You didn’t like it when a $94,000 Range Rover Sport won our 2014 Four Wheeler of the Year award. “Too expensive!; You’re elitist jerks!; Nobody can afford one of those!” Man, we got it from all angles. So we weren’t at all surprised when the complaints came pouring in like a waterfall after the even more expensive Range Rover Sport SVR easily took the prize in our 2016 Four Wheeler of the Year competition. But despite the fact that there’s a luxury badge on the grille and the sticker price can induce hallucinations and heart palpitations, there’s one underlying consideration you can’t ignore: under all that premium leather, fancy paint, and carbon fiber lies a vehicle that really can go off-roading. The Land Rover brand was founded on off-road utility and capability. And to this day, those traits are front and foremost when it comes to the engineering, mechanicals, and design of its vehicles. Everything else is secondary. If it impeded off-road capability, it gets reengineered or eliminated. Period. The result is a dynamic driving experience on-road that can take you anywhere within the limits of tire sidewall and body damage off-road. But all that upper-level engineering does come at a steep price. We’ve entered the days where ability off-road is becoming a luxury item. Brace for impact, but it’s true.
To begin with, the SVR is a special package built in the Special Vehicle Operations facility in Coventry, England. Fronted by a true automotive enthusiast, Managing Director John Edwards, the SVO plant is where the cream of the Jaguar Land Rover crop are constructed, including the insane-luxury SVAutobiography, the premium Holland and Holland, special up-armored and bulletproof models for royalty and business people, and of course, the track and performance-capable SVR. Each vehicle arrives in various states of completion before final assembly at the hospital-clean SVO facility, from special paint to premium carpeting and leather, and so on, it all happens here. Which begins to explain why the SVR package dollops an additional $30,000 or so atop a pedestrian Range Rover Sport’s price. Factor in some premium options, and our 2016 Four Wheeler of the Year test vehicle packs a scary $128,332 price tag.
For us, the heart of the SVR isn’t the 550hp supercharged and intercooled 5.0L V-8. Nor is it the superbly calibrated eight-speed auto transmission or the Terrain Response 2 system with rear locker and specially tuned vehicle dynamics for snow, mud, sand, or rock. No, for us the best part of driving the SVR (or even our ’14 Range Rover Sport, for that matter) is the way the chassis is tuned. The suspension, steering, and braking control are reactive. The best way to describe it is how your body moves to counter bumps and turns when you’re riding a motorcycle or a horse. The Range Rover does this above its tires. You feel like the vehicle is a living, breathing thing endeavoring to keep you centered above the line. But all that said, the 550hp tune of the SVR’s growling V-8 is a nice party piece. Acceleration is liquid-smooth with no lag at any rpm. The supercharger just gets it. And the 502 lb-ft of torque keeps you moving without downshifting on any grade.
We have noticed our mileage isn’t quite as spectacular as in our 510hp-tuned ’14 Sport. The SVR has been banging out a combined TK, with highs of TK on the highway at 70 mph and a low of TK with all in-town driving. And as long as we’re noting negatives, the seats are by far not the most comfortable we’ve ever been in. Designed for keeping you laterally positioned on the track, the meaty bolsters in the seat bottom dig into even this editor’s skinny arse. And the four-point harness provisions in the headrests negate the ability to have in-cabin DVD screens. So if you’re using this as a family hauler the kids had better have a book or tablet. Another gripe centers on build quality, which if we’re honest, isn’t a hallmark of the Land Rover brand. The lower door cladding on the passenger-side front and rear doors started coming off. Turns out it’s merely held on with double-sided tape. The dealership stuck it back on with some glue or bubble gum or whatever they use, but as of this writing, the new replacement panels haven’t made their way across the pond from England. Perhaps they’ll arrive by our second installment.
Inside, the 1,700-watt Meridian Signature Audio is a fantastic accompaniment for long trips, and the adaptive Xenon headlights more than make up for the lack of fog lamps, which would go where the oversized intercooler ducts in the fascia reside. Styling-wise, we’ve noticed a funny thing. When fueling our “pedestrian” 2014 Range Rover Sport, we were routinely accosted by hot housewives in yoga pants wanting to look at, climb on, or sit in our test vehicle. For the SVR, it’s mostly middle- or retirement-age men who approach us. Not as much fun by a long shot. Otherwise, we’ve found all the buttons, knobs, touchscreen gizmos, Bluetooth, and other niceties to be right where you expect them to be and easy to access or engage. No shift buttons that look like HVAC controls or goofy design flaws. It’s a well-thought-out vehicle.
Given how many low-profile 295/40R22 tires we shredded during our 2016 Of the Year test we’ve been rather timid with this SVR off-road, but we’ll keep racking up the miles and burning the recommended 91-octane fuel, and before you know it, the new-vehicle-jitters will abate enough to put some sidewall gashes and fascia scratches into this uber-expensive off-roader. Until then.
Options as tested
Driver Assistance Package – Lane departure warning with traffic sign recognition; perpendicular and parallel park with park exit; 360-degree park distance control; heads-up display; wifi pre-wire ($2,900), Santorini black contrast roof (N/C), Rover Tow Package – Hitch receiver with electrical connector ($650), Ebony headliner ($350), 22-inch Style 108 SVR wheels ($3,000), 1,700-watt Meridian Signature Audio ($4,450), Carbon fiber veneer ($2,300), Estoril Blue paint ($1,800), RR Sport protection package – rubber floor mats; loadspace mat; collapsible cargo carrier ($537)
Report: 1 of 4
Previous Reports: None
Base Price: $111,350
Price as Tested: $128,332
Four-wheel-drive system: Full-time electronically-controlled, two-speed
Miles to date: 6,369
Miles since last report: N/A
Average mpg (this report): 13.57
Test best tank (mpg): 17.06 (highway between 70-75 mph)
Test worst tank (mpg): 12.06 (in-town driving)
This period: Passenger-side door cladding fell off and required reattachment
Problem areas: Fuel fill extremely slow because vapor reclamation nozzles always click off
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Chassis tuning and liquid power
Not: Uncomfy seats
“Hey, there’s no air conditioning in these seats.”
“I should be able to scroll through more than one of the three satellite preset menus with steering wheel controls.”
“Hey, there’s Wi-Fi now!”
“The speedo works in reverse!”