After our five-star road test verdict on the car landed only the other week, we hope they’ve had plenty. Back to business. This 2.3-tonne marvel now has a target on its back big enough to cover a double-garage door and the time to defend itself has already come.
Welcome, then, not just one but two BMW performance SUVs out to catch the Range Rover in a pincer movement worthy of Hannibal himself. First and foremost comes the obvious rival: the all-new X5 M. It’s more powerful than the SVR, it’s quicker, it’s cheaper and it’s from a performance sub-brand with almost four decades of history.
It’s the kind of car that simply demands to be lined up against the reigning power in its particular class on a quiet stretch of B-road and allowed to decide its own fate. And so it shall.
Then there’s the dark horse: the facelifted Alpina XD3 Biturbo. A lower-rung, less desirable, altogether less special offering here to make up the numbers? Not a bit of it.
The sub-£60k price and six-cylinder turbodiesel engine of the XD3 may not lure in the lottery winners quite like the other two here, but regular readers will know that this has been one of our highest-rated fast SUVs since its launch in 2013. It has earned a shot at the SVR – and Alpina says this revised version is even better than the previous one.
It’ll also be rarer than most £200,000 supercars, if exclusivity is your thing, and answers the excess of its rivals with fleet-friendly emissions and 40 to the gallon.
So with the surprisingly hard-hitting X5 M on one flank and the surprisingly pragmatic XD3 on the other, can Land Rover’s new performance SUV champion come up with the necessary moves to survive its first leadership challenge?
Five-star verdicts often cause consternation on the Autocar road test desk. Rarely are they unanimously agreed – and the ones that are tend to become unanimous after lengthy and frank discussion.
The Range Rover Sport SVR’s wasn’t unanimous, but the testers who’d driven the car most widely rated it highest. That’s usually a good sign. Those less inclined towards it revealed themselves to be opposed as much to the idea of a £90,000, 542bhp performance SUV as the SVR’s particular execution. One tester said he’d simply rather have an SDV8. You may very well feel the same, but if you’re a paying customer, that’s your prerogative.
Ours is to judge a car on its merits, in this case on behalf of the customer who does want a burbling 550-horsepower V8 in his 2.3-tonne 4x4. And for that customer, we decided – more than a month ago, now – that nothing better provided the mix of performance, luxury, desirability, practicality, capability and dynamism that you’d want of the ultimate SUV than the SVR. Furthermore, nothing else came close to doing it with such charm.
In the X5 M and XD3, you’ll find very different blends of those various qualities but perhaps not the cocktail of proportions you’re expecting. The Range Rover is the only car here with the telling advantage of off-road capability delivered by height-adjustable air suspension, for example, but the X5’s air-sprung rear end is self-levelling, making it a better tow car than you might think.
The SVR’s boot is big, but the M car’s is notably bigger, and it’s a more accommodating passenger car on account of its genuine three-seat rear bench. The X5 is also the fastest and most sporting car here; that much, we’ll get to. And although the Range Rover Sport may continue to be flavour of the month, the X5 M has a returning customer base and more performance brand equity.