I'm staring at a seriously steep slope, sopping wet from late-winter rain with two very deep ruts carved into the mud. My 2018 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR is wearing aggressive summer tires that are barely at home in the rain, let alone grass and mud. There's no way this'll work.
Throttle down, persistent acceleration and furious V8 noise -- the hottest Land Rover makes it to the crest with very little drama. And that's the Range Rover Sport SVR in a nutshell. At first glance, the 575-horsepower sports car on stilts might only seem good for peacocking around in a tempest of exhaust noise. But it's a Range Rover at heart, which means it'll still climb just about anything, even while wearing the wrong pair of shoes.
Big changes for 2018, mostly inside
The whole Range Rover Sport line receives a mid-cycle refresh for the 2018 model year, with most of its changes concerning in-car tech. It does look a little different, thanks to slimmer LED headlights and a slightly tweaked front end. The rear end gets integrated tailpipes, which look nice and don't mess with the Sport's off-road-friendly departure angle. There's also a take-it-or-leave-it carbon fiber hood with exposed weave in the center.
The biggest update comes by way of the Touch Pro Duo screens that adorn the center stack. The top touchscreen deals with traditional infotainment duties (media, navigation, phone) while the lower half covers climate and other vehicle settings. They don't take long to get used to, although I do lament the loss of physical switches. Thankfully, vehicle modes have a standalone dial if you prefer something a bit more tactile.
For this Sport SVR, Land Rover massages its 5.0-liter supercharged V8, too. Output is up to 575 horsepower (from 550) and 516 pound-feet of torque (from 502). Despite a curb weight north of 5,000 pounds, the SVR will hit 60 miles per hour in 4.3 seconds, which borders on black magic when you feel the acceleration come on.
Road and track
My time with the SVR begins on small English B-roads and motorways, en route to Jaguar Land Rover's proving ground at Fen End. While the Sport SVR is smaller than the standard Range Rover, it's still a large presence on tinier roads. Thankfully, visibility from all angles is ample enough to let me dip a tire into the grass with enough precision.
The 5.0-liter V8 is generally quiet during normal operation, but if you're like me, you'll turn the dual-mode exhaust to its louder setting, which under standard throttle application rumbles just under the neighbor-waking threshold. Shifts from the eight-speed automatic transmission are executed smoothly, and ride quality is befitting of a Range Rover, albeit with a slightly sportier bent thanks to its big wheels and thin summer tires.
Arriving at Fen End gives me the opportunity to let loose on the track's long straights. The SVR accelerates with preternatural force, the exhaust reverberating through the cabin like cannon fire. While the brakes aren't some fancy-schmancy carbon ceramic units, they bring the SVR down from 150-ish mph over and over again with no change to pedal feel. Despite its heft, the steering is direct and the SVR changes direction with little roll as the weight shifts from left to right.
No stranger to the dirt
As I arrive at the off-roading course, I switch the SVR into Low and set the terrain dial to the mud and dirt setting. Even the sportiest Range Rover gets all the off-road trimmings, like a low-range gearbox and multiple vehicle modes for dirt, snow, rocks or whatever else nature puts in your path.
Despite its sticky summer tires, the Sport SVR tackles deep mud and wet grass like a champ. The car's many computers lock and unlock the differentials as the terrain demands, and it all happens in the background. The result is a surprisingly serene trip through a forest without a road in sight.
Even when I reach the aforementioned soaking wet hill, the SVR tackles it with aplomb. I briefly forget that we're using the wrong tires as the thing climbs like it's wearing crampons. It's a shame that most Range Rover Sport drivers won't experience this.
Trying to be the jack-of-all-trades is not easy, but the 2018 Range Rover Sport SVR manages to do it with very few downsides. It'll hustle in a straight line, a curve or a slope, and it'll remain Range Rover comfortable the whole way through.
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