► New SVAutobiography Dynamic tested
► Supercharged V8 grants 0-60 in 5.1sec
► On sale now for £132,800
Jaguar Land Rover’s fledgling performance and personalisation arm, Special Vehicle Operations, has already established a reputation for vehicles of uncouth charm – notably the shrinking violet Range Rover Sport SVR and the deeply talented, really quite loud F-type SVR.
Now it’s turned its gaze to the Crown Jewels, the Range Rover, and written itself a trickier and contradictory brief: to up both the dynamism and the luxury of the world’s favourite four-wheel-drive land yacht.
In the process it’s also built the fastest, most dynamic Range Rover yet and – it hopes – a £133k, 155mph reason not to buy a Bentley Bentayga.
Isn’t the Range Rover Sport SVR Land Rover’s performance SUV?
Well, yes and no. Apparently the problem with the Range Rover Sport SVR is simply that it isn’t a full-sized Range Rover. There’s a merry band of buyers keen to be seen in the flagship Range Rover but keen also to travel up front, at the wheel, rather than in the back. Key markets will be US, the Middle East, the UK and, to a lesser extent, Europe.
The car should also go down a storm in China, despite the 5.0-litre supercharged liability under the hood. The SVAutobiography Dynamic simplifies the top-end Range Rover wheelbase issue, too: it uses the standard wheelbase (2922mm between the wheels) while all non-Dynamic SVAutobiography Range Rovers are long wheelbase.
So what’s so Dynamic about it?
The SVAutobiography Dynamic sits a little lower over its wheels than the standard car, as befits a machine designed to be a little more deft at speed on challenging roads, and has had numerous changes wrought upon its suspension set-up in an attempt to increase body control without sacrificing ride comfort.
Spring rates are comparable to the standard car’s but damping rates have been ratcheted up and the car’s hydraulic anti-roll system recalibrated. The steering rack is a lower-ratio unit from the Range Rover Sport, which grants quicker responses, though it’s kept from feeling too sharp courtesy of the bigger Range Rover steering wheel. A Brembo brake set-up promises power with staying power, while the wheels are unique 21-inch or 22-inchers – nothing less.
But perhaps the most dynamic part of the package is the familiar and riotous powertrain: that smooth, spectacular and sonorous supercharged V8, hooked up to ZF’s deft eight-speed auto gearbox and driving through all four wheels.
The engine’s been recalibrated for duty here, with manners you won’t find in the Range Sport SVR, but still it has a life all its own and an undeniable charm. For an inanimate collection of castings and parts it feels dangerously like a partner in crime.
Its sheer performance lends the whole rig a turn of speed entirely at odds with its size and weight while its voice – nicely muted on the cruise but full-blooded and a little naughty under duress through the Dynamic’s quad pipes – feels beautifully judged.
A winner then?
It depends what you’re after. Increasing dynamic performance and luxury is all but impossible and so it’s proved here. The suspension tweaks have introduced a harshness absent in the standard car, the set-up struggling for answers when interrogated by broken urban pavement or rough country lanes. For some that’ll be unacceptable in a Range Rover – you may agree.
The payoff is undoubtedly a little more control mid-corner, reduced body roll and the confidence to carry speed rather than to brake hard ahead of a daunting sequence of bends. But the SVAutobiography Dynamic is no Bentayga in that regard, with plenty of unchecked movement should you get punchy with your inputs to brakes and wheel. The Range Rover can’t match the Bentley’s spooky, iron-fisted resolve when you’re in a hurry, just as the supercharged V8 can’t match that W12 for response and sheer reach.
But the two feel like answers to subtly different questions, with the Range Rover being more spacious, more relaxing to drive, more versatile and, for what it’s worth, almost certainly handier off-road.
The really good Range Rover stuff is of course unchanged: the striking good looks, sublime comfort from ergonomically flawless seats, fantastic visibility from a peerless driving position, a sense of occasion that doesn’t fade with time and a sense of towering capability, whether you’re setting out for the Alps or Waitrose.
What else is Special Vehicle about it?
A standard palette of 19 colours in gloss or satin matt finishes (plus the option to dive into the SVO Premium Paint Palette of nearly 300 colours and dual-tone colourways), and a unique Graphite Atlas finish to some of the exterior trim parts (side vents, grille and bumper accents).
There’s also a dusting of SVO touches inside, including a smattering of knurled metal parts and diamond-quilted seats in a choice of four exclusive colourways. It all sounds like pretty detail stuff but it adds up to discernibly different aesthetic, one that’s arguably more successful outside than in.
The Graphite Atlas exterior accents fit the Dynamic’s remit but, lovely diamond-stitched seats aside, some of the interior touches feel misjudged in a Range Rover, whatever its name. Anodised red shift paddles sum up the awkwardness here. They’re desperate to bring a sheen of performance cool but fall short and feel almost aftermarket – ironic given SVO was essentially created to take some of the cash being poured into the aftermarket’s tills.
Handsome, awesomely capable, a joy to drive and shot through with charm, the SVAutobiography Dynamic is a great car. Its sparkling powertrain and visual presence are perhaps its finest attributes but the confused brief can be felt on the road, with a ride quality unbecoming of a Range Rover, however improved its cornering gusto. And tread carefully on the configurator for fear of creating a car uncomfortably close to gaudy.
For some this will undoubtedly be the Range Rover they’ve been waiting for. But for the rest of us the best Range Rover for indulgent types remains the imperious, less compromised Autobiography with the supercharged V8 – not least because it’s nearly £30k less expensive.
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