2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR: First Drive

What is it: 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR, five-seat supercharged sports SUV.

Price Range:  $110,475, for starters.

Competitors: Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5M/X6M, Mercedes-AMG G-Wagen, Bentley Bentayga (eventually)

Alternatives: Range Rover Sport, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Infiniti QX70, Audi SQ5, Cadillac Escalade

Pros: It can be driven off-road in the mud and on the track with nothing but a rinse of the undercarriage. Seriously. We did it.

Cons: Wind noise and a weird, buzzy noise cancellation system.

Would I Buy it with My Own Money: Dear Lord, yes. No questions asked—because it’s a race-track hustler and off-roader in one machine, and who doesn’t want that?

Want to tackle the Nürburgring? Perhaps traverse the Sahara? Compete in Pikes Peak? Ford a river? Oh, and you want to do that all on the way to drop the kids at school?  There’s only one vehicle on the market that can probably handle all of that and not end up in a heap and it’s the new 2015 Range Rover Sport SVR .


The Range Rover Sport SVR gets 550 horsepower and 502 ft lb out of its supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 engine, and its mated to the same eight-speed transmission used in the standard Range Rover Sport. Before you even ask—it really did do a lap of the famous Green Hell in 8 minutes and 14 seconds. It also does 0-60 in 4.5 seconds and has a top speed of 162 mph—and it still handles off-road work like a boss.

We did something no one who buys this car will ever do at the track at Monticello in New York: We took it through a muddy, rocky, slippery off road trail, hosed off its underbelly, and then took it on the track ten minutes later.

While you are busy picking your jaw up off the floor, let’s start with the basics. The Range Rover Sport is a mid-sized SUV that Land Rover launched back in 2013. This is the second iteration of the five-seater that debuted in 2014.  The base Sport starts out at around $63,000. In typical Range Rover fashion, the baseline sport is monstrously capable off-road with a ground clearance of 9.3 inches and 33.5 inches of wading capacity. It can still rock crawl with the best of them and has individual Terrain Response settings that include grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, and sand.

The Range Rover Sport SVR gets all of the off-road gadgets and more. You still get the true four-wheel drive with the two-speed transfer case and the 50/50 torque split between front and rear. The suspension is fully independent and double-isolated, complete with air-suspension that helps raise and lower the car based on the drive mode selected. The Range Rover Sport SVR has adaptive dampers which work in conjunction with the Adaptive Dynamics system to monitor the surface ahead 500 times per second.

Then there’s Dynamic mode. In Dynamic mode the SVR hunkers down and gets rowdy. The already raucous exhaust burbles a bit louder, and when you decide it’s time to hit the track, the SVR responds with surprising acceleration. This is fun dipped in a good-looking Range Rover candy shell.

Hauling just over 5,000 lbs of vehicle around a track at 60 to 100 mph is no easy feat, but the SVR doesn’t seem to mind. While still a bit wallowy in corners (as expected—it is a tall SUV after all), it feels planted and secure, particularly because of an updated cornering system that helps keep the SUV flatter in turns.  The Active-Roll Control or ARC system uses two actuators controlled by hydraulic pumps to keep the body roll down, allowing the driver to take track turns at much higher than expected speeds. The ARC system is also used in the standard Range Rover Sport and in off-road situations, but tuned more aggressively for the SVR version.

Paired with ARC is a sophisticated torque vectoring system that helps push the five-passenger vehicle around tight corners. On the track you feel the system working through the turn, though if you lift off the gas, the system switches off. The eight-speed ZF transmission is tuned slightly more aggressively than it is in the standard Range Rover Sport as well, though shifts both up and down are smooth and almost undetectable except for that boisterous exhaust note and the blip on downshift. Stomp on the gas to accelerate and you are going to hear it in the next county.

Despite being a hardy off-road vehicle and a capable track beast, the SVR’s ride is surprisingly comfortable, even sedate. The interior is customized with carbon fiber, but otherwise you don’t know you are riding in anything other than a Range Rover.

One niggling thing that we came across (outside of the slow and cumbersome infotainment system) while cruising at highway speeds was the noise cancellation system. Pushing a big boxy vehicle through the air at high speeds is noisy, so to reduce cabin noise Range Rover has used a high-frequency cancellation tone that fluctuates with speed. In our test SUV it was audible at higher speeds and just annoying enough to send us searching through menus to find how to turn it off. Side note—you can’t.

The Range Rover Sport SVR isn’t your suburban mommy’s vehicle. In fact, we imagine that the exhaust note (even in normal mode) would probably piss off every neighbor within five blocks every time you start it up for your morning commute—something we imagine the typical buyer would be absolutely giddy about. The engine is essentially the same as the engine in the Jaguar F-Type R, and the Range Rover Sport SVR gets the same exhaust, so you can imagine the looks you get as you toodle off to your PTA meeting to 95 decibels of pop-pop-pop. With all this capability you wouldn’t expect the Range Rover Sport SVR to be terribly fuel-efficient; the EPA estimates it at 14 mpg city, 19 mpg highway, and 16 mpg combined.

This is Jaguar-Land Rover’s first Special Vehicle Operations Unit project that will be available to the “general public.” We put quotes around “general” because we are talking about a five-passenger SUV that starts at a base price of $111,400. The Range Rover Sport SVR is the first Land Rover to get the SVR badge—hinting that there may be others in the Land Rover line who will do the same.

Last summer the SVO group unveiled the Jaguar F-Type Project 7 and made and sold out of all 250 of them. The SVO unit is based in Warwickshire, England and consists of about 70 employees who are working to take Jaguar and Land Rover products and up the ante.  Much like Mercedes’ AMG and BMW’s M lines, JLR sees an opportunity to go after the well-heeled, give-me-performance-or-give-me-death buyers who love their products and want a more specialized package. It might not keep up with everything on the track, but there’s not much that could follow the Range Rover Sport SVR off one.