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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Why you should be excited about the RR SVR

No matter how many times Mike Cross - Jaguar
Land Rover's chief vehicle engineer - provokes the
new Range Rover SVR into a whopping great drift,
the fact that I'm having to look at our direction of
travel through one of its conservatory-sized side
windows remains unsettling.
This is a two-tonne SUV, on the lock stops with
the rear end penduluming from side to side.
Admittedly, we've seen this kind of hoonery in fast
Cayennes and BMW X5Ms. But this is a Range
Rover.
However this isn't your standard Range Rover
Sport . It's the first production car from JLR's
Special Vehicles Operations (SVO) division and the
first product to have a SVR badge pinned on its
bumper.
SVO is a newly formed squad tasked with
developing ultra-fast derivatives of existing
Jaguars and Land Rovers. It's a long-overdue
fracking exercise into the well of money from which
brands like Overfinch, Kahn and Prindiville have
been profiting from for years. But now Land Rover
is doing itself, bowing to the demands of people
who want faster, slightly more blingy Range Rovers
and don't mind paying a premium for it.
The Range Rover Sport has never been an
understated thing, but thankfully the aesthetics of
the SVR haven't taken it too far the wrong way.
The way of Cheshire, if you know what we mean.
There's a new front bumper that's binned the fog
lamps to make room for larger air intakes to
improve cooling, a redesigned grille, flared wheel
arches with faux air vents, underfloor carbon fibre
air ducts for brake cooling, a new rear bumper/
diffuser combo and a functional rear spoiler that's
helped nudge the top speed to an electronically
limited to 162mph.
Inside, the leather cabin remains as luxurious as
before but now with added carbon. The centre
console, dash, steering wheel and door panels are
covered in the stuff. But the biggest change is that
the RRS's big, pillowy captain's chairs have been
tossed out and replaced with firmer sporting seats
that mimic the design of F-Type's. The rear seats
have also been decked out in a similar fashion.
The party piece is up front, under the bonnet. It's
the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 from the Jaguar F-
Type R, making 40bhp more than the current RRS
V8, and 502lb ft of torque goodness. Connected to
an uprated version of ZF's eight-speed auto
gearbox, 0-62mph is dusted off in just 4.5
seconds. But if you performance benchmark of
choice is Nurburgring times, this Range Rover has
one. What's that noise? Oh, it's the sound of
James May being sick. The time. 8 minutes 14
seconds, making it the fastest SUV ever to have
lapped the 12.9-mile Green Hell.
But has all this track nonsense and ‘Ring pounding
beaten the RR's off-road identity out of it? Can it
still get down and dirty? To find out, we got in the
passenger seat (we're not allowed to drive it until
next year) and told the driver to find the most
inhospitable holes, muckiest trenches and deepest
wading pools he could at Rockingham Castle to
see if it was up to the test.
The first thing that you notice with the SVR is the
noise. There's a new exhaust system to help the
re-mapped engine breath a bit better. But the quad
exhausts - which also look badass - also house
electronically controlled valves. At low revs two of
the four pipes are closed, but under increased
loads and above 3000rpm, the valves open. Or,
you can press a button on the centre console that
keeps them open all the time. We strongly
recommend doing that, as anyone familiar with the
F-Type V8 soundtrack will recognise the delightful
tune that SVR makes.
With a strong prod of the throttle a guttural bassy
bwaaarp runs its way all the way to the red line.
But the fun really begins when coming off the
throttle. This effectively lights the touch paper to a
KISS pyro show in the backbox, as bangs,
crackles, pops and barks fire from the exhaust.
Previously, this was something you and one lucky
person in the passenger seat of a V8 F-Type could
experience. But in the SVR, with its three rear
seats and big boot, means little Jimmy, Timmy,
Tilly and the dogs can all enjoy the aural
experience too.
With the same terrain response system as any
other Range Rover, traction isn't an issue as
power is briefly sent to each wheel for an
exploratory nibble, before it decides on the best
setting and then fires itself across the landscape at
a phenomenal rate. This combined with that
soundtrack, is something special. If you close your
eyes you feel like you've gone rallying in an F-
Type. It's fantastic.
Although the car is 70kg lighter than its Sport
siblings, it hasn't lost any off-road gubbins that
can make it crawl, wade and scramble itself over
the rough stuff with impeccable grace and aplomb.
With permanent four-wheel drive, low range, and
an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch in
the centre differential, a quick twizzle of the terrain
knob to one of the more extreme modes sees the
SVR rise on its air springs (you try that, Mr X5M),
display all kind of graphics about which axle you're
going to break first, and simply trudges its way
down a slope thanks to Hill Descent. No slip, no
fuss, just relentless composure.
But what about on track?
Well, aside from stiffer bushes on the subframe and
a new system that replaces anti-roll bars with a
hydraulic pump to control body roll, there's
actually very little new performance hardware in
the SVR compared to the standard car. SVO has
simply sharpened the performance by plugging in
some laptops and turning the electronic
components up to eleven.
The adaptive dampers are stiffer, the steering is
heavier, the engine, gearbox and throttle have all
been remapped, the electronic diff has been
tightened up for track use and the torque vectoring
function (which doesn't transfer torque across the
axle but brakes the inner wheel instead) has been
honed.
If you want proper track smarts, you need to spec
the optional 22" performance Continental Conti
Sport Contact 5 tyre for £2,400. This isn't Land
Rover's preferred rubber, as it's not so good off-
road, so they'd rather keep you on the standard
21" wheel and tyre. But if going fast on road and
track is your thing, tick that box. And when you
turn up the heat on the five-litre V8 and really get
it crackling, boy the big SVR can hustle its weight
well.
As the man with sign-off on all JLR cars, Mike
Cross knows a thing or two about how a car
should handle. So as I witness him do a tidy lap of
Rockingham's handling circuit, it's incredible how
light on its feet the SVR feels. The roll isn't half as
drastic as you'd expect and it's pretty evident that
this thing has spent 5,000 miles being developed
around the Nordschleife.
With the systems turned off, Mike stomps on the
six-piston Brembo brakes and chucks the SVR into
a damp corner, and initiating a monster skid. You
can feel all the computer wizardry under your
bottom as the power is transferred from each axle
to get the best traction out of the corner. However
Mike toys with it to provoke it into doing silly
things.
The SVR takes eight laps of track punishment with
ease. Yes, it feels heavy, but not at all lost. If
you've got the budget, SVO will build you a track-
only Range Rover: it's a department open to any
idea. But as a base car, the SVR is a fantastically
characterful polymath. At £93,450 - a £12,000
premium on the 'standard' V8 - it's not cheap, but
this could quite possibly be the only car you ever
need.
Culled from TG.

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