Review: 2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

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To identify its fastest, most performance-focused Range Rover Sport yet, Land Rover attaches three-letter badges to it that read SVR. After spending a week driving a 2015 model on the roads and highways of Austin, Texas, I came away feeling there’s nothing wrong with calling it a more familiar name: SUV. Specifically, a…

…Four-Wheel-Drive…

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Just because the SVR is a supercharged hot rod with the same amount of horsepower as an Audi R8 V10 plus, that doesn’t mean it’s any less of a Range Rover. I drove out to Mansfield Dam with my girlfriend so we could take some pictures (she took a couple of the shots you see here). Afterward, we discovered we had the surrounding park to ourselves, so I took the opportunity to fiddle with the SVR’s 4WD goodies and do some light off-roading through the uneven – and unchallenging – terrain.

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Land Rover could’ve just gutted the four-wheel drive hardware to save weight and make the SVR even faster, but the resulting vehicle wouldn’t have been a Range Rover. Luckily, the company didn’t do that. I still had permanent four-wheel drive with low-range gearing, Hill Descent Control, the Terrain Response 2 system and its six modes (General, Dynamic, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl), and an adjustable electronic air suspension that could give the SVR an obstacle-clearing off-road height of 10.9 inches.

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Those features and capabilities, as well as the SVR’s approach and departure angles of 30 and 27.3 degrees, respectively, were useful at the Texas Auto Writers Association’s recent 2015 Truck Rodeo at the Knibbe Ranch in Spring Branch, Texas. I didn’t have time to drive the SVR at the event because it was one of nearly 90 other vehicles present, but the facts that Land Rover’s reps permitted it to be driven up a steep and particularly rocky, articulation-testing, tire-popping stretch (it happened to a pickup) of land and it emerged with both of its bumpers and no fluid leaking were testaments to its prowess in the rough stuff.

…Sport…

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Although Land Rover doesn’t manufacture performance cars, it sure knows a simple yet effective formula that’s used in making them: combine lightweight materials with a powerful engine. In fact, the aluminum SVR’s 550-horsepower supercharged 5.0-liter V8 has the highest output of anything ever factory-fitted under a Land Rover hood.

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That power plant emitted the deep, hungry snarl of a savage creature through its quartet of tailpipes. The SVR’s two-stage active exhaust only sounded more aggressive after I pressed the button that directed the engine to not cut the fuel supply on the overrun. My girl and I could hear a beast chasing us, its barks loud and staccato. Despite that, “The Range,” as we called it, was perfectly docile in traffic. It didn’t lurch at the slightest hint of throttle.

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The cabin was a serene place to be, even at the elevated speeds common on toll roads. However, some of the controls, such as those for the windows and the glove box release, were oddly placed. I had a hard time determining what, aside from pens and pencils, would fit in the fold-out storage compartment in each front door.

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To test the SVR’s on-road abilities, my girlfriend and I set it to its stops-pulling Dynamic mode and went out to the serpentine Lime Creek Road in Leander, Texas. On each straight, I dumped all of the SVR’s 502 pound-feet of torque through its eight-speed automatic, 21-inch five-split-spoke wheels, and 275/45 R21 110Y all-season tires. We were both shoved back into our sport seats and rocketed toward the next curve in a seemingly endless string of them.

What was even more impressive than that fury was how buttoned-down the SVR felt in the corners. Instead of having visions of ending up in a cartwheeling, flaming mass of wreckage that slammed into a tree, I felt confident and pushed harder and harder, emboldened by the responsive Active-Roll Control system. At times, I was unaware I was behind the wheel of a nearly six-foot-tall Range Rover.

…Utility Vehicle.

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My custody of the SVR was well-timed; I needed something in which I could carry an assembled office chair and various large boxes and items from my old place. A rear storage area with a maximum volume of 62.2 cubic feet (back seats folded) easily swallowed all of that. However, the sculpted backs of the front seats meant I had to lean them forward slightly in order to fold the back sections of the rear seat/headrest combos forward. (The bottoms of the back seats didn’t fold up, so the front of the load floor had an angle to it.)

Ultimately, Land Rover’s most athletic Range Rover Sport yet was a capable off-roader with an alphabet-rearranging amount of thrust and a useful amount of cargo space. The company calls it an SVR; I lovingly call it a four-wheel-drive SUV – and a great way to spend time driving.

*My 2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR review vehicle had an as-tested price of $127,920, which included a transportation charge of $995 and $14,950 in options. Some of those included the Driver Assistance Package ($1,560), a 1,700-watt Meridian Signature audio system ($4,150), an SVR carbon fiber engine cover ($2,000), and carbon fiber veneers ($2,300).

Chime in with your thoughts on the forum. >>

Derek Shiekhi's father raised him on cars. As a boy, Derek accompanied his dad as he bought classics such as post-WWII GM trucks and early Ford Mustang convertibles.

After loving cars for years and getting a bachelor's degree in Business Management, Derek decided to get an associate degree in journalism. His networking put him in contact with the editor of the Austin-American Statesman newspaper, who hired him to write freelance about automotive culture and events in Austin, Texas in 2013. One particular story led to him getting a certificate for learning the foundations of road racing.

While watching TV with his parents one fateful evening, he saw a commercial that changed his life. In it, Jeep touted the Wrangler as the Texas Auto Writers Association's "SUV of Texas." Derek knew he had to join the organization if he was going to advance as an automotive writer. He joined the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) in 2014 and was fortunate to meet several nice people who connected him to the representatives of several automakers and the people who could give him access to press vehicles (the first one he ever got the keys to was a Lexus LX 570). He's now a regular at TAWA's two main events: the Texas Auto Roundup in the spring and the Texas Truck Rodeo in the fall.

Over the past several years, Derek has learned how to drive off-road in various four-wheel-drive SUVs (he even camped out for two nights in a Land Rover), and driven around various tracks in hot hatches, muscle cars, and exotics. Several of his pieces, including his article about the 2015 Ford F-150 being crowned TAWA's 2014 "Truck of Texas" and his review of the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, have won awards in TAWA's annual Excellence in Craft Competition. Last year, his JK Forum profile of Wagonmaster, a business that restores Jeep Wagoneers, won prizes in TAWA’s signature writing contest and its pickup- and SUV-focused Texas Truck Invitational.

In addition to writing for a variety of Internet Brands sites, including JK Forum and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Derek also contributes to other outlets. He started There Will Be Cars on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube to get even more automotive content out to fellow enthusiasts.

He can be reached at [email protected]

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