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Long-Term Report 3: 2016 Range Rover Sport SVR

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on August 18, 2017
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Let’s face it: If you spend over 100 grand on a hot 550hp vehicle that’s an SUV, you’re buying an SUV for a reason. You’re not just looking for something with absurd amounts of power that you can drive to the ski chalet, right? We mean, there are high-horsepower Audis and vehicles like that, which are just as luxurious and are actually a bit faster than the Range Rover Sport SVR that won our 2016 Four Wheeler of the Year award. And what do you do with an SUV? You haul lots of people and lots of junk. So for this test installment, that’s just what we focused on: how the “utility” sport/utility vehicle works.

For starters, our SVR test model is equipped with Land Rover’s collapsible cargo carrier as part of the $537 RR Sport protection package. It’s a nice, collapsible, soft-sided tray that you can keep smalls in without them rolling all around the cargo area, and it lifts out or folds flat quickly and easily. We like it a lot. On the other hand, the factory retractable cargo security cover that keeps prying eyes off your gear just mostly gets in the way, so it’s been in long-term storage inside our garage for most of our testing. Its mounting position atop the cargo area and behind the rear seat interferes just enough so buckets of baseballs, folding carts, baby strollers, and tall, bulky stuff like that doesn’t fit underneath. With the unit removed, we can really pack in the gear. The cargo area is fairly generous, to the detriment of the rear passenger legroom. If you’re shorter than 5 feet 10 inches it’s not so bad, but taller people sitting in the back seats for longer periods of time will find themselves wishing the rear seatbacks were afforded 6 inches of the cargo area’s volume.

On the rear seats, the seatbacks do recline to some degree, which makes longer trips more comfortable for adults. Kids don’t seem to really mind either way. But the race-inspired rear buckets with deep side bolsters don’t allow the rear seatbacks to fold forward for a completely flat cargo area. With the side and rear bolsters interfering with each other, the resulting steeply angled rear cargo floor is awkward to load suitcases, coolers, and bulky items on top of because they just want to slide backwards toward the tailgate. We put that stuff in the rear cargo area first to act as a slide-stop and then placed our smaller stuff on top of the seatbacks. It’s a small annoyance, but for the amount of time we’ve had the seats flat it’s doable. Another small SVR-only annoyance is trying to access the rear trailer hitch. The rear fascia has a handsome curved shape that partially covers the rear hitch. To access the receiver hitch for towing or using bike racks you’ve got to remove a small plastic trim piece that’s easily lost or damaged. Our local Land Rover dealership actually broke one of the clips off of our test unit when we asked them to remove it for us during an oil change. D’oh. Guess we should have done it ourselves.

The chunky side and rear bolsters of the track-inspired SVR package interfere with each other and don’t allow the seatbacks to fold completely flat for cargo carrying. Also, if you have the front seats slid rearward for legroom, the headrests of the rear seats will hit the seatbacks and prevent them from folding upward. You need to slide the front seats forward before folding the rear seatbacks up or down.

And as for other breakages and gripes while loaded, we did run into a couple issues when running the SVR with a lot of weight inside. One particular load we guesstimate at around 750 pounds included trail tools, recovery gear, magazine license plates and print issues, an ARB cooler, drinks, and a ton of other relatively heavy stuff we were moving from SoCal to Phoenix during the hot summer. Despite ambient temperatures of 125 degrees outside, the engine ran cool and the A/C worked quite well, but the load made the vehicle feel somewhat sluggish and heavy. We don’t want to use the word “struggling,” but the whole feel and experience of driving the SVR with the equivalent weight of four large adults and their luggage inside was changed. And on the return trip with the same weight, we experienced a strange issue after climbing the mountain to this author’s home. With the ambient temperature hovering around 100 degrees, the author stopped at his mailbox 100 yards from his home and put the vehicle in Park. After returning to the vehicle, the transmission would not shift into any gear. The dash displayed “Gearbox Fault,” so the author walked home and prepared to call a tow truck. However, after sitting for about 25 minutes, the vehicle went into gear and the issue has not resurfaced. We’re guessing the heavy load and hot ambient temperature perhaps had the transmission fluid temp a bit higher than what the SVR computer liked to see.

There’s a good deal of cargo room inside the Range Rover Sport, and the SVR package does little to mitigate the amount of stuff you can haul. This was a particularly heavy load of trail tools, recovery gear, and supplies we dragged from SoCal to Phoenix and back in the hottest month of the year. We did notice the estimated 750-pound weight, but the SVR has plenty of power to spare.

Otherwise, we’re still enjoying our remaining time with the SVR. As always, it turns heads at the fuel pump (we’re there a lot), it’s quiet and comfortable to drive, and it’s an absolute pavement magnet. With the wide, chunky tires, exceptionally well-tuned suspension, and razor-sharp steering, we think the road will move under us before we ever get the tires to slip their grip. It’s a phenomenal driving experience.

We encountered this “Gearbox Fault” after climbing the mountain to our home on a 100-degree day and parking with the engine running to empty the mailbox. Upon reentering the vehicle the transmission refused to go into any gear, with or without the engine running. After sitting in the street for 25-30 minutes the transmission capitulated and went into gear. We haven’t had the problem reoccur yet.

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: 3 of 4
Previous reports: Mar. ’17, Aug. ’17
Base price: $111,350
Price as tested: $128,332
Four-wheel-drive system: Full-time electronically-controlled, two-speed

Long-Term Numbers
Miles to date: 19,424
Miles since last report: 5,322
Average mpg (this report): 12.42
Test best tank (mpg): 17.79 (highway between 70-75 mph)
Test worst tank (mpg): 12.21 (in town and off-road mixed)

This period: Passenger-door body cladding falling off again; oil change
Problem areas: Gearbox fault code; fuel filler still causes vapor recovery-equipped nozzles to continually shut off making fuel stops a frustration

What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: The power and how it’s delivered will never get old
Not: Fuel economy getting worse

Logbook Quotes
“Why don’t the rear seats fold flat? That’s just dumb.”
“The tires look fat—like skateboard wheels.”
“Even the wipers are well-tuned. They’re not thought controlled, are they?”

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