Rock am Ring
It has been known for a long time that an SUV does not belong on the terrain, although some have very good off-road vehicle properties. On Munich's Maximilianstrasse, however, you need this less, unless you want to climb a curb.
And for there, but also for real men's asphalt, which was laid out on a racetrack, there is a new toy, the Range Rover Sport SVR. It is a Range Rover Sport V8 modified by Land Rover's “Special Vehicles Operations” (SVO) department.
The new top model of the Range Rover family, painted in the SVR exclusive color “Estorilblue”, not only looks brutal, it really works under the hood. 550 HP, 680 Nm torque and 260 km / top speed, in the SUV, already seem incomprehensible on paper. The engine is an evolutionary stage of the 5,0-liter V8 supercharged engine, which delivers 40 hp and 56 Nm more than in the Range Rover Sport V8. It is rather the entirety of the vehicle concept and the improvement in details that make up the additional cost of 25.000 euros compared to the series counterpart.
And where can you best try out such a firecracker? Right, on the GP track of the Nürburgring. On this Tuesday morning, with an icy wind around 10 degrees in the Eifel, half a dozen SVRs are ready to be carried out in the pit lane of the Nürburgring. The last exhaust sonata from the 24-hour race, which ended the afternoon of the day before yesterday, doesn't seem to have completely faded away when we started the powerful V8. How can you describe that feeling when six displacement monsters are brought to life in an orphaned pit lane and the sound reflects back and forth through the cold morning air between the roller doors of the pits and the pit wall like a ping-pong ball.
The first of two novelties in the Range Rover is presented to us here. The two-stage active exhaust system. With the aid of electronically controlled valves, it generates a background noise that matches a race track at higher speeds, but at the same time radiates cultivated smoothness when driving slowly and steadily.
On the racetrack, the SVR shines with sports car properties. After all, he took the record time of 8,14 minutes to circle the Nordschleife for a production SUV to England, even though this trophy is now back in Zuffenhausen, but he can't deny its sheer size and weight. Its all-aluminum monocoque, the first in its vehicle class, helps reduce weight by 39% compared to its predecessor, but the scale still shows a two before the decimal point when the weight is given in tonnes.
The SVR is so ambivalent when it comes to sporty driving. When braking at full speed in the Mühlenbachschleife, the SVR seems to be as heavy as an ocean tanker and pushes ever further towards the outside of the bend, where the asphalt ends and the gravel begins. Well, that would not be an obstacle now, because unlike a sports car, we are sitting in a full-size SUV, one that can also drive off-road. And with a correct, permanent all-wheel drive, with a 50:50 torque distribution between the front and rear axles. If things get really rough, the driver has a two-stage transfer case with reduction options available. And if a river surprisingly appears in front of the SVR driver, the unsurpassed wading depth of 850 millimeters helps in this segment. Electronic helpers such as the water depth measurement "Wade Sensing" support the driver with the water features.
We don't try that today, stay on the asphalt and are amazed at how light-footed the SVR is now pulling up from the Mühlenbach loop towards Schumacher-S. The V8 roars like the Lion King, as if to warn the entire Sahara of a danger. The steering is a bit too soft for our terms and the brake pedal also allows a very long way, but grabs vehemently.
"Hot Lap with Horst von Saurma"
But what really is in this macho SUV is shown by Horst von Saurma, who three years ago had contested the 24-hour race here with Roland Asch and Patrick Simon.
Horst leaves the excellent shifting ZF eight-speed automatic, which has been revised for the SVR by the SVO specialists and now shines with 50% shorter shift times, and is shifted manually using the paddles on the steering wheel.
With a professional on the valance, the eighth person moves in a completely different way. Horst has the SVR delicately rub the black rubber of its 295/40 R22 Continental SportContact5 high-performance tires in the Mercedes Arena. The heavily contoured Oxford leather seat shells hold me in place with these centrifugal forces and I am surprised that the tires do not say goodbye to the huge 22 inch rims. One can feel the strength and violence that is at work here, right down to the finest hairs on the arm, which are vertically upward with enthusiasm.
And sometimes more is possible. So Horst drives this SUV colossus, which feels so light-footed, sometimes across the track. The smell of burnt tire rubber makes its way into the interior. At the front, the V8 stomps like the giant machine in the film "The Boat" when full speed was ordered and the U96 cut its way through the lashing sea. However - my captain Horst von Saurma sits relaxed like the head ranger on the way to hunting in the pews. He loosely holds the valance in his hand and rocks under the trumpet-like roar from the thick tailpipes over the ring.
The Range Rover SVR will not become the volume model of the brand at prices starting at 126.400 euros, but even now, before the official presentation at the dealer, SVO has already received 1.600 orders. The SVR is the fastest and most powerful Land Rover ever, but buyers must be patient. Around 60 vehicles have currently been built at SVO. The waiting period is currently over six months.
Text: Bernd Schweickard © Photo: Land Rover, Bernd Schweickard