potent variant of the Range Rover Sport Supercharged. In fabulous Estoril blue, it looks the part of a Land Rover masquerading as a 550-hp sports car. Our question was: Is it the no-compromises, do-everything off-roader and a supercar? (Faced with that question, a Land Rover spokesman was quick to point out that "we don't sell anything people need.")
Land Rover let us loose with the Range Rover Sport SVR en route from New York City to Monticello Motor Club. We kept things mostly under control.
What is it?
Let's get to the point: The Range Rover Sport SVR is a faster, louder, more bombastic version of the Range Rover Sport Supercharged that we know and have come to love. With an additional 40 horsepower over the standard Range Rover Sport Supercharged, the SVR is more than just an appearance package: It's also the first Range Rover to bear the Special Vehicle Operations moniker. (It won't be the only one, either.)
How does it drive?
With torpedo-like precision and speed. Off the line, with a firm stomp on the gas pedal, the Range Rover Sport SVR launches forward and through its eight forward gears like few machines can. It's an intoxicating feeling, and one that bears repeating. Brembo brakes bring the Range Rover Sport SVR to a thundering halt. On the road, the gently tuned ride soaks up bumps but provides plenty of road feedback. The 8-speed automatic is buttery smooth.
We also had the chance to push the Range Rover Sport SVR on the formidable Monticello Motor Club racetrack, and it only confirmed everything we had anticipated after several hours on the road. The SVR is a machine to be reckoned with. There was plenty of tire squeal on the track coming through the corners, and light-but-not-too-light steering helped guide us straight through the apexes. Body roll is pleasantly controlled.
As if time on the road and the track weren't enough, Land Rover also offered us a few minutes on an off-road course. Without skipping a beat, the Range Rover Sport SVR handled the medium-grade mud and ruts on all-season tires.
What's it like inside?
A luxurious, over-the-top cocoon. SVR models are made special by superbly restyled seats, swathed in super-soft leather, for all five occupants. If the adjustments to this Range Rover Sport's exterior are subtle, then the interior is an in-your-face change. The intuitive Jaguar Land Rover infotainment system is still just that, although its graphics are getting on, as new systems are coming to market. All the controls are where they need to be, clearly laid out.
We would be remiss without mentioning the cargo hold, which is large enough to accommodate a weekend's worth of luggage for four occupants. Try that in a sports sedan.
What's its specialty?
Convincing sports-car buyers that they can have it all.
Most innovative feature?
Shift times that are improved by 50 percent, so claims Land Rover. We already liked the alacrity and responsiveness of the 8-speed automatic, so we were pleasantly surprised by its improved response on and off the track. On the mud track adjacent to the racetrack, where we had the chance to try out the Range Rover Sport SVR as an off-roader, Hill Descent Control and off-road software kept the transmission in the right gear.
How's the competition?
In a stage of anticipation. Most directly aimed at the Range Rover Sport SVR are the BMW X5M and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, both of which helped establish the hot-SUV segment in their former iterations. BMW's equally nutty X6M now has a rival, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S. By comparison, the Mercedes-AMG G63 offers nearly as much power, but is hardly competent when it comes to the Range Rover Sport's dynamic capability. Jaguar will soon launch the F-Pace—which its development engineers and stylists confirmed is being conceived exclusive of Land Rover—and it seems that most luxury automakers will soon introduce their own high-performance SUVs.
The acrobatic stuntman of luxury performance SUVs.
Lovely engine and exhaust notes, impeccably dressed interior, spacious second-row seating, airy cabin, quiet ride.
The ideal setup:
Considering the SVR premium over lesser Range Rover Sports, this SUV comes well-equipped from the outset. We would add the Driver Assistance Pack ($1560), with parking assist and lane departure warning, as well as the Tow package ($650) and symphony hall-grade Meridian sound system ($4150). Skip the novelties like the SVR carbon-fiber engine cover ($2000) and carbon-fiber extended veneer ($2300), and spend some of that cash on a set of mud-capable tires. The choice is yours, if you want to spend for the optional Estoril blue paint ($1800).
By the numbers: 2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR
MSRP: $111,470 (includes $995 destination charge)
Power / drive wheels: 5.0-liter, 550-hp supercharged V-8 engine / all-wheel drive
Transmission: 8-speed automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy (mpg): N/A
In showrooms: Now