Range Rover Sport SVR: XCAR quick drive

Land Rover has set JLR's SVO performance department on the Range Rover Sport. The SVR comes with 542bhp, a sub-five second 0-62 mph time and all the noise you could hope for.

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Is Land Rover's SVO division's first car enough to win new fans? Land Rover

Very few people need a 2.3 tonne car that'll hit 62 mph in 4.7 seconds, reach 162 mph and scale a mountain without breaking a sweat. The people who have such specifications on a list entitled 'need' are probably few in number, but there will be many who have those things on a list marked 'want'.

It turns out that if you give some of the UK's best automotive engineers the task of making a brilliant car more brilliant, you end up with something very interesting indeed. The RRS SVR is the first SVR car, which makes it something of a showcase for SVO's mad skills.

There will be three strings to SVO's main bow -- performance (SVR), off-road (Land Rover only SVX) and luxury (no name yet, but SVL's a good bet, no?) -- and each will have their own attributes. SVR-badged cars will be lighter, exclusively all-wheel-drive and come with more power and better aero. They will be the ultimate evolution of whatever car they're based on.

The SVR looks a little different from the standard car, not for car park bragging rights, but for real reasons. Where the fog lights usually sit on a Sport there's now a whacking great air intake. It's not for show, but to keep the car cool and presumably, from catching fire. They help cool the front of the brakes, while the rear is cooled by a carbon fibre air scoop. Far from being purely cosmetic, the spoiler at the back actually aids the car's progress.

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Quad exhausts make the SVR stand out from the rest of the range. Land Rover

SVO wanted to make a performance car that makes drivers feel good about themselves, as well as making those they pass feel bad for not owning one. But it's less road-legal racer and more comfy continent-crusher with added track kudos. It was, for a spell, the fastest SUV around the ring.

When you start 'er up, the 542bhp, 502lb ft V8 -- the same one you find in a Jaguar F-Type R -- makes its presence known. Unlike the F-Type, though, it can be quiet. If you press the 'loud' button in the cabin it'll bark and shout as loud as you like, but keep that unpressed and it'll be rather quiet. I prefer to keep it in 'HEAR ME ROAR' mode because I'm that kinda guy...

Its pace matches the noise. Pop the car into 'dynamic' and use your right foot to see the road miraculously turn to a blur. You're gently pressed back into your sports seat and thrown down the road. The ride can get a little wobbly on gross country roads but otherwise remains pleasant. The noise that accompanies your ride compliments it nicely.

Dynamic mode does the 'usual' things to the car, so expect an angrier gearbox, throttle and steering. Not that any of them need to be tweaked from their normal modes - poke the angry bear and it'll shout loudly enough for 99% of people. That said, just because it doesn't need to be there, I'm rather glad it is.

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Wet track? Not a problem. Land Rover

It handles far better than you or I can actually drive it - SVO wants it to flatter the driver and it certainly does that. I did find the steering a bit light (even in mentalist mode), but I'm happy to concede that I'm just quite strange when it comes to steering weights. Its gearbox is smooth and when you change up in 'sport' mode it makes the exhaust bark -- another nice touch.

Now, the Range Rover Sport SVR is a Range Rover, so you'd expect it to be good off-road. I had a go around a short course and it tackled it all with no problems at all. Hill Descent Control meant I could point it down a hill and let it get me to the bottom without incident -- the 22-inch road tyres tackled mud without complaint and the whole thing made me feel very much like an explorer. I fear, though, that the challenges I showed the SVR will be the greatest it'll ever face.

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Sports seats may work for some, but they can be a bit hard. Land Rover

There are some things I didn't think were brilliant, of course. For instance, the infotainment set-up is ageing and the sports seats up front aren't all that comfortable. I worry that the kind of person who buys an SVR will only do so to show how much they can afford, rather than because they know what it is.

SVO's work on the RRS has been staggering - I genuinely thought it would be difficult to make the standard car better than it already is, yet SVO managed to do it. It feels every inch the Range Rover, but it has a hint of angriness to it. You won't ever need to use its full capability, but you'll probably want to every day. A full XCAR feature on the SVR will come in due time.

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