The Car Connection Land Rover Range Rover Sport Overview
The Land Rover Range Rover Sport is a more stylish derivative of the full-size Range Rover SUV. A five-seat SUV with a body made from aluminum, the Sport is aimed at younger buyers who might not be interested in the bigger, more regal Range Rover.
Its competition includes SUVs like the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, Porsche Cayenne, and BMW's X5 and X6.
The Range Rover Sport was most recently redesigned for 2014, with the 2015 model year bringing a new top-performance variant, called the SVR. For 2016, the Range Rover Sport adds two new dimensions to its performance profile: a turbodiesel six and a supercharged HST edition.
MORE: Read our 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport review
The Range Rover Sport was conceived to appeal to buyers of less traditional utes--it shares the Range Rover tag, but its styling is considerably less constrained. The look is based on a concept, the Range Stormer, that came in two-door form to the 2004 Detroit auto show. In the process of becoming a "junior" Range Rover suitable for production, the concept grew a pair of rear doors but kept the performance intent that makes it a competitor for the likes of the BMW X5 and X6, as well as the sporty Porsche Cayenne.
The Range Rover Sport first came to America as a 2006 model, slotted just beneath the tried and true Range Rover in the brand lineup, distinct from the LR3 and LR2 "family" Rovers. Outfitted with either a naturally-aspirated 4.4-liter V-8 engine (which had its roots at BMW, which sold Land Rover to Ford) or a supercharged 4.2-liter V-8 that was shared with the Jaguar XF and XJ for a time. Both versions offered a six-speed automatic transmission and a sophisticated off-road-worthy suspension with standard all-wheel drive. The "Terrain Response" system allowed drivers to select a four-wheel-drive mode based on conditions like snow, sand, or pavement, and tailored the Sport's traction and stability control to match. Elsewhere, the Sport brought touchscreen controls to the Land Rover tradition, with a big LCD screen incorporating navigation, climate and audio functions.
During the next three model years, the Range Rover Sport would change very little, as Ford sold the brand to Tata and as it was combined into a business unit with Jaguar. In 2010, however, Land Rover had completed work on an updated Range Rover Sport. The centerpiece to the model was a 5.0-liter V-8, offered in both normally aspirated and supercharged form. With the new powerplants, this Sport offered either 375 horsepower or a stunning 510 hp, enough to hurtle the truck from 0 to 60 mph in less than six seconds. The automatic transmission received updates to handle the power, and the suspension's electronic controls were reprogrammed for quicker responses. Fuel economy was poor, at 12/17 mpg for the fastest Sport, but handling was as sharp as many luxury sedans--the equal of BMW's fine-handling X6--and off-road capability was as strong as necessary in such an expensive, attractive vehicle.
The new Range Rover Sport
The latest Range Rover Sport arrived for the 2014 model year and has seen updates every year since. It shares its architecture with the bigger Range Rover, which was itself new in 2013. Both models now use aluminum extensively in their construction. As such, the Sport also achieves major weight loss with the resulting performance upgrade.
For the first time, the Sport offers a V-6 engine as its base powertrain; the 90-degree six-pot is supercharged, and with help from a smooth ZF eight-speed automatic it can rip a 0–60 mph trip in under seven seconds. The related supercharged V-8 spits out 510 horsepower in standard models and makes a glorious noise while running to 60 in under five seconds.
The new Sport's ride/handling blend tilts firmly to sport. Its air dampers and variable-ratio steering quicken up the utility's responses compared to the bigger Range Rover, and the V-8's Dynamic setting dials out much of the innate lean and scrub dictated by its height and weight. It's much closer now to the benchmarks set by the uber-utes from Germany. At the same time, it's an incredibly capable muckraker, with either the base Torsen four-wheel-drive setup, or the more advanced dual-range system, with its active rear locking differential. With more ground clearance than ever, the Sport can extract itself from almost anything the bigger Range Rover can, and its slight size advantage might let it squeeze through where the executive-class model can't.
The 2015 model year brought the craziest Range Rover Sport yet—the Range Rover Sport SVR. It's the first SVR model in the Range Rover lineup, and the first volume-model effort from Jaguar Land Rover's new Special Vehicle Operations group. Power comes from a high-output version of the company's supercharged 5.0-liter V-8, here putting out 550 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. The SVR is good for a 0-to-60-mph run of 4.5 seconds, going on to a top speed of 162 mph. Those are indeed serious numbers for an SUV, and indeed for vehicles half its size.
The arrival of this speed-freak Rover Sport suggests that there will be additional SVR Rovers in the future; the Evoque is a likely candidate, especially since Land Rover has already managed to extract some extra power from its turbocharged four-cylinder.
Aside from the addition of the SVR model, there were few changes for the 2015 Range Rover Sport. Blind-spot monitoring gained closing vehicle sensing and reverse traffic detection, and the puddle lamps were upgraded to project a silhouette of the vehicle, instead of an outline of the Range Rover Sport logo, when you approach. Land Rover's InControl suite of smartphone connectivity apps was made available.
For 2016, Land Rover offers a Range Rover Sport with a diesel engine here for the first time. The model is called Td6 and uses a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 engine that makes 254 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque. Highway mileage tops out at 29 mpg. A new HST Limited Edition model will also be added in 2016, straddling the gap between the supercharged V-6 and supercharged V-8 models. It gets a 380-hp version of the V-6, unique chassis tuning, and some special design touches, borrowing some visual cues from the recently added SVR model.