2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
February 13, 2011

The 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport offers impressive performance and features, whether on-road or off.

Choosing on-road performance over hard-core off-road capability, the 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport is smaller, sleeker, and more defined than its larger brother, the Range Rover. It's still more capable than you'd expect when the pavement ends, but you'll pay for the paved-road handling with a rougher ride.

Though it's a thoroughly modern design, the Range Rover Sport's proportions, and many of its cues, recall the original, go-anywhere mountain goat that started the brand. Inside, the design is pure luxury, but with a utilitarian air. It's a mixture of opposites, and it works.

What also works is the drivetrain and suspension in this go-anywhere (and fit right in) machine. Almost as comfortable getting muddy as it is clipping an apex, the Range Rover Sport, particularly in Supercharged trim, delivers more than you'd expect from an SUV.

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Though they don't hold a stellar reputation for building the most reliable of transportation, the Brits have figured many things out over the past several decades, and the Range Rover Sport is an exposition of this knowledge. Build quality, materials, and ease-of-use are all at the forefront, neatly packaged, and tidily contained.

Like most expensive, low-volume vehicles, the Range Rover Sport hasn't been crash tested by the NHTSA or IIHS. Despite this, buyers can feel secure in the fact that the Sport offers a wide array of standard safety gear and plenty of electronic extras and upgrades to enhance its active accident avoidance.

As with its safety features, the entertainment and luxury options on the Range Rover Sport are plentiful; HSE models come nicely equipped, while Supercharged models throw the book of technology at the options sheet. Most of the options available on the Supercharged can be had separately as upgrades to the HSE, as well, so you can build the truck you want.

With all of this performance and luxury, the Range Rover Sport is a heavy vehicle, and its fuel economy ratings reflect that, as well as its immense performance. Don't buy it if you're looking to minimize your carbon footprint. It's a bit below average even in its class, but it's not into single-digit mpg territory--unless you push it hard, and often.

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2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Styling

Well styled outside and much improved inside, the 2011 Range Rover Sport is the best yet.

Sleek and stylish with a chassis built more for on-road performance than off-road capability, the 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport delivers the goods in the world of those that like to see and be seen.

With its bold, upright styling in the front sped up with a more angular, sloping rear, the Range Rover Sport takes the best of its brand heritage, and adds an element of, well, sport. The exterior look is one part classic Range Rover, one part modern SUV, with a dash of angular velocity, even when at rest.

Inside, it's more of the same, with classic cues and rectilinear surfaces paired with recently improved materials, high-tech displays, and more surface-tuning control gadgetry than any previous Sport. Criticism of previous models for cheap trim pieces is gone with last year's interior revisions improving the look and feel throughout the cabin.

Among the changes is a simpler, cleaner dash. Complaints about previous models' hard-to-read gauges are likewise gone, thanks to the 5-inch TFT display that replaces previous analog gauges.

Two trim levels, HSE and Supercharged, vary primarily on performance, but include a few unique styling differences for the keen observer to spot.

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2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Performance

The 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport's upgraded powertrain delivers impressive performance on-road and off, but be prepared for below-average fuel economy.

Performance is the name of the game with the Range Rover Sport, and it delivers with a pair of 5.0-liter V-8s: a naturally-aspirated 375 horsepower/375 pound-feet of torque version for the HSE; and a 510 horsepower, 461 pound-feet of torque supercharged version for the Supercharged. Both versions accelerate briskly for such large, heavy vehicles (both weigh more than 5,500 pounds), with the HSE getting to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, and the Supercharged a scant 5.9 seconds.

Both engines use a six-speed automatic transmission to send power to all four wheels. Large disc brakes haul the big SUVs to a stop handily, and stiffer, more road-focused suspension at all four corners delivers surprisingly good grip and handling. A carefully tuned Dynamic traction and stability control program helps maximize the upgraded chassis and suspension layout. Fuel economy is not as bad as you might expect for a heavy, luxurious SUV with big V-8 power: the HSE scores 13/18 mpg city/highway, and the Supercharged model knocks that down to 12/17 mpg.

Having driven the Range Rover Sport both on and off road, we think the paved performance sure-footed and adept, while off-road traction and climbing ability is impressive, too. The stiffer suspension setup of the Sport compromises comfort over the bumps, rocks, and roots of the backcountry, and the low-profile, street-tread tires don't make the best companions in slick mud, but the Range Rover Sport, even in Supercharged trim, does things in the dirt many traditional SUVs can't, while still delivering smiles usually reserved for sports cars on the road. Advanced electronics and differentials make all of this possible.

While the mechanical complexity of all the differentials, traction and terrain control systems, and advanced off-road features can be overwhelming, it need not be understood to be used properly. All of the various modes and controls can take some getting used to, but even with the extra mode added to the Supercharged, all one really needs to do is select the terrain in the center console and point it forward. The Range Rover Sport will do the rest.

The revised six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and can be shifted from the center console-mounted gear selector in the HSE, as well as from steering wheel-mounted paddles in the Supercharged.

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2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Comfort & Quality

Aside from some minor issues with noise and space, the 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport's cabin is luxuriously appointed and comfortable.

The cabin of the Range Rover Sport was updated almost in its entirety for 2010, and the changes still come through as strong, welcome upgrades. Fewer buttons, better materials, and modern design combine to pull off luxury-sedan feel with upright, high-riding SUV style.

There's a bit less room than you might expect in such a large vehicle, but there's plenty of interior storage space for smaller items, and though cargo room isn't as good as the standard Range Rover, it's worlds better than a sports car or grand tourer. The rear bench seat is of the split-folding variety, enabling larger objects to fit with relative ease.

High-quality leather, wood, and wool carpeting make the passenger experience everything you'd expect from a vehicle in this price range, though ride quality can be a bit stiff.

Noise is fairly well-controlled in the cabin, with both wind and tire noise only rising to notice at higher speeds or on odd road surfaces. 

Seats both front and rear are firm, supportive, and comfortable even on long trips.

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2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Safety

Though the 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport hasn't been rated by the major crash-testing agencies, its extensive selection of safety features provides a sense of security.

The IIHS and NHTSA haven't rated the Range Rover Sport. Despite the lack of official safety ratings, the 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport does offer a wide range of standard safety features: advanced stability control, hill descent control, active roll mitigation, and a huge array of standard airbags, plus anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution.

The Supercharged is available with radar adaptive cruise control that works in concert with an advanced emergency braking system that scans the road ahead and aids braking if it detects a collision is imminent. The high seating position, large windows, and low beltline make visibility forward and to the sides very good, though the large rear pillars limit visibility out the back somewhat.

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2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Features

Added features put the 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport near the front of the segment, but beware the quickly mounting price.

The 5-inch TFT instrument panel and dash-mounted touch screen provide access and interface to the wealth of technology under the skin of the Range Rover Sport. The most detailed and useful bit is dedicated to the Adaptive Dynamics System and Terrain Response System, which lets the driver access and display the settings that help the Sport perform its off- and on-road feats, showing what's happening at the differentials and wheels in real time.

The instrument panel shows its own set of information, and can be reconfigured to show a range of trip, speed, and other information. The Dynamic program, completely reworked last year, features a center-console knob that lets the driver choose the drivetrain setting that best suits the conditions.

The primary differences between the HSE and Supercharged trims, apart from the powertrain, are the options: most of what's standard on the Supercharged is available as an option on the HSE. Available options on either model include a beverage cooler, rear-seat entertainment system, and individualized interior treatments.

An adaptable air suspension system adjust dynamically to driving and road conditions, while a surround-view camera system makes it as easy to park as to navigate a narrow trail.

For the HSE, 19-inch wheels are standard, while Supercharged models step up to 20-inch alloys. An Autobiography Limited Edition package adds duo-tone leather, embossed headrests, exclusive exterior colors, and a number of other features, including 20-inch alloy wheels and a unique mesh grille.
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2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Fuel Economy

It's not green, but you wouldn't expect the Range Rover Sport to be, with all of the luxury, size, and performance on board.

Rated at 12/17 mpg city/highway in Supercharged form and a slightly better 13/18 mpg in HSE trim, the Range Rover Sport won't be winning any recommendations from the eco-conscious, but at the same time it provides a lot of capability, performance, and refinement in a versatile package. The fuel bill will be a big one if you have a long commute, however, so this sporty SUV may be best reserved for those that either don't care about the running costs or who have a second vehicle to rack up the weekly miles.

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Styling 8.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 4.0
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