- Crisp styling blends Range Rover, Evoque
- Rorty supercharged V-6, thundering supercharged V-8
- Serene, stately cabin
- "5+2" seating offers expanded utility
- Masters both kind of driving--on and off-road
- Big jump from base to Autobiography
- "+2" seating is only for kids, only for very short trips
- No hybrid or diesel option--yet
- Still expensive
The 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport has the most convincing answer to the sporty-SUV conundrum.
The Land Rover Range Rover Sport has been the stubbier, sexier companion to the bigger Rangie since the middle of the last decade. We've called its performance surprising--but its cabin, we've found it a little too cozy in the past. No more: for the 2014 model year the Range Rover Sport moves to the architecture of the latest Range Rover, and gets better, handsomer, more capable, and more efficient all in one fell swoop.The science and engineering devoted to making it lighter and more nimble comes down to one word: aluminum. The Range Rover Sport has migrated from its old steel body to an aluminum frame like the one on the latest Range Rover. As a result, the Sport drops about 800 pounds, getting it on average under 5,000 pounds net, while it picks up scads of drivetrain and handling tech that thrusts it more convincingly into the small set of sporty SUVs that really, truly live up to that confusing duality.
In essence the Sport's a slice off the Range Rover, but there's plenty of influence from the smaller Evoque in its profile. It's almost pure Range Rover from the doors forward, save for a slimmer nose and winged headlamps. The roofline drops with the drama of the Evoque, and the Sport's summed up with an abbreviated tail clearly inspired by the hit compact ute. The cabin's pure Range Rover, calm and architectural, drawn to play up pure stretches of leather and aluminum, filtered clean of buttons and switches as much as possible.The split between drivetrains divides the Sport into nicely-done and awesomely-hot camps. A new supercharged, 340-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 engine is the new base engine, delivering 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 comes from a different planet entirely, one maybe with a timeshare in the American South: it barks out 510 horsepower with NASCAR authority, ripping off 5-second runs to 60 mph.
With either, the Sport's ride/handling worldview tilts firmly to sport. The bigger Range Rover specializes in coddling; the Sport's air dampers and variable-ratio steering quicken up the pace, 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 Landie might not.
The Sport's cabin has never looked better, and extra room in almost all dimensions solves one of the least happy aspects of the first-generation ute, though the second-row seat isn't quite as supportive as the Range Rover's. These are the sacrifices. New features for the 2014 model includes so-called "5+2" third-row seating, allowing occasional transport of up to seven people, with full-time seating for five. You won't want to be back there if you can say your ABCs, trust us.
Four trim lines are available in the 2014 Range Rover Sport: the base SE and upgrade HSE, both outfitted with the supercharged V-6 engine; the Supercharged, with a 510-horsepower supercharged V-8 engine; and the Autobiography, which shares the 510-horsepower V-8, but adds a range of unique design elements.
All 2014 Range Rover Sport models come nicely equipped, including custom Meridian audio systems (three in total, ranging up to 1,700 watts and 23 speakers); advanced safety systems aided by cameras; an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment interface that frankly could use a couple of Palo Alto software geeks and a quick reskin; and of course, the latest generation of Land Rover's Terrain Response 2 traction management system.