Range Rover Sport SVR Performs like a Sports Car 1

Neck-snapping acceleration and cackling exhaust pipes are the first signs that the Range Rover Sport SVR is a performance car dressed in SUV clothes.

The snarling 550-horsepower V-8, borrowed from Jaguar F-Type, is capable of propelling this two-and-a-half-ton rig to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds and has a top track speed of 162 mph. The eight-speed automatic is a perfect partner.

While the notion of creating a high-performance SUV may seem like a contradiction, it’s the price of admission to the luxury class because BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Jeep all have one. The SVR comes from Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations division. It was chosen as Four Wheeler of the Year by Four Wheeler magazine.

Land Rover says the SVR completed a lap of the famous Nurburgring Nordschliefe racetrack in 8 minutes and 14 seconds, a time that is competitive with many sports cars. Large Brembo front brakes are installed to cope with the higher speeds. Fuel economy is rated at 14 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on the highway. If you get frisky with the throttle, however, your mileage will be considerably less.

The SVR is more than a road burner; it also has off-road chops, although I wonder about the wisdom of taking a vehicle this expensive into the woods or over rocks. Land Rover prides itself on delivering off-road capability on all of its vehicles. An adjustable air suspension enables the vehicle to rise, so it has 10.9 inches of ground clearance and 20 inches of wheel travel. The Terrain Response system lets the driver choose transmission, suspension and traction settings for optimum drivability in a variety of off-road conditions. Settings include Dynamic; Automatic; Rock Crawl; Grass, Gravel and Snow; Mud and Ruts; and Sand.

The test vehicle, from Land Rover’s press fleet, was also equipped with lane departure warning, automatic parallel parking and 360-degree parking assist.

The Range Rover’s interior is as plush as one would expect for a vehicle in this price segment. The two-tone sports seats have pronounced shoulder bolsters for support during high-speed driving. First-class materials are used throughout. Carbon fiber trim is used as a counterpoint to the leather and brushed aluminum. Knobs are used for the climate control, but navigation and audio are controlled by a touchscreen, and I still find the menu system to be less than intuitive.

The instrument cluster is a 12-inch Thin Film Transistor screen. The gauges are digital representations of analog gauges. The numbers on either side of the tachometer and speedometer needles grow slightly brighter as the needles sweep around each virtual dial.

Upscale items included the heated windshield, Meridian audio system, adaptive cruise control, navigation and Bluetooth telephone connectivity.

Price:  The base price of the test vehicle was $112,345. Options included the SVR’s more powerful engine, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, metallic paint, ebony headliner, black roof, carbon fiber veneer, heated windshield and a carbon-fiber engine cover. The sticker price was $127,920.

Warranty:  Four years or 50,000 miles.

Point: The Range Rover Sport SVR has a whopping 550 horsepower and a 162-mph top track speed, yet it is capable of serious off-road activity because the air suspension increases ground clearance and the Terrain Response System has settings for nearly any condition.

Counterpoint: High-performance luxury SUVs seem like expensive toys.