It’s tempting to pre-judge a new performance car by the number of bespoke mechanicals its maker has lavished on it.
Even the most open-minded petrolhead may be surprised that there’s been no extra-large engine shoehorned into this car and very little special hardware fitted to the standard Sport’s driveline and suspension. But that only serves to show the danger of judging this particular book by anything other than its driving experience.
Instead, SVO’s approach was to be fairly pragmatic in deciding what to replace or simply retune or enhance from the Range Rover Sport. In doing that, it has run a risk. But it has also rather cleverly taken the opportunity to emphasise the engineering integrity of the standard Range Rover Sport by demonstrating – more or less – what it was always capable of.
The SVR is powered by the same ‘AJ133’ supercharged 5.0-litre V8 that goes in the V8 S/C model, albeit here in the more rarefied 542bhp tune with which it powers the Jaguar F-Type R Coupé. Although curiously SVO turned the wick for the F-Type SVR which produces 576bhp.
The driveline is materially unaltered, although new electronic controls for the eight-speed automatic transmission deliver faster shifts, while revised settings for the electronic locking rear differential make for enhanced traction and directional control.
You also get an electronic locking diff on the front axle and Land Rover’s clutch-based centre diff, which nominally splits power 50/50 front to rear but can send 100 percent of it to either pair of wheels. Plus you still get the Range Rover Sport’s low-range transfer case and Terrain Response 2 traction control system, so the compromises to Land Rover’s traditional rough-stuff capability are almost non-existent.
The changes to the make-up of the SVR’s height-adjustable suspension are limited to firmer bushes, new pistons for the air springs, bigger wheels and tyres and, on cars such as our 22in wheel-shod test example, wider axle tracks.
Additionally, with those optional wheels come the first performance road tyres to be offered on a Land Rover product, in this case Continental ContiSportContact 5s. Otherwise, SVO’s efforts have largely gone on retuning the interlinked springs, magnetorheological dampers and active anti-roll bars offered on the regular Range Rover Sport.
Besides the SVR badging, the styling identifiers consist of enlarged front air intakes on a revised front bumper, new black grilles on the nose, bonnet and front wings, a new roof spoiler and a rear valance that includes a rear diffuser and quad tailpipes.
No single design revision looks over the top in isolation, but on a performance car the sheer size of the Sport they combine to create an impression of genuine menace.