The Range Rover Sport SVR is a difficult car to like. Ostentatious, obnoxious and profligate, it seems to serve little purpose beyond infuriating the anti-car movement by consuming as many resources as possible, as quickly as possible, with little regard for anything around it.
A poster child for gratuitous consumption, it also has attributes that tally uneasily with the things that evo looks for in a car. It offers considerable speed – 0-100km/h in 4.5sec and 283km/h all-out – albeit not through clever aerodynamics or light weight, but from the brute force of a supercharged V8. It grips, handles and stops, too, although not because it’s low or lithe or delicate, but because it puts 275-section rubber on the ground, sends power to all four wheels and features the complication and expense of air springs, adaptive dampers and active anti-roll bars. In fact, the SVR is far more than the considerable sum of its parts, and its development has turned out a car of real character.
Visual changes for 2018 Range Rover Sports include tweaks to the all-LED headlights and the grille, and inside, a pair of 10-inch touchscreens, dubbed Touch Pro Duo. This looks better than it works, being slower than, and lacking the haptic feedback of, Audi’s similar bi-level design in the A7 and A8.
SVRs get 21-inch wheels as standard, with a 22-inch design optional. There’s also a unique front bumper design and a full carbonfibre bonnet. At 2310kg, the latest SVR is officially 25kg lighter than its predecessor, while power has gone the other way, with 19kW more than before at 423kW. Torque is up, too, from 680Nm to 700Nm, sent through an eight-speed torque-converter automatic.
The way the SVR delivers its performance is even more enticing than the numbers themselves. JLR’s SVO engineers have worked to improve body control and reduce pitch with tweaks to the dampers, but floor the throttle from rest and the rear still squats amusingly as the SVR hooks up. The steering wriggles in your hands as the front wheels go light, while the sound emanating from beneath the boot floor is not unlike the angry, ground-shaking cacophony of the Corvettes at Le Mans.
The car farts and pops during gearshifts, and lifting off releases a fusillade of crackles. Others do this, too, but it feels less cynically engineered-in with the SVR, more a symptom of a slightly unhinged powertrain. Just as it should be. On-road, the SVR still drives like an SUV, albeit a highly competent one. Sudden combinations of steering, throttle or brakes can have the ESC chewing at the brakes, but keep things smooth – easy to do with the measured, accurate steering and taut body control – and you can thunder along quite rapidly, and with a level of engagement and entertainment you wouldn’t expect from a car of this size.
There’s good grip, too, and the 380mm front and 365mm rear discs are more than up to the task of wiping off speed, while the ride and firm seats are tolerable enough. Being a Range Rover it’s plenty capable off-road, too, as a jaunt through slimy sections of the Cotswolds reveals. Maybe the SVR isn’t so difficult to like, after all. Antony Ingram
Engine: V8, 5000cc, supercharged
Power: 423kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 700Nm @ 3500rpm
0-100km/h: 4.5sec (claimed)
Top speed: 283km/h (claimed)
Weight: 2310kg (183kW/tonne)
Basic Price: $238,200