You could argue there is no more pointless expenditure of time and effort than trying to turn an SUV into a supercar. Truck-like mass and a high center of gravity work against the very idea of a vehicle that’s meant to go fast, be it in a straight line or around corners. Yet thousands of automotive engineers are, at this very moment, doing their level best to prove Isaac Newton wrong. Why? Because supercar SUVs make money. So, in a world where an SUV is being touted as the savior of Lamborghini, we can perhaps forgive off-road pioneer Land Rover for the 2018 Range Rover Sport SVR. It’s business.
Updated for the 2018 model year, the Range Rover Sport SVR is a loud and fast SUV that’s quicker than a Ferrari Daytona, a seminal supercar. Nail the gas pedal and the supercharged V-8 under the hood thunders like a Spitfire strafing an airfield. The 5,093-pound SUV comes out the blocks hard and keeps going hard, breezing past 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, Dontari Poe on wheels. Then it hunkers down on its air suspension en route to an electronically limited top speed of 176 mph. 176 mph in a Land Rover! The world’s gone mad…
The Range Rover Sport SVR is built by Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicles Operations division. Changes for 2018 include a 25-hp bump in power to 575 hp at 6,000-6,500 rpm and a 14 lb-ft increase in torque to 516 lb-ft between 3,500 rpm and 5,000 rpm. The suspension has also been revised to improve body control, better modulating pitch during heavy acceleration and braking, and to improving turn-in and mid-corner grip.
The $114,595 SVR gets the exterior and interior tweaks that are part of the upgrades for every 2018 Range Rover Sport, augmented by fresh go-fast visuals that include more aggressively styled front and rear bumpers, a new grille, and new wheels. But no one will notice because they’ll all be staring at the SVR’s vented carbon-fiber hood. Especially if it’s on a car fitted with the optional $5,200 Carbon Fiber package, which leaves the weave on the central section of the hood exposed under clearcoat.
Land Rover PR flacks talk earnestly of the new hood delivering reduced weight and improved cooling, but SVO engineering boss Mark Stanton cuts to the chase: “We offered a carbon-fiber engine cover on the previous model, and so many people ordered it, we figured we’d put the carbon-fiber where it could be more easily seen.” Oh, and you can still get a carbon fiber engine cover on the new model as well – it’s a $2,040 option. Ka-ching!
In fact, JLR makes it ridiculously easy to spend money on a Sport SVR. There are, for example, 27 exterior paint options. Plain white is free, the six regular JLR metallic colors are a $710 option, but if you want one of the 15 special SVO colors you’ll pay $4,080 for the privilege, and an eye-watering $9,180 for one of the five SVO Premium colors. A couple of clicks here, a couple there on the configurator, and before you know it, your fully loaded Sport SVR is nudging $148,000.
Inside, the Range Rover Sport SVR has the gorgeous new twin-screen infotainment system that debuted on the Range Rover Velar and is part of the 2018 model year refresh across the Range Rover Sport lineup. Unique to the SVR, though, are snuggy Supersport front seats that are 66 pounds lighter than the standard items, and liberate a little more legroom for rear seat passengers.
On the road the 575-hp Range Rover Sport SVR is more entertaining to drive than any tall, heavy wagon has a right to be, tight suspension and 21-inch low profile tires (22-inch wheels and tires are available) notwithstanding. Attacking the twisties in this thing is a bit like tangoing with an elephant; no matter how good the footwork, you’re always aware of the mass on the change of direction. That said, the Sport SVR’s steering is accurate and nicely weighted, the body motions deftly controlled, and the ride remains impressively composed, even on gnarly tarmac.
It sounds quick, it feels quick, it is quick, equally at home running hard in the left lane on the freeway as it is storming an open, sweeping two-lane back road. This is a Range Rover with the grunt, the grip, and the brakes of a genuine performance car. No, it doesn’t rewrite the laws of physics. But, like Stephen Hawking, it makes you rethink what might be possible.
It’s a Range Rover, so of course the Sport SVR will go off-road, and farther off-road than most modern SUVs at that, thanks to the height-adjustable suspension, low-range transfer case, and Land Rover’s impressive suite of electronic traction control systems. Those high-performance tires make the electronics work extra hard to maintain forward motion in trying conditions. But Jaguar Land Rover’s Low Traction Launch system, now standard across the 2018 Range Rover lineup, means Sport SVR owners will be able to drive out of the muddy parking lot at the polo field with little thought.
Chances are they’ll be too busy listening to that rumbling supercar soundtrack from under the hood, anyway…