New & Used Land Rover Range Rover Sport: In Depth
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The Land Rover Range Rover Sport is a five-seat sport-utility vehicle with a body that's constructed largely from aluminum, just like its Range Rover sibling. A stylish spin-off of the bigger Rover's architecture, the Sport is aimed at younger buyers seeking alternatives to vehicles like the Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and the BMW X5 and X6.
MORE: Read our 2014 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, 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, and the 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, in standard or supercharged form. With the new powerplants, this Sport offered either 375 horsepower or a stunning 510 hp, enough to hurtle the truck from 0-60 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. The new Sport shares its architecture with the bigger Range Rover, which was new for 2013. As such, it also achieves major weight loss with the resulting performance upgrade.
In the Sport, a choice of V-8 engines is supplemented with a supercharged V-6, the first in the vehicle ever. It delivers a nice 90-degree V-6 snarl and sub-7-second acceleration, in tandem with a sweet paddle-shifted ZF eight-speed automatic. The supercharged V-8 barks out 510 horsepower with NASCAR authority, ripping off 5-second runs to 60 mph.
The new Sport's ride/handling blend tilts firmly to sport. Its air dampers and variable-ratio steering quicken up the suspension's responses compared to the bigger Range Rover, and with the V-8's Dynamic setting, dial 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 might not.
The 2015 model year brings 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 said to be 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.