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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
Suffice to say the Sport is willing and able to tackle far tougher terrain than its owner is likely to attempt.
Should the driver want even more control, Supercharged models have paddle shifters behind the steering-wheel spokes.
Car and Driver
Tellingly, unlike many of its rivals, the Sport never loses sight of its SUV heritage. Which is to say, though optimized for maximum street performance, it's fully equipped for off-road battle.
The 5.0-liter V8 is a smooth, torque-rich mill that is happy to rev, and brings the Range Rover Sport's performance within striking distance of the competition.
The transmission responds reasonably quickly to demands for passing power, kicking down a gear or two with minimal hesitation.
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.
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.
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.