Land Rover was gracious enough to give us some time in its brand-new Range Rover Sport Plug-in Electric Hybrid Vehicle. At the time of this writing, this PHEV SUV has yet to hit the market, but we can tell you it’s loaded with a ton of good stuff, like a 31-mile pure EV range, a 0-60 time in the low 6 seconds, and an observed 29 mpg in mixed driving. And it’s a Range Rover, so it’s got all the off-road capability we expect from the nameplate, too. What could be better?
Well, less than a week later, Land Rover answered our question with this: the Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic, which for the sake of our fingers, we’ll shorten to SVA-D. Its exorbitantly long name is matched only by its exorbitantly huge price, with our tester ringing in at over $182,000 USD. This is how Land Rover does luxury, and it’s how the brand takes aim at rivals like the Bentley Bentayga and Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
That the Range Rover Sport SVA-D is built atop the standard Range Rover Sport platform is both a blessing and a curse. Let’s start with the good stuff. All the off-road capability that makes the Range Rover is here, including 8.7-inches of ground-clearance, a water-fording depth of 35.4-inches, and a suite of off-road driving technologies to help this SUV power through any type of terrain.
The craftsmen at Jaguar/Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) take this chassis and refine it to create something truly special. The engine, as can be expected of a car in this price range, is stellar. It’s an all-aluminum 5.0-litre V8 that has been supercharged to produce 557 horsepower. 0-60 takes just 5.1 seconds, though you need to shift things to “sport” and really stab the gas to make that happen. Gas mileage, as can be expected, is terrible; we observed an estimated 10 mpg on average. But then, at this price, chances are good that fuel savings aren’t a high priority for the SVA-D consumer.
All suspension components have been revised to put a premium on on-road performance. We’ve taken a liking to setting the air-adjustable suspension to what Land Rover calls “Access Height,” which drops the SUV low to the ground, really accentuating the way it rides on its 21-inch wheels. This air suspension also works in the opposite direction, jacking up the ride height to help achieve those off-road numbers we mentioned earlier. This taller ride height may be functional when pavement is nowhere to be found, but it looks super awkward, leaving us to keep our SVA-D on its ground-hugging setting.
It’s also here where we bring up the “curse” of using the standard Range Rover Sport chassis. There’s nothing wrong with the performance or handling, but on-road performance doesn’t feel that much different from the hybrid version we drove a week prior — and that fully loaded PHEV is over $100K cheaper. This Range Rover SVA-D also feels, well, like a Range Rover, with the coarser engine sounds, vibrations, and on-road bumps that have long been associated with the brand. So where can this extra $100K be found? Just look everywhere else.
Land Rover’s SVO team created a host of exclusive exterior hues, all of which accentuate the contrasting exterior trim pieces. Our tester didn’t come in an SVO-exclusive color, but there’s no denying the drama of its Firenze Red body and black-accent roof. Its side trim pieces finished in chrome-accented steel gray—looking more like carbon composite than paint—further bringing a sense of modernity to this historic brand.
Inside, things are just as nice, with semi-aniline leather covering most surfaces. All four seats get full power adjustment, diamond-quilted stitching and, best of all, a variety of massage functions. We’re partial to the Hot Stone massage, ourselves. One lucky backseat passenger (passenger-side rear) also gets a full recline and foot rest feature, though at the expense of room for the passenger up front. Carpeting is plush, with a deep pile that demands you keep your muddy boots outside the vehicle, thank you.
Hard surfaces receive just as much attention, with genuine carbon fibre trim finding a home in the doors and dash, and knurled metal surfaces surrounding the start/stop button, glove box release, and more. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters are constructed from solid aluminum, and the metal rotary shift dial feels heavy and substantial. Too bad about the cheap chrome plastic that adorns the dual rotary climate control knobs, then.
All in all, the Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic is an amazing machine, and it shows what a dedicated team can do with a proven platform. But with its $182,000 MSRP, we can’t help but want more. Its Bentayga and Cullinan rivals were designed from the ground up to exemplify their respective marques, and they exhibit a sense of refinement that is unrivalled. To make the Range Rover feel as luxurious as those two requires more than some nice massage seats — it requires an entirely new platform.
But then again, the Bentley and Rolls don’t have the off-road pedigree of the Range Rover, and even the cheapest Bentayga comes in a fair bit pricier than the SVAutobiography Dynamic. That said, for our money, we’d save the $100K and just get the Range Rover Sport Plug-In Electric Vehicle instead.