It’s hard to imagine this now, but for the first thirty years of its existence, Land Rover only sold the resolutely agricultural Series I, II and IIA. It wasn’t until 1970 that it introduced the Range Rover, and with it the concept of the luxury off-roader.
Now we have the Range Rover Sport SVR, the first product to come from the firm’s newly-formed Special Vehicle Operations division. I’m happy to say the result is exactly the kind of thrilling, unadulterated madness I hoped this team would create.
The SVR takes the basics from a regular Range Rover Sport Supercharged – itself no sluggard – albeit with some important changes. The visuals on this model, for example, are little short of spectacular. It sits on 21-inch wheels as standard – 22-inch versions are optional – and up front there are large air intakes to both feed the engine and cool the hard-working brakes. There’s a spoiler at the rear with further beefiness added by quad tail pipes and huge side skirts. It’s hard to ignore this imposing beast, which is part of its appeal.
Inside it has supportive, bucket-style seats up front and a re-designed rear bench optimised for two but still capable of accommodating three. You also get embroidered leather front and rear.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the engine dominates the driving experience. Fire it up and there’s an immediate crackle from the exhaust, even in quiet mode. Despite the mechanical changes, it feels pleasingly similar to the regular Supercharged version; leave the transmission in auto and sail along with barely any effort, your hands resting near the bottom of the wheel as Range Rover tradition dictates.
Drive it like this for long and you might wonder where the extra £30,000 this model sets you back has gone. Well, Land Rover has changed the damper settings for the SVR and although it’s stiffer than before, there’s no discernible deterioration in the ride quality – you still get the pleasing sensation of being cushioned from the worst of the road imperfections and it’s hushed inside, too.
However, even a modest squirt of the accelerator unleashes the animal within. There is instant, noisy, glorious acceleration on offer whenever you want it, even if the SVR’s refined nature means the speedo spins more quickly than it feels. It’s the noise that really gets you, though: a rasping holler that isn’t a million miles from its distant cousin, the F-Type R.
Despite its size and speed the SVR doesn’t fall apart at the corners either. You’re in no doubt that it weighs 2.3 tonnes but it remains impressively composed as you hurl it around in a way no SUV should be. The steering is accurate and the active dampers work hard to keep you in control. Switch into the Dynamic mode and there’s more noise and sharper responses. Amazingly, it still works off-road too, and while it’s never going to be as capable as the standard Range Rover, it can go further than most owners would ever dare.
In a segment where being first is everything, the Range Rover Sport SVR is a piece of automotive one-upmanship that will undoubtedly be a big hit. Of course, there’s a compelling argument to be made that you could pay a whole lot less for the regular Range Rover Sport, which still looks the part, is usefully brisk and won’t drink fuel half as quickly. And while this may be very sensible, it also misses the point. This car inhabits a parallel world in which a 2.3 tonne vehicle that looks like it’s been lifted from a rapper’s wet dream can go from 0-62 in less than five seconds. If you’re seriously worrying about the hit to your wallet, then it ain’t for you, buddy. Park one on your drive and the neighbours will probably start to dislike you, but only because they’re jealous.
0-62MPH: 4.7 secs
TOP SPEED: 162mph
CO2 G/KM: 298g/km
MPG COMBINED: 22.1mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★★★☆