2006 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 8, 2005




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In the media, we call it “narrowcasting.” Instead of trying to aim for a vast audience of everyone from casual viewers to slavish devotees, outlets like Animal Planet, Sirius, and yes, TheCarConnection.com, try to attract very precise segments of an audience that’s not being served by the titans of the industry. (Yes, you, titans! Your days of towering are nigh unto over!)

In the car industry, the same principle applies to niche vehicles — those with annual sales that don’t even come close to the monthly numbers posted by the likes of the Ford F-150. Within Ford’s own empire, the Land Rover franchise could be seen as a narrowcast brand — and within its confines, the new Range Rover Sport is probably the narrowcast-est vehicle you can imagine.

The upside of this tight focus is twofold: guaranteed exclusivity, and the unique prospect of a rugged SUV that’s been brought up to act like a sports sedan.

The Sport, you can now infer, is like the Porsche Cayenne S and BMW X5 it chums around with at the club. It’s one of those hybrids that’s been tried time and again, from the dawn of the SUV era, when the first automaker tried to sell you on the notion that its sport-ute was “carlike.” Many have tried; few have prevailed.

In this trio, though, the carlike tag is very nearly fulfilled — most convincingly in the Porsche and BMW, but surprisingly so in the Sport. You think Land Rovers are more at home on the savanna and the steppes, not in Stuttgart or Sydney or San Francisco. But the Sport will shift that reality to a new channel.

What’s the difference?

I’ll explain in a minute how the Sport fully commits to the carlike dynamics. But first, let’s answer the big question lingering in the air like thick cologne: why would I ever need a Range Rover Sport when the original Range Rover exists? The first reason, obviously, is to keep Land Rover customers from drifting over into Porsche and BMW dealers. The second, Land Rover execs add, is to make the best-performing and best-handling vehicle the brand ever has built, to appeal to buyers who might like an M5 or E55 instead.

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