Some say the only proper engine for a Range Rover Sport is the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 petrol. It’s intoxicating, that engine, and gives the vehicle a barely-contained animal fury that lives up to the Sport badge. I admit that the thought of a ‘diseasel’ lump, even one as enjoyable as the old SDV8, didn’t quite do it for me.
But now I’m not so sure. For the 2015 model year, Land Rover’s wizards have squeezed an extra 30lb ft out of the SDV8, cranking the total up to a seriously beefy 546lb ft. They’ve also played with the eight-speed ZF automatic and the torque converter, giving smoother acceleration between fifth and eighth gear.
What was wrong with the old SDV8?
Nothing really, it's always been gorgeous. Powerful, refined, efficient, and even a bit vocal when properly nudged.
The motivation for change must come from the Sport’s German rivals, in particular the V8 diesel Porsche Cayenne, which remains (in spite of JLR’s recent tweaking) quicker, more fuel efficient, cheaper to buy, and significantly more torquey. Schizer.
What’s the new SDV8 like to drive?
Porsches aside, 546lb ft is a impressive amount of welly to put in a Range Rover Sport. It’s more than double the 265lb ft @2000rpm that can be mustered by the latest TDCi Defenders, and the Sport’s 0-60mph launch now lasts a hot-hatch-rivaling 6.5 seconds.
Simply put, you’ll soar to any speed you could safely wish for with astonishing ease. You wouldn’t call it a step-change over the last SDV8, but the power does come in a smoother whoosh than before. There’s just a little extra urgency about it that I don’t remember from the outgoing engine.
Overtaking is stupidly easy. Slot the shifter into sport mode and the auto ‘box drops a cog, making the digital rev needle give a little hop, and granting you instant access to that massive bank of torque that sends you surging safely past in an instant.
Should I buy one?
Can’t think why not. Fortunately for Green Oval devotees, what the Sport loses to pretenders such as the Cayenne, it more than makes up for in genuine off-road prowess, road presence, and sheer good taste.
On the same day as driving the SDV8 Sport, I was lucky to take a number of JLR’s other offerings for a spin (from the palatial luxury of the long-wheelbase Range Rover, to the monstrous power of the Jaguar F-Type V8S). But when the time came to pack up, the SDV8 Range Rover Sport was the one I’d have chosen for the long drive home.
The SDV8 is only available in Autobiography Dynamic spec, costing from £82,650 OTR. Combined fuel consumption is 32.5 mpg.