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Range Rover Sport Carbon is a deranged speed addict

We didn’t have any time to get warmed up to the Range Rover Sport SVR Carbon Edition. Running behind schedule, we hopped straight in as soon as it arrived for testing. Our destination was Mabopane, a one-and-a-half hour drive in light traffic from the north of Johannesburg. The mission: investigate the state of Odi Stadium, a peculiar but renowned professional football ground that has fallen into disrepair in recent times.

On the highway, constrained by good behaviour and speed cameras, you could sense the SVR’s frustration. You could hear the grumblings from the front seat. It let out an annoyed growl every time its huge front callipers asked it to slow down. This is a problem horse; impetuous and ready to bolt at the slightest squeeze of your heels. 

Approaching Odi we struggled to find the appropriate entrance, signs having long been removed and the GPS plonking us in front of a grassed-up old path. Ramping the curb we took it off-road, searching the grounds for a way in. My colleague set out on foot around the stadium, braving the long grass and coming face-to-face with a hissing black snake that rose to greet him.

Eventually, after he had survived the ordeal and found the correct gate, we parked in front of Odi’s main opening and spent the next couple of hours examining its dilapidated facilities, speaking to its security guard and admiring the awesome views that stretch well into the horizon. How sad it is to witness a majestic structure go ignored; to not be used for the reason of which it was created.

That, at a stretch, is a metaphor for this Range Rover. 

This exists for one purpose and one purpose only: to go fast. There’s no argument here. The maniacs at Special Vehicle Operations (SVR) got hold of a perfectly serviceable SUV and turned it into a deranged speed addict.

Technically you could do some semi-serious off-roading if you really wanted to. It comes equipped with all of the latest Land Rover all-terrain technology —  hill descent control and the like.

But that’s not what it was made to do.

You could max out the comfort settings and enjoy a decently smooth long drive, like we did to Mabopane.

But that’s not what it was made to do.

No, this was made to go fast. There is no other rational explanation why you would pluck the 5-litre supercharged V8 out of the Jaguar F-Type SVR (now in the Type-R) and hand the reins to an SUV. This is the same engine, you might recall, that produces 423kW and 700nM torque.

In the bigger package the block barely loses any of its efficacy. Naturally the Jag is a little faster — reaching 100km in 3.7 seconds compared to 4.5s; and topping out at 300km/h instead of 283km/h — but rest assured that won’t be felt behind the wheel. If anything this incarnation is far more vicious. Manipulating 2.3 tonnes at these speeds feels exhilarating and unnerving. 

As it is pushed the SVR emits a ridiculous, distorted squeal. It’s an enticing sound that is addictive and compels the driver to push that foot down again. Although, as we noted earlier, it can sound nagging when completing normal day-to-day tasks. 

Standing still the vehicle might appear understated if it weren’t for the distinctive carbon fibre bonnet — hence the name of this edition — punctured by gaping air vents. Two double exhausts split the back while the rest of the boxed body is neatly finished in typical Range Rover fashion.

Inside you wouldn’t find an interior more likely to impress your guests. All passengers fit snugly into racing-style seats — even the rear enjoys the same bucket aesthetic finished in fine leather. 

Similar attention has been paid to the dashboard, which is meticulously constructed and gorgeous to look at. 

The climate and offroad controls combine buttons and digital in a package far classier than most rivals.

The Carbon Edition has a dream car quality to it: out-of-reach pricing (R2 858 462), supreme performance and a racecar visage — all in an absurd package. As is always the case with these kinds of vehicles, inclusivity was never the point. But, like Odi Stadium, it’s hard not to feel a little melancholic that few will ever get to experience its glory.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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