The remit of Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations is to enhance and intensify the characteristics of existing models. So the Range Rover Sport gets an accent on the sport part of its name with the SVR version, and the Jaguar F-Pace has just received a similar, snortily supercharged treatment. You might expect the same for the Range Rover Velar, it being the most road-biased Land Rover this side of a front-wheel-drive Evoque. Instead, the SVO people have worked it over with an emphasis on luxury as well as calm, effortless performance for which it receives the clunkily daft SVAutobiography Dynamic badge.
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Like the F-Pace SVR with which it shares a platform, the Velar SVA D gets JLR’s long-serving and big-lunged 5-litre supercharged V8 in 542 horsepower tune, but unlike the Jag it also has air springs – all the better to combine cornering vim with an affable ride. There’s also an active rear diff along with bigger brakes, more aggressive anti-roll bars and a thorough reprogramming of the electronic chassis systems.
That’s the dynamic bit of the wordy badge. The syntactically challenged SVAutobiography part manifests itself in a substantial acreage of quilted leather, a knurled finish for the air con controls, gear selector and exterior badges, and a set of new bumpers which subtly muscle up the appearance and provide bigger intakes for the V8’s air appetite without spoiling the Velar’s clean lines.
At the back there are four sizeable (and real) exhausts, the visible extremities of a new system that saves 7.1 kilos over that of a regular Velar. Likewise, the forged alloys in 21- or optional 22-inch diameter buy you 2.5 kilos over the cast equivalents on lesser models. From these details you might get a sense of the contrasting elements at the heart of the Velar SVA. On the one hand, it’s slathered with all the leathery, twinkly details of a full lux model. On the other, the spec sheet reveals the detail effort that went into saving weight and increasing crispness.
You’ll notice the fancier trimmings first, of course, but on the road the Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic quickly proves itself to be more wieldy than its own name, especially if you stick it in Dynamic mode. The slack you’d find in the steering and suspension response of a regular Velar is gone, replaced with an accuracy that makes it easy to drive the SVA briskly down a twisting road. It’s not quite the uncanny, tall hot hatch sensation you get from a Macan Turbo, but nor is it sloppy and uncoordinated. You wouldn’t call this a steer-from-the-rear sort of machine, but the tricksy diff at the back can receive 100 per cent of the power in extremis and during even moderately vigorous cornering you sense the back axle mucking in to send you cleanly and swiftly around challenging corners.
Best of all, the absence of slop isn’t achieved at the expense of the ride, which is firm but soft edged, as it should be in any half-decent performance car. And of course, you’ve got that hearty supercharged V8 giving easy and instant grunt to a distant thunderstorm soundtrack, though at higher revs it starts to jackhammer like an old Aston V8 Vantage, which is an oddly aggressive noise to have infesting your quilted leather interior. But then it can also feel odd to take such a lavishly trimmed and excellent cruiser and use it to attack a snaking road with an Ari Vatanen level of urgency. Certainly, the subtle finessing of the SVO department means the Velar can step up to it if you really want, but its natural and most enjoyable state is making brisk but not manic progress across the landscape with all the settings knocked back to soft and quiet.
With that in mind, if you want a really dynamic experience from the same basic box of bits, you’d have the F-Pace SVR, saving yourself ten grand in the process. The Velar SVAwfulnaming Decision was created as a complementary model offering a gentler, more GT-like experience. And it does that very well. It’s a pleasant car in its own right, and set to be less commonplace than the Jag since they’re making it for just 12 months. But for the same money you could have a full-size Range Rover with a V8 diesel engine. It won’t be as well kitted for that money, and certainly not as sharp to drive, but if you’re after a long-striding machine in which you will feel calm and confident as you monster vast mileages, it’s hard to argue against the big daddy as opposed to the sleek-flanked upstart.
Conversely, if you’ve got 90 grand or can run to the chunky monthlies and you absolutely must have a Velar, this is certainly the nicest one you can buy.
V8, 4999cc, supercharged
|Torque||502lb ft @ 2500-5500rpm|