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10 Jun, 2019 (All day) Alex Ingram
The new flagship Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic has arrived with 542bhp, but what's it like on the road?
The Range Rover Velar has a new range topper: the SVAutobiography Dynamic. The handsome SUV has been handed over to Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations division, whose former creations are as diverse as the hardcore Jaguar XE SV Project 8 and the super plush Range Rover SVAutobiography. So which approach has SVO taken with the Velar?
As with other SVO projects, the Velar gets a hefty upgrade in the engine department. While the rest of the Velar family has to make do with a choice of four and six-cylinder engines, the SVAutobiography Dynamic gets the same V8 that's found in the likes of the Jaguar F-Type: a 542bhp supercharged V8.
As a result, performance undercuts anything else previously available in the Velar range by far. The 0-62mph dash takes 4.5 seconds and top speed is 170mph. That’s Porsche Cayenne Turbo territory.
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To help Land Rover’s Premium Lightweight Architecture cope with the extra shove, the Velar is treated to a host of upgrades under the skin. Enlarged brake discs measure 395mm up front and are gripped by four piston calipers. The eight-speed gearbox remains, and while power is still diverted to all four wheels, the SVAutobiography gets a tougher transfer box to handle the extra torque.
There’s a choice of 21 and 22-inch wheel designs, each of which weigh 2.5kg less than conventional Velar wheels of the equivalent size. The suspension gains stiffer bushings, but unlike its Jaguar cousin, the F-Pace SVR, the Velar keeps an air set-up – albeit returned to deliver sharper responses – in place of the Jag’s firmer coil spring configuration.
And it’s this feature that gives a big clue as to the way it drives. While the F-Pace SVR is positioned as a hardcore performance SUV, SVO believed that wouldn't be an approach that'd suit the character of the Velar. As a result, it's more laid back. Well, to a degree.
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The Velar trades off track car-like agility for a distinctly solid, reassuring feel through the bends: the steering has a pleasing weight at speed – but stays light enough around town – and once loaded up, the chassis adopts a stable, rather than playful, attitude. All weather tyres mean that there's not the unshakeable levels of grip that you'll find in a Porsche Cayenne, but there aren’t any nasty surprises when they reach their limit.
So responses are sharper than the standard car, but the Velar’s deeply impressive levels of comfort remain. A mix of a soothing ride and wonderfully supportive seats make for brilliant cross-continent cruising potential. That it can do all of this while maintaining the typical Land Rover off road ability – aside from a slightly reduced approach angle due to the deeper front splitter – is really quite staggering.
But the experience is dominated by that wonderful engine. Unlike its turbocharged rivals, the supercharged Velar responds near-instantly to any prod of the throttle pedal. And it’s a pedal that encourages those inputs, due in no small part to the wonderful noise: more race car than posh SUV, it snarls and gargles its way to the red line, and more tunefully than Mercedes-AMG’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo alternative. It’s better still with the active exhaust system in its most antisocial setting, where the usual induction roar is joined by extra drama out back.
The auto gearbox is smooth for the most part, but its eagerness to kick down at almost any opportunity seems a little unnecessary when there’s 680Nm of torque to play with. Of course you can get past this by taking manual control, and the lovely aluminum paddles are all the excuse you'll need to do so.
Fuel consumption? Sit at a very sensible motorway cruise and you might just scrape 30mpg, but in reality most buyers will be lucky to eke low 20s from it in everyday driving. At least there’s a huge fuel tank to prevent daily fill-ups.
So the driving experience is a hit, and SVO’s cosmetic alterations have managed to enhance an already stylish shape. Up front the tweaked bumper features enlarged air dams, which help to both feed cooling air towards the supercharger and smooth airflow around the car, all while adding a look of menace.
Other SVautobiography changes include the new side sills, which feature more body coloured paint to emphasise the car’s depth, unique badging, and quad exhaust tail pipes. There's also a unique paint finish available; Byron Blue has a satin finish that isn't done justice in photos.
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As ever, the inside of the Velar remains a wonderful place to while away the miles. Upgrades here include quilted leather on the seats, a sports steering wheel and a fancy knurling for various knobs and switches on the dash. The three screen set-up of other Velars remains – though there’s some SVA specific graphics for the driver’s display.
For a car that’s 4.8 metres long, the Velar doesn’t make the best use of that size inside. Back seat passengers in an Alfa Romeo Stelvio will find more leg and headroom, and the Cayenne is roomier still. The 558-litre boot should be plenty large enough for most, though.
So then, onto the price. At £86,120, the Velar seems like a lot of money compared to similarly quick SUVs like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. It’s also over £10,000 more expensive than the Jaguar F-Pace SVR with the same engine. But in reality, it feels more special than either of those cars, and it’s likely to be more closely matched to the likes of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo. Yes, the Porsche is a little faster and even sharper to drive, but it also costs £101,550. So by that standard, you could almost argue that the Velar is a bit of a bargain.
4 If such a class of a five-seat GT car existed, the Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic would be near the top of it. Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations wanted to add performance to the Velar without sacrificing comfort, and it looks to have nailed the brief, building on the standard car’s strengths of style and refinement, while adding extra sharpness and a thunderous engine. Yes it's thirsty, and it’s pricey compared to rivals that achieve similar performance while giving greater practicality, but as an all-rounder it’s an impressive achievement.
- Model: Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic
- Price: £86,120
- Engine: 5.0-litre V8 supercharged petrol
- Power/torque: 542bhp/680Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
- Top speed: 170mph
- Economy/CO2: 23.9mpg/270g/km
- On sale: Now