First drive: 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

The 2016 Range Rover Sport SVR is the classiest British Bulldog on or off the road

The Range Rover Sport SVR is a marvel in uncompromising off-and-on-road performance. It can go from quiet and unassuming to a beastly brute with a push of a button, taking luxuriousness along the way.

Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) division sounds very much like a clandestine organization secretly engineering skunkwork projects that would make the SR71 Blackbird look quaint in comparison. What has in fact emerged from the workshop is the Range Rover Sport SVR: a vehicle with “overt stealth,” smuggling a brash powerhouse under the guise of the brand’s flagship luxury SUV.

Packed with a supercharged 5.0-liter V8, the result is a 550-horsepower Range Rover uncompromising in its sophistication and comfort, capable of unleashing the brute within when the road — or lack thereof — requires a heavy hand rather than a velvet touch.

Englishman in New York

My journey with the new Range Rover would start in lower Manhattan, where the SUV’s first test would be to survive the Wild West that is New York City traffic. The plan was to take the car upstate and put it through its paces to test everything it promises to deliver: ruggedness, comfort, and performance. None of that was going to happen, however, until a few taxis got a move on.

Make no mistake; the SVR wasn’t blending in with the crowd. The big, Estoril Blue Rover hints at the power underneath the skin with an SVO designed exterior. Its front fascia now features large trapezoidal intakes, a blacked-out grille, and a bumper designed to reduce front-end lift at high speeds. The wider air apertures are there not only intimidate but also send air to the engine’s supercharger as well as to cool the brakes.

Around the back, the Range Rover continues the darker motif with a black air diffuser and a quad exhaust system that looks like the SUV is packing two double-barreled hunting rifles. They may not blast out a wad of double-aught, but they were primed to let loose a cacophony of noise as I hit that wonderful open-exhaust button on the center console.

Over the hills and far away

Leading out of town, however, the Range Rover remained ever docile, floating comfortably along the now open highway in reserved silence. All the typical Range Rover trappings are offered — soft Oxford leathers, aluminum trim details, 62.2 cubic-feet of load space — but unique to the SVR are bespoke sport seats designed to be comfortable at a cruise and also supportive when the pedal is planted. Optional carbon fiber inserts throughout the cabin also drive home the fact that this isn’t your grandmother’s stately people carrier.

Range Rover’s marriage of luxury and ruggedness is, as always, its greatest strength.

The entire package is elegant and plush enough for a weekend excursion to a country equestrian center, but the SVR is more suited to smash through the show jumping course than it is for dressage.

I instead opt to take the Range Rover SVR to a different track altogether, specifically Monticello racetrack in upstate New York. The folks at Land Rover have arranged to demonstrate the sporty dynamics of the SVR, but not without first proving its off-road heritage.

Cut through the back woods of the track, I take the SVR through a course that is both sufficiently muddy and rocky. Equipped with permanent all-wheel drive and a twin-speed transfer case, the SVR is meant to tackle whatever terrain lies ahead and do all of the grunt work itself.

Like an off-road butler, the SUV automatically decides the most appropriate time to lock the differential, apply enough power to crawl over obstacles, and pull through mud without having to bother the driver. After selecting the appropriate ride height, I can preemptively choose the mode I desire with a turn of the terrain response dial. From here, I can prep the Rover for mud, sand, or snow surfaces, or I can leave it on “auto” which is a more reactive, but no less effective method.

At that point, I have to do is keep the wheels pointed in the right direction, applying enough throttle to chug through the earth without getting stuck or sliding. A multitude of displays help me along, showing the angle and suspension travel of each wheel. I can also see how much torque is being applied and where, so I can modify my input accordingly. Combined with hill descent assist, the Rover simply takes over and gently brings me down a hill on its own.

I figured now I would shuttle over to the actual course where a separate track-ready Range Rover would be warmed up and waiting for me, but that was not so. I was told to stay in the vehicle and, after a quick hose-down and check for tire punctures, I was told to grab the helmet in the back seat and hit the track.

Best of both worlds?

The Range Rover hunkers down in Dynamic mode, ready to fire all 550 ponies from the F-TYPE R-sourced 5.0-liter supercharged V8. With 502 pound-feet of torque and a promise of a 4.5-second 0 to 60 sprint, I’m eager to see just if SVO has indeed crafted the ultimate all-rounder.

Power flows to the track by way of an eight-speed automatic geared for 50 percent shorter shifts, designed to keep the revs within the optimal power band at all times. Even for a 5,000-pound truck, the engine churns up enough thrust to send me flying down the track, hitting the triple digits before turning in to bends. SVO takes everything the Range Rover Sport does and improves it, optimizing the suspension and adaptive damper settings, making it far more nimble. Torque vectoring helps pull the hulking luxury SUV through corners, helping to reduce understeer.


Keeping with Range Rover’s mission to bring civility to the wild, without sacrificing luxuriousness or street performance, the SVR certainly raises the bar set by the Range Rover Sport. Yet, in the end, attempting to be all things to all people is its biggest burden.

Certainly, the Range Rover’s marriage of luxury and ruggedness is, as always, its greatest strength. The steering wheel buttons even have a light tack to them as to prevent inadvertent button presses amid off-road jostling. Having the willingness to actually take an $110,000 vehicle to anything remotely unpaved is a different matter altogether. As such, the Range Rover satisfies the small Venn diagram intersection of those who seek to go off the beaten path, but also wants to do so in the most opulent manner possible. It can do this, but it’s difficult to ascertain why.

On the track, the SVR and its hairy-chested grunt makes for an impressive experience, but the novelty of taking a full-size SUV to a track day hangs over the experience. Unlike the BMW X6 M, which makes you forget you’re even in a utility vehicle, the Range Rover doesn’t blur the line between the segments with sedan performance. The SVR drives like an amazing truck … but a truck all the same.

The Range Rover SVR is unquestionably Land Rover’s best jack-of-all-trades, and the increase in power and performance without compromising its off-road heritage is a testament to SVO’s craftsmanship. Other vehicles may be more rugged, opulent, or sporty, but hardly any of them can do all at once with the SVR’s level of success.


  • Staggering ability to transition from off-road ruggedness to track-ready performance
  • Uncompromising luxuriousness in all situations
  • Incredibly docile and comfortable when required
  • Blaring, powerful presence when taken off its leash


  • Track and off-road performance easily compromised by tire selection
  • Capable off-road and on-track but hardly appropriate for either
Product Review

The Ferrari Portofino is the super stallion you’ll want to drive every day

With the introduction of the Portofino, Ferrari addresses the California T’s stylistic shortcomings while improving comfort, convenience, and performance. There’s little “entry-level” about this super stallion.

This modified Land Rover Discovery is heading to Africa to help fight malaria

A Land Rover Discovery will be used by the Mobile Malaria Project for a 3,900-mile trek across Africa to study malaria. The SUV is equipped with a mobile gene-sequencing laboratory, as well as everything necessary for serious off-roading.
Product Review

Who needs a Range Rover? BMW’s X7 has better tech and just as much luxury

The 2019 BMW X7 is the German automaker’s long-overdue entry into the full-size luxury SUV segment. Packing three rows of seats and plenty of tech, can the new BMW take on Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover?
Emerging Tech

Opportunity’s final image is a haunting panorama of the Martian surface

The Opportunity mission to Mars may be no more, but the rover's legacy lives on. Now NASA has released the final image captured by Opportunity, and it's a stunning panorama of the Martian surface.

Waymo boosts robo-taxi plans with new service center in Arizona

Waymo has announced plans for a facility in Phoenix, Arizona, that will help to service, maintain, and grow its fleet of autonomous Waymo One cars. The vehicles operate as part of the company's robo-taxi ridesharing service.

Vivint’s Car Guard keeps tabs on your vehicle when you’re not in it

A simple plug-in that you can place in just about any vehicle, Vivint's new Car Guard will automatically detect if your car is bumped, towed, or stolen and will alert you about it.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC coupe gets a tech upgrade, keeps quirky styling

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC coupe debuts at the 2019 New York Auto Show with an upgraded infotainment system that incorporates Mercedes' digital assistant. The SUV launches later this year with turbocharged four-cylinder power.

Volvo wants to use speed limiters, in-car cameras, and data to reduce crashes

Volvo believes new tech is the best way to improve car safety. The Swedish automaker will let owners set speed limits when loaning out their cars, install cameras to monitor drivers, and use data to design better safety features.

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe teased way ahead of its November debut

The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is coming to the United States, eventually. The new compact BMW won't be unveiled until the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The Gran Coupe will be based on a front-wheel drive platform.

Tesla lets you skip the dealership, order a car from the comfort of your couch

Tesla has always bypassed traditional dealerships, and it has now adopted an online-only sales model that lets customers configure and order their car without leaving their couch. Here's what you need to know.

Autonomous shuttle rides coming to New York City via Optimus Ride

Workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in NY City will soon be able to make their way around the 300-acre industrial park in Optimus Ride's self-driving shuttles. The tech startup says it's the first trial of its kind in the state.

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi group uses Microsoft cloud platform for connected cars

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is launching a new cloud platform for its cars. Based on Microsoft Azure, the Alliance Intelligent Cloud will enable features like connected services and over-the-air updates.

The 2019 Toyota C-HR gains a popular tech feature as its price comes down

Toyota has updated the C-HR, its entry-level crossover, by adding an entry-level trim level to the lineup. Every model regardless of price also comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay.
Product Review

2019 Volkswagen Jetta offers German refinement and tech at an affordable price

With enough tech to make villains jealous, the Volkswagen Jetta punches above its class as a forward-thinking sedan. Spacious, comfortable, and efficient, the Jetta is a refined offering. German refinement comes with a serious attitude.