In a quest to improve performance as well as fuel economy, Land Rover has introduced an all-new Range Rover Sport that is as much as 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor and available with a supercharged V-6.
By TOM STRONGMAN
The Sport is one model below the top Range Rover and they both share the same all-aluminum chassis architecture. Less weight means enhanced agility.
The 340-horsepower V-6 is a thoroughly pleasant engine. The supercharger delivers low-speed torque for acceleration that feels almost like a V-8 yet it is less thirsty. Fuel mileage is rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway, while the optional supercharged V-8 is rated at 14 in the city and 19 on the highway. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard with either engine.
The Land Rover company has been building vehicles since 1948, and rugged off-road capability is one of its trademarks. It’s interesting that technical specifications list the Sport’s “wading depth” as 33.5 inches. There aren’t many SUVs around that can brag of such deep-water capabilities, but that says a lot about the Range Rover’s DNA. While I’m sure few Sport owners will plunge their vehicle into waist deep water or crawl over boulders, the fact that they can is part of the vehicle’s appeal. I suspect most owners will be content to protect their investment by confining their off-road adventures to gravel roads or pasture tracks.
For those who want to experience what a Range Rover can do, Land Rover has four U.S. off-road driving schools where owners can learn to handle their vehicles under the tutelage of professional off-road driving instructors.
The base Sport starts at $62,600. The well-optioned test vehicle from Land Rover’s press fleet had a sticker price of $76,680. That’s about $15,000 less than the Range Rover I drove earlier in the year.
What accounts for the lower price? The V-6, for one thing, and the standard four-wheel-drive system on the base Sport does not have an extra low range. A two-speed transfer case is optional.
The electronic air suspension delivers a ride that is soft at low speeds and firmer at high speeds. It also allows the vehicle to be raised for rough going and lowered for easier entry when parked.
The styling of the five-passenger Sport bears a strong visual resemblance to the Range Rover and has hints of the Evoque’s low roofline. The 115.1-inch wheelbase is similar in size to that of the Ford Explorer. An optional third seat folds into the floor. Press materials explain that the seat is for “occasional” use, which usually means children or small adults.
The Sport’s interior may not be quite as lavish as the range-topping model, but it still is plush and luxurious. High-quality materials are used throughout, and the leather seats were soft and inviting. Satin chrome accents are used throughout. The test car’s almost-white upholstery would show dirt in no time.
The instrument panel and center console have fewer switches and a cleaner look. The LCD touch screen for audio and navigation continues to have a menu system that seems confusing to me. It’s true that you learn it in time, but a more intuitive system would be welcome.
The Terrain Response System, controlled by a dial on the console, optimizes a host of chassis and powertrain settings for snow, mud, sand and extreme rock crawling. It also controls speed on steep descents.
The base price of the test vehicle was $62,600. Options included the HSE package (Oxford leather, panoramic sunroof, 20-inch wheels, fog lamps and wood trim), adaptive cruise control, black roof, satellite radio, two-speed transfer case, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, blind spot monitor, surround-view camera and park assist. The sticker price was $76,680.
Four years or 50,000 miles.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org