We’ve been doing what we’re supposed to do with our Four Wheeler of the Year long-term evaluation vehicle: drive it everywhere, every chance, and in every situation possible. For us, that means a lot of daily trips to pick up kids from school, shuttling baseball equipment to games and practices, boogie boards to the beach, long-range highway driving, off-roading, and even some heavy towing. In short, everything you’d expect an SUV to be able to handle; even if that SUV comes at a steep $128,000 price tag. More to the point, actually, because of that price, we’re less inclined to cut this vehicle any slack. If you get what you pay for, you’d better get a lot with the SVR.
The first you notice living with an SUV like this on a daily basis is becoming more attune to your surroundings. The Estoril Blue paint job is the thing most people make comment to us about our SVR tester. It is a striking color. And knowing how expensive the paint job on this sucker is, that makes it all the more frustrating when you find the errant door ding or parking lot blemish from brain-dead motorists. Trail scratches and honest battle scars are one thing, but in town we often park way in the rear of the lot to help alleviate any more marks. And texting drivers that drift into your lane or BMW chuckleheads at stoplights who want to race are another almost-daily consideration. You almost want to line the body with marine dock bumpers for protection. It’s probably not something we’d worry with a vehicle costing a third the price of this one, but damage from external factors is something we find ourselves worrying about more in the SVR than other vehicles we frequently pilot.
The second thing about SVR’ing on a daily basis is the way the electronic helpers totally spoil you depending on how you program the functions through the in-dash interfaces. The headlights can come on automatically. The high-beams can come on and dim automatically. The wipers can come on automatically. The vehicle will lower when you put it in Park for easier egress and ingress. You can change the color of the interior mood lights at night. Voice-control-this and automatic-that…it’ll soften you quickly. The one thing that blows our mind, given the lane change collision warning system, lane drift alert system that gently shakes the steering wheel if you cross the median, parking aids, and so on, is the omission of adaptive cruise control. But despite the level of spacecraft-like automation on some levels, you never feel disconnected from the vehicle. Driving the SVR is a visceral experience, with an immediate feeling of being connected to the road or trail, especially with the Terrain Response knob set to “Dynamic” mode, which optimizes the traction, handling, and drivability for maximum responsiveness.
In “Dynamic”, the steering seems to sharpen, the exhaust baffles open to let the engine roar, the suspension stiffens, the traction control system and locker engagement become a bit more in your face, but most of all, the throttle response becomes razor sharp. It’s affected us to the point that when we operate the vehicle in “General” or “Automatic” mode the throttle feels super-lazy to the point of frustration. In reality it’s not. But once you get used to the way the vehicle responds in “Dynamic” mode it’s hard to go back. The first one’s free. After that, you gotta pay.
Off-roading is largely a point-and-shoot affair. With “Rock Crawl” mode selected via the Terrain Response knob, the T-case can be shifted into Low range and throttle response is softened to avoid jerking, and power is evenly distributed as needed to all four tires either via front traction control or the rear locker. The whole system is analog and seamless, with no unwanted whirring of computers or clicking of solenoids. Sand and Mud modes vary things slightly, limiting traction control to allow wheel spin and some sliding, yanking, and banking. And finally, the Grass-Gravel-Snow mode starts the vehicle more gently in Second gear and works to minimize slippage and maximize traction. Overall, you can take the SVR from the track to a moderate off-road trail with the only worry being your lower valences and tire sidewalls. It’s an absolutely balanced machine.
We also did some towing this time, hauling a trailer and Jeep combo with a combined weight of about 6,400 pounds, with is very close to the SVR’s max towing 6,614 pounds. We “caveman” towed our Jeep, but Range Rover vehicles have a “Tow Assist” feature, in which you fit a tracking target sticker to your trailer that the rear camera picks up. When the electrical connection from vehicle-to-trailer is detected, Tow Assist engages and the camera and vehicle sensors monitoring trailer sway via sensor input and camera-to-sticker interface. If sway is detected, the computer steps in to counter and stabilize. We ran without the sticker on our trailer and found plenty of power from the SVR’s 550hp supercharged 5.0L. Despite its robustness, we kept the eight-speed auto manually selected to Sixth gear for most of our 55-65 mph highway towing. Braking power was suberb, but we did notice the SVR getting pushed around a tad by the heavy loaded trailer descending hills and when coming to a stop. Next time we’ll have to try the Tow Assist in proper fashion.
Options as testedDriver 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: 2 of 4Previous Reports: March, 2017
Base Price: $111,350
Price as Tested: $128,332
Four-wheel-drive system: Full-time electronically-controlled, two-speed
Long-Term NumbersMiles to date: 14,102
Miles since last report: 7,733
Average mpg (this report): 13.13
Test best tank (mpg): 16.81 (highway between 70-75 mph)
Test worst tank (mpg): 9.21 (towing in headwind)
MaintenanceThis period: Flat Tire Puncture Repair
Problem areas: Fuel fill still extremely slow because vapor reclamation nozzles always click off; Passenger door cladding beginning to fall off again; Sunshade rattles with windows down/cracked
What’s Hot, What’s NotHot: The color, apparently
Not: Quality control issues starting to creep into question
Logbook Quotes“Plastic harness inserts in seat backs uncomfortably hit shorter passengers right in the head.”
“That leather smell is good enough to eat.”
“I think it’s actually getting faster as the engine breaks in.”
“Wish this thing had adaptive cruise control.”