Skip to main content
car review
Open this photo in gallery:

The 2024 Range Rover Sport SV Edition One charges around the undulating and intimidating Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in southern Portugal.David Shepherd, +447831586258/Courtesy of manufacturer

Imagine your job is to ride a bull through a china shop. Some would consider the task nonsensical. Others would relish its inherent challenge. Matt Becker, the man behind the wheel of the 2024 Range Rover Sport SV Edition One, definitely falls into the second camp.

For the past two years, he’s been vehicle engineering director for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). Prior to that, he spent seven years at Aston Martin and, before that, he was responsible for making Lotus cars among the best handling in the business.

On this particular day, his task is more challenging still. While powering around the undulating and intimidating Autodromo Internacional do Algarve racing circuit in southern Portugal, he needs to describe the rationale behind engineering a vehicle that can tackle both a paved racetrack and the average mountain with equal aplomb.

This is the third time there’s been a higher-performing version of the Range Rover Sport brought to market. The first appeared in 2005, the second in 2014. Earlier, the high-end sport utility vehicle was known as the Range Rover Sport Supercharged, then the SVR — now it’s just the SV (in case you’re wondering, Special Vehicle). But the changes don’t stop changing. The team at JLR has unleashed a torrent of technology to make the new SV a different beast altogether.

Let’s start under the hood, which can be constructed of carbon fibre if you so desire. The outgoing Range Rover Sport SVR was powered by a hugely entertaining supercharged five-litre V8 with 550 horsepower and 502 lb-ft of torque. It’s the same engine that made the top version of the Jaguar F-Type a thrill to drive.

Despite its resolute capability, that V8 has been kicked to the proverbial curb by the new SV engine. It’s a twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre mild hybrid V8 with a gut-wrenching 626 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. This set-up allows the SV — a full-sized sport utility that tips the scales at 2,560 kilograms (5,645 pounds) — to catapult to 100 kilometres an hour from a standing start in 3.7 seconds.

At this point, making an SUV accelerate like a sports car is child’s play for even an entry-level automotive engineer. It’s a simple power-to-weight exercise: If the vehicle in question is heavier, it just needs more power. The real challenge comes when you take what appears to be, on paper, a pondorous SUV and make it dance around high-speed, off-camber, downhill corners like a mid-engined sports car.

Open this photo in gallery:

The interior of the 2024 Range Rover Sport SV.Courtesy of manufacturer

At times like these, you’re coming dangerously close to defying the laws of physics. Yet, with Becker behind the wheel, the Range Rover Sport SV attacks the final corner of the track like a bulldog on a chew toy, front end biting hard, back end maintaining a sideways approach angle, all four tires clawing into the tarmac and then spitting it out into the rearview mirror.

It’s a thing of beauty to behold, made all the more beautiful by the mere fact that it’s one of those seeing-is-believing moments. Earlier in the day, as I tried to make the Range Rover Sport SV obey my commands around the same turns, it seemed too big a challenge — too much weight plus not enough courage was not enough to flout the laws of physics.

Of course, the engineer has more familiarity with the vehicle, so he has a built-in advantage. By the time we meet on track, Becker is two years into his fine-tuning. It’s a task that’s taken him across sand dunes in the Middle East, over snowbanks in Sweden and around the mind-bending stretches of the dreaded Nuerburgring racetrack in Germany.

When he first joined JLR in 2022, the vehicle had already been in development for about three years. It’s also the first time in his career that Becker has had to contend with a vehicle that’s also engineered to dominate off-road.

“No other vehicle in the world can do this,” says JLR special vehicle operations director Jamal Hameedi, referring to its performance on track and off-road. “No other vehicle has this breadth of capability.”

Like his JLR colleague, he knows a thing or two about engineering enthusiast vehicles with all sorts of capabilities. Hameedi’s background with Ford Performance saw him work on the Ford GT, Ford Focus RS, Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and Ford F-150 Raptor, among many others.

In the hands of Becker, it’s clear the SV can do things a typical SUV cannot. That same day, we watch the SV scramble across an incline with a 31-degree pitch and wade through water so deep, it soaks the optional 23-inch carbon-fibre wheels right to the top.

There’s a trick air-suspension system that raises the vehicle to clear such obstacles and lowers it by 15 millimetres when in the track-focused SV mode. This same system also helps control body roll and pitch when you bury the throttle or pound on the brakes. Speaking of the brakes, they’re also innovative: optional carbon ceramic numbers with exclusive eight-piston calipers that were produced in partnership with Brembo.

Open this photo in gallery:

The SV's new twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre mild hybrid V8 with a gut-wrenching 626 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque allows it to catapult to 100 kilometres an hour from a standing start in 3.7 seconds.David Shepherd, +447831586258/Courtesy of manufacturer

The SV also features all-wheel steering, a torque vectoring system that leans on those big brakes, an active locking rear differential, rear tires that are 20 millimetres wider than the front tires and, of course, an all-wheel-drive system. The objective of these features is fairly evenly balanced between monstrous performance on the track and mountainous performance off it.

But the fact that JLR has so effectively hit the target begs the question: Are they aiming at the right target?

It’s common knowledge that very few SUV owners take their vehicles off-road; even fewer would drive them in anger around a racetrack. With the 2024 Range Rover Sport SV Edition One, JLR has successfully achieved a level of exclusivity, which seems to be the objective of every second manufacturer on the block. This model costs $236,555 to start … and that doesn’t include those magnificent brakes.

Here’s another thing to consider: The entire 2024 allocation — 600 for all of North America — is long gone, just like Matt Becker down the start/finish straight at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve.

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe