Range Rover Sport SVR (L494) | The Brave Pill

Time to welcome the fastest Range Rover to the club

By Mike Duff / Saturday, 27 May 2023 / Loading comments

Tempus done fugit again. With the realisation, driven by the imminent arrival of a new super-fast Range Rover Sport SV, that the original SVO is now eight years old. One which has brought the Brave Pill crosshairs onto the leggiest version currently in the classifieds. This is also the debut appearance for any second-gen L494 Range Rover Sport – so it seems appropriate that we’re heading straight to the top of the tree.

When Pill has previously featured Range Rovers of different ages and types the response in the comments has consistently split between ‘run away!’ levels of scepticism and endorsements by those who have exclusively experienced trouble-free Wednesday morning cars. This critical split hasn’t been exactly even, it must be admitted, but the majority of doubters have always seen their mistrust reflected by enticing prices.

But that’s not necessarily the case here. Because although, as you’d expect, our chosen SVR is one of the cheapest examples currently on sale, it also looks like a residual powerhouse by Land Rover standards. When new in 2017 it would have cost its first owner a bit over £100,000 to judge from what seems a full optioning, including the very expensive Meridian audio system. Yet six years later it is up for £40,995 which – if realised – is an impressive bit of value retention given the fact it has covered 129,000 miles in that time. It certainly puts the £118/ mile depreciation of last week’s barely-driven Aston Martin DB9 into perspective.

Yet market forces have got a point. Firstly, proving there are clearly plenty of potential SVR buyers out there. But also, daft as it may sound, because the fastest Range Rover Sport is also among the less risky buys within the clan. Beyond the need to pay for a petrol habit that will be consistently south of 20mpg, and the expense of rubber and brakes, the SVR is short on the sort of roulette wheel issues that afflict many of its lesser siblings – from ignition control modules glitches in the petrol versions to the tendency of the V6 diesels to snack on their crankshafts.

Take that previous paragraph as being about the SVR in general rather than this one in particular, with the dealer selling it saying that it was “supplied and fitted with a new engine by Land Rover around 6 months ago at a cost of £15,000.” Which, although a discussion point, is certainly suggestive that it won’t need another one again soon.

No SVR will ever be a vehicle for shrinking violets. The pumped-up bodywork isn’t short on muscular appeal compared to the regular Sport, but it’s the soundtrack that really differentiates it. From pretty much everything this side of an artillery barrage. To call the SVR loud would be selling it short, there are gentler death metal bands out there. The supercharged 5.0-litre V8 excels at turning chemical engineering into noise, and although many will love the exhaust note, neighbours are likely to hate it if the owner regularly goes for early morning drives. There are switchable acoustic flaps, but even the quieter mode is still pretty violent. 

Early reviews of the SVR’s driving experience were as positive as a pool full of protons (the subatomic particles, not the terrible Malaysian cars.) There had been muscular Range Rovers before, but all had been designed for comfort and off-road ability rather than apex predation. Not so the SVR, which was both much more focussed, but also willing to be pushed to the hinterland where grip becomes slip and tyres become vapour, the V8’s huge torque more than a match for a 2.4-tonne kerbweight. The idea of power-sliding any Land Rover product on dry tarmac beyond a Bowler would have seemed unlikely and unfeasible before it arrived, but the SVR made hoonery almost too easy. 

Although by any standards, the Sport SVR is ludicrously fast, it did get beaten on one particularly silly metric. Land Rover had managed to send the SVR around the Nurburgring Nordschliefe in a ridiculous slight 8 minutes and 14 seconds, which would have counted as an SUV record when it happened. Sadly for them, although amusingly for everyone else, Porsche managed to gazump the SVR’s time before it had even been announced, the Cayenne Turbo S managing a 7:59 before Land Rover had even communicated their short-lived benchmark. Which was a little like watching two bald blokes scrapping over a hairbrush. 

Despite the critical froth, the SVR was still constrained by the issues common to all tall and heavy performance SUVs – it felt big and cumbersome in tighter stuff, and it was all too easy to create cornering forces that would turn passengers green and whiny. And although it kept most of the off-road ability of the regular Sport, with a full set of switchable dynamic modes and height-adjusting air springs, actual use in the wilderness would soon imperil the XL bumpers and vast wheels. I remember being directed to drive one through a small lake at a press event, listening to the sound of rocks nibbling the 22-inch alloys and thinking that I would never attempt such madness if I actually needed to pay for remedial work.

Getting our Pill to 129,000 miles will have doubtless been a costly business, beyond the price of fuel, tyres and that second V8. The dealer selling this one promises that it comes with a full Land Rover service history, and also that it was last serviced last November at 127,604 miles. According to the database rodents, this is the exact mileage at which it also got its most recent MOT, so presumably just after the engine replacement.

The rest of the MOT history behind the obscured plates reveals some frankly spectacular mileage acquisition. Between the first pass in 2020 – with 55,000 showing – and 2021’s it put on just over 45,000 miles. Which was going some, even without the complication of COVID restrictions. Another 27,000 came the following year. There have been advisories along the way, but none of them surprising – thin brake discs most recently and four tyres close to the limit in 2020. But, on the available evidence, this SVR has been both looked after and enjoyed.

With the Range Rover Sport SVR, JLR’s SVO division got it right first time. None of the other SVO or SV Autobiography models that have followed it have enjoyed anything like its level of success, a point made by the fact there are no fewer than 182 SVR Rangies currently in the classifieds. Land Rover will be hoping very hard that lightning (if not lightening) can strike twice with the new car.

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