The original Range Rover Sport proved a massive hit with customers; offering the prestige and luxury of the larger Range Rover in a more compact – and crucially cheaper – package. However, given that it sat on the same fortified underpinnings as the agricultural Land Rover Discovery, it was never a dynamic match for rivals from BMW and Porsche. Second time around, Land Rover claims the Sport is vastly improved. To see if they’re right, we jumped in the driver’s seat and headed to the twisting tarmac of the Brecon Beacons.
What is it?
A full-fat luxury SUV for those who like to drive. The Sport trades some of the lounging room of its bigger brother for a more cosseting, car-like cabin and driving position, and is smaller on the outside, too, with a raked back roofline and shorter overhangs giving a much leaner look. Fitted with its top-of-line motor – a rumbling 510bhp 5.0-litre supercharged V8 – it is capable of shaming purpose-built sports cars in terms of straight-line performance. Of greater interest to UK buyers will be two 3.0-litre turbodiesel options: a 258bhp TDV6 available in the entry-level SE spec and a 292bhp motor fitted across the rest of the range. All are fitted with a superb eight-speed automatic gearbox that shuffles ratios imperceptibly in automatic mode, but which can also be operated manually via wheel-mounted paddles.
What is it like to drive?
In its normal setting, the Sport drives much like the Range Rover proper; its light steering and comfortable ride making it a pleasurable cruiser. Push harder, though, and it is soon out of its comfort zone, unless you switch to ‘Dynamic’ mode. Now, with the suspension firmed up, improved throttle response and weightier steering, the Sport feels much more at home attacking a challenging road. It’s a startling transformation, and testament to the benefits of the car’s new, much lighter, chassis. Combined with the thumping 5.0-litre motor, it’s a match for most sports saloons, and will leave drivers slack-jawed at just how well it hides its 2.3-tonne bulk. And, being a Land Rover, it’s a strong proposition off-road, and will keep on going long after the likes of the BMW X5 and Mercedes have got stuck.
What is it like inside?
Despite sharing a similar design and architecture, the interior ambience of the Sport is different to that of the vast and airy Range Rover. The dashboard is raised higher and in conjunction with the chopped ceiling height, makes for a more intimate environment. Material quality is first rate, with nearly every surface lined with either wood, polished metal or expensive smelling leather. It’s a technical delight, too – the analogue dials of old replaced with a digital TFT display, showing menus for the car’s vast array of gadgets, the highlight being a polarised central display that allows passengers to watch digital TV on the move, while showing the sat-nav to the driver.
Is it practical?
Given its outward size, some customers may find passenger space somewhat underwhelming. The cabin is not cramped by any measure – with enough room for five to travel in comfort – and is similar in size to rivals such as the Porsche Cayenne, but those expecting limo levels of room will be disappointed. The boot, however, is more than adequate, measuring a healthy 784 litres and having a flat, square load space, with no boot-lip to get in the way when loading bulky items. It now also conceals two occasional seats under the floor, creating enough room for up to seven occupants. Compared to the Range Rover, the Sport’s smaller footprint does make it marginally easier to place on the road and to park in tighter spots. That said, it is still available with the full range of driver aids, including kerb cameras and an automatic parallel parking assistant – something that will no doubt prove a boon in the city centres in which the car will invariably be driven.
Should I buy one?
As an all-rounder, the Range Rover Sport is brilliant. Hushed comfort one minute, rip-snorting exhilaration the next, combined with great practicality and off-road ability – it is arguably all the car anyone could ever need. Drivers looking for a greater bias at either end of the sport/comfort scale may find better elsewhere, but the car’s avant-garde design and the prestige of the badge, along with its condensed Range Rover feel makes it very tough package to beat. Watch it walk out of showrooms.
Don't want to buy new? You can browse for a used Range Rover Sport in our classifieds here.
Range Rover Sport 5.0 V8 Supercharged Autobiography Dynamic
List price: £81,550
Engine: 5.0-litre, V8 petrol, supercharged
Top speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 5.0 seconds
Fuel economy: 15.4mpg (urban), 29.1mpg (extra-urban) 22.1mpg (combined)
Emissions: 298g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Not yet tested