Just when you thought this Nürburgring lap time malarkey couldn’t get any sillier, Range Rover goes and announces its new Sport SVR super-SUV has lapped the Nordschleife in 8min 14sec.
It’s a pretty stunning time which, unsurprisingly, sets a new benchmark for 'off-roaders'. Except, it's not an off-roader, is it? JLR's chassis guru, Mike Cross, says the SVR has "exceptional on-road performance", which is great, but you know what else has exceptional on-road performance? A car.
The work required to give the RR Sport SVR “exceptional on-road performance” – i.e. making it lower, stiffer and sharper – rob it of some of the abilities that make it such an exceptional all-’rounder, which is surely why people buy an SUV in the first place.
Let me put it this way: the SVR’s time is a little bit slower than that of the last generation of Renault Sport Megane, so JLR has managed to spend a not-insignificant amount of time and money making a 405kW SUV almost as fast as a hot hatch with half the power.
In one respect, that’s an admirable engineering feat, but JLR boasting that the SVR is faster around the ’Ring than all the other off-roaders makes about as much sense as an Olympic weightlifter bragging that he’s a faster sprinter than all the other weightlifters. That’s great, but it’s not the game we’re playing…
Now, we're not knocking the Nürburgring. We don't doubt that its unique and challenging layout makes it the ideal venue for speeding up the dynamic development of a new model, but enough with the lap-time willy waving.
The 'Ring is a race circuit (sorry, 'one-way unrestricted toll road'), therefore the more you adapt any model towards circuit performance, the better it will do. A GT3 car will lap the Nordschleife in around 6min45sec, but driving one of those down a typical suburban street would be about as enjoyable as skinny dipping in a Melbourne winter.
What matters in a road car is compliance, confidence and, above all, fun. Car companies, please, by all means lap the ’Ring to your hearts’ content, but leave the stopwatches at home.