The idea of a super-fast, high-performance Land Rover is inherently an odd one. After all, Land Rovers have long been defined by their capabilities off the beaten path, not how quickly they can traverse paved roads. The first Land Rover, the Series 1, could go practically anywhere a wheeled vehicle could travel, and it did it with a mere 50 horsepower. How times change: the 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic Edition packs 11 times that. That’s enough to go from a stop to the Series 1’s top speed of 58 miles per hour in roughly four seconds.
In fact, the Series 1 and the SVAD, as I took to calling the Velar SVAutobiography Dynamic, seem about as far apart as two vehicles with the same badge could ever be. The O.G. L.R. is a minimalist machine designed for military and agricultural work; the SVAD is a cosseting, quiet conveyance that’s meant to appeal to people who likely have never resorted to manual labor to pay the bills. The Series 1’s design is simple to the point of brutality; the SVAD is stylized to the point of sexuality.
When it launched last year, I spent an hour or so driving it around the canyons of Malibu, which was enough time to get a first taste of what it has to offer. But a quick spin on a manufacturer’s chosen test route is rarely a good way to truly get to know a new vehicle, so I took the SVAD out for a week in the Northeast to see how it handles the harsh real world. I plowed through Manhattan traffic, hopped Brooklyn curbs, rolled away long hours on Pennsylvania highways with the rig — and even managed to tackle a couple dirt roads. Several hundred miles and one camping trip later, here’s what I learned.
The Range Rover Velar’s approach to performance makes more sense than many super-SUVs
Right after the Velar SVAutobiography, I hopped into the new BMW X5 M Competition — a midsize SUV that clearly wants to be an M5. BMW’s M division does incredible work, but there’s still no way to fight physics; the X5 M is too tall to ever feel all that comfortable ripping through tight turns, no matter how fast it can go through them.
The SVAD, on the other hand, isn’t trying to be the quickest sport-ute around the racetrack or cloverleaf. It empathizes more with gran turismos than sports cars; while it can certainly corner with a vigor you wouldn’t expect from a vehicle with the Land Rover badge, it’s more interested in using its power for effortless passing maneuvers and seamless highway merges, ripping up to extralegal speeds faster than the drivers beside you can say, “Hey, was that a Range Rover?”
The Velar remains one of the most aesthetically appealing SUVs you can buy
Most of the time, the only way to make an SUV look good is to butch it up with a hefty dose of body cladding and other off-road-themed accoutrements. It’s hard to make a car as bulky, blocky and tall as a sport-utility look sleek — yet somehow, Gerry McGovern and his team pulled it off. Even the least expensive Velar looks like The Range Rover of Tomorrow, all smooth surfaces and sharp LED lights; giant wheels and flared fenders give it the look of a concept car, while the blacked-out door pillars take visual weight off the top. The SVAD’s changes are surprisingly mellow, perhaps a reflection of the Velar’s already-sporty design; a new front fascia with blacked cross-hatching and subtle quad tailpipes are the only obvious changes. Even the exhaust note of the supercharged V8 is more mellow than you’d find in most V8-powered JLR products.
Likewise, while some of the interior materials aren’t quiiiite as nice as those of an equivalently-pricey Mercedes, Bimmer or Audi, they’re still utterly pleasant to both the eye and fingertip. And like all Velars (and several other members of the Range Rover family), the SVAD uses the latest Land Rover infotainment system, which uses twin glass touchscreen panels arranged like a gentle waterfall — with the lower one primarily tasked with taking care of drive modes and climate control. Reports have run somewhat rampant about it causing problems for owners; while it didn’t crash or freeze on me, it was a good deal laggier and less responsive than most modern infotainment systems. Still, there’s no disputing that it looks great.
It may seem like it’s for poseurs, but in fact, it’s the best super-powerful Range Rover for the money
Anyone who’s planning on buying a Range Rover with a supercharged V8 clearly isn’t too worried about money. But if they do happen to be concerned with maximizing their value, the Velar is the best play in the eight-cylinder Land Rover lineup.
The Range Rover Sport SVR is too odd to make sense — it’s meant to be the sportiest model, yet it still has a low range transfer case — whereas the full-blown Range Rover‘s mission of maximum all-around competence and luxury is just as well accomplished with the smooth mild-hybrid 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six (or, arguably, as it is with a 500-plus-horsepower blown eight-pot. The Velar’s interior is just as well-suited to carrying four adults as the Sport, and its Terrain Response system and ingrained Land Rover capabilities mean it’s still capable of tackling mud, snow and dirt that would stop regular cars in their tracks. And considering how my well-equipped tester cleared the bar at less than $95K — about $10,000 cheaper than the least expensive regular Range Rover with a V8, and $20,000 less than the base price of the Range Rover Sport SVR — it’s hard not to see it as practically a deal.
If that’s not enough to win you over, think of it this way: squint a little, and it’s an Aston Martin DB11 with two extra doors, three extra seats and all-weather capability for nearly half the price.
Price as Tested: $94,655
Drivetrain: Supercharged 5.0-liter V8, eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
Power: 550 hp, 502 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway
Land Rover provided this product for review.
Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.