2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
March 14, 2009

The 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport is the perfect over-the-top luxury SUV to be seen in.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Land Rover Range Rover Sport in order to give you an expert opinion; this is presented alongside research conducted on a wide range of published reviews to help you make the best decision.

The 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport pairs a slightly slimmed-down, chiseled profile, resembling the larger Range Rover, with a lower center of gravity and underpinnings that are tuned more for on-road performance than hard-core off-roading. The shape recalls classic Range Rovers that came along well before the Sport's 2006 introduction, all with elegantly thin roof pillars and a purposeful presence that looks like it's ready to tackle forest trails or desert sands.

Available in two models, HSE and Supercharged, the 2009 Range Rover Sport HSE uses a 4.4-liter V-8 that generates 300 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque. The 4.2-liter Supercharged model generates 390 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque—which will accelerate the Supercharged model to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. The Supercharged dissipates speed with large Brembo brakes that are actually quite necessary due to this SUV's velocity potential and weight. Surprisingly, this mid-size SUV weighs more than 5,500 pounds—about the same as the roomier Range Rover and the significantly larger Cadillac Escalade. Unsurprisingly, fuel economy is poor, at a rated 12 mpg city, 18 highway with either engine.

Editors at TheCarConnection.com have driven the Land Rover Range Rover Sport several times, most recently during a nasty Midwestern winter. The full-time four-wheel drive performed well in the snow and on dry pavement. From previous drives, TheCarConnection.com knows that the Range Rover Sport can hustle on curvy roads, with a suspension that’s similar to that of a sport sedan—if only it weren’t so heavy. Editors have also driven the Sport off-road, where it is very capable.

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The Sport’s interior is snug, and inexpensive bits and pieces of trim seem to have snuck into the model range. One of the first things that strike a driver is the Sport's expansive windows, which make for excellent visibility. British woods, leathers, and wools (in the carpets) contribute to a pleasingly rich experience.

Because there are multiple settings to prepare the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport for all manner of on- or off-road driving, the Sport’s controls demand some familiarization. The suspension rises and lowers, programs for the electronically controlled throttle and brake system change—it's all very complex, and the pictographs on the controller's dial clue you in as to what setting to use for what conditions. You really don't need to understand all that is happening mechanically; you just need to know it works.

The differences between the 2009 Range Rover Sport HSE and Range Rover Sport Supercharged is that most of the option features on the HSE come as standard on the Supercharged, including real premium woods, genuine leather seats with heaters, a beverage cooler, an advanced navigation system, and much more.

The 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport gets a number of appearance changes for 2009, including almond-colored leather trim with nutmeg-colored carpets and new 20-inch wheels for the Supercharged model, plus clear lenses for the tail lamps and side turn signals.

Safety features on both models include stability control, Hill Descent Control, and an Active Roll Mitigation feature that helps stabilize the vehicle during severe handling maneuvers. Airbags protect both rows of occupants. Crash data is not available on this model to date. Both the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE and Supercharged versions ride on a fully independent automatic load-leveling air suspension, with standard anti-lock disc brakes that include electronic brake force distribution and brake assist.

Land Rovers are extremely complex vehicles, and their record of reliability as measured by any number of quality surveys is well below average.

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2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Styling

The exterior of the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport is nicely proportioned, but some might want a little more out of the interior.

The exterior style of the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport has a familiar attractiveness, but the SUV’s interior is a bit lacking.

Edmunds reviewers are rather enamored of the Range Rover Sport profile: "Overall, it is an enjoyable and luxurious vehicle to drive as well as look at." Cars.com provides an excellent description: It “features an upright grille that's flanked by standard high-intensity-discharge headlights. Other design features include a downward-sloping roofline, side vents in the front fenders, rocker panel moldings and standard 19-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tires." The shape of the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport recalls the classic lines of Range Rovers before the introduction of the Sport model in 2006. Kelley Blue Book goes into more detail: It “manages to combine Range Rover's familiar cubist styling with a raked windscreen and a tapered roofline that makes the vehicle appear as if it is moving quickly, even when at rest."

Cheap trim pieces can be found inside the 2009 Sport, but besides the small confines, the cabin exhibits a refined style with elements such as leather, wood, and wool sprinkled throughout the Sport’s interior. Cars.com notes that the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport interior "is trimmed with simulated metal pieces, but real wood trim is also available." Kelley Blue Book reports, "the gauge lettering is small and difficult to read, and the black-lettered LCD readouts practically disappear when viewed through polarized lenses." ConsumerGuide suggests that "a larger typeface would enhance the legibility of the gauges" of the Land Rover Range Rover Sport 2009 and contends that "climate dials are big and obvious, but effort is required to sort out the multitude of other buttons and knobs," and "setting Terrain Response, hill-descent control, and other off-road gear puzzles the uninitiated."

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2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Performance

The 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport performs very well, but all that weight brings poor fuel economy, and it’s not as quick as it could be.

Thanks to a composed chassis and an efficient powertrain, the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport performs as well on the pavement as it does in the dirt.

Cars.com describes the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport as "a stable, confident highway ride...the four-wheel-independent air suspension delivers ride quality that's on the firm side; bumps and holes are felt and heard." According to ConsumerGuide, "both models react firmly to bumps in the manner of a European sport sedan." Cars.com also notes “Land Rover says the optional Dynamic Response anti-roll system works to control body roll, and it did so handily when driving the Range Rover Sport on twisty roads — especially when you consider its near 6-foot height and 5,500-pound curb weight.” AutoWeek says "on the upside, this vehicle glides down the highway and is barely rattled by anything the back roads can dish out...the truck stays on center so steadily that you actually can take your hands off the wheel and not stray from a straight-line course—very impressive for a 5,600-pounder with these kinds of off-road underpinnings."

You really don't need to understand all that is happening mechanically—you just need to know it works. Controls take some getting used to, as there are multiple settings that prepare the Sport for all manner of on- or off-road driving. The suspension rises and lowers, while programs for the electronically controlled throttle and brake system change. Features such Hill Descent Control, for smoothly negotiating steep, slippery slopes, are standard.

Car and Driver averages a mere 12 mpg in a Range Rover Sport. The culprit is weight; this mid-size SUV weighs more than 5,500 pounds, about the same as the significantly larger Cadillac Escalade. About the transmission, Cars.com reports, "both engines drive a six-speed automatic transmission with a clutchless-manual mode that sends power to each wheel through a permanent four-wheel-drive system." AutoWeek says "it kicks down way too much to maintain highway speed, but maybe that was the fuel-saving sixth gear talking."

Not all sources consider the Range Rover Sport’s engines impressive. AutoWeek notes the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport "can carry just about anything short of a Chevy Suburban-load...[but] power isn't what it needs to be to carry the vehicle with a load of adults and gear down the highway." Cars.com states, "the Land Rover 2009 HSE's acceleration can only be described as adequate, and the engine works hard to propel this portly SUV." Cars.com reports "two engines are offered...Land Rover Range Rover Sport 2009 HSE models use a 300-horsepower, 4.4-liter V-8 that makes 315 pounds-feet of torque, and Supercharged versions have a 390-hp, supercharged 4.2-liter V-8 that develops 410 pounds-feet of torque." This engine will take the vehicle to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, according to Land Rover estimates.

On the other hand, Consumer Guide proclaims "the Supercharged model is impressively strong." Kelley Blue Book adds "the supercharger is most appreciated when passing at high speeds and scooting across bustling intersections." On the Supercharged, speed is dissipated by large Brembo-branded brakes that are necessary due to this SUV's velocity potential and weight. Car and Driver is impressed by the brakes even on the base model: "the shocking thing about the Range Rover Sport is how amazingly well it stops...our 5629-pound HSE test vehicle did the 70-to-0-mph deed in just 165 feet, which far outclasses everything in its SUV category."

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2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Comfort & Quality

Noise and cheap plastics are noticeable, and the cabin is a bit tight, but the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport is nicely appointed.

The small size of the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport’s cabin is compensated by its overall comfort.

ConsumerGuide says that the Land Rover Range Rover Sport 2009 "doesn't suppress wind and road noise at highway speeds as well as its premium midsize rivals...around town, though, it fares better," while "the supercharger whines in fast acceleration, but it never annoys."

Materials and assembly seem decent, but "electronics also are a bit nervous—the touch screen combined with the hard-button interface doesn't do anything quite completely or easily," according to AutoWeek. ConsumerGuide remarks, "richly padded cabin surfaces are abundant, but some materials disappoint for the price and the metal-look trim should be aluminum, not painted plastic." They also note that one of their test vehicles "suffered from myriad squeaks and a small leak from the sunroof after a heavy rainfall."

Although the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport's "shortened wheelbase means slightly less passenger and cargo capacity," Kelley Blue Book remarks, "snug but comfortable seating offers good thigh support in the front bucket seats and roomy rear seat." Unfortunately, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport 2009 isn't especially child-friendly; according to MotherProof, "the Rover couldn't handle...kids' booster seats." Cars.com reports that the Land Rover Range Rover Sport 2009 has a "five-person interior"; ConsumerGuide says that "head clearance is adequate, but larger passengers lack wiggle room in the footwell, which is pinched by a wide center console and the low dashboard housing."

ConsumerGuide also notes "the two-step rear-seat folding process creates a relatively long and flat load floor," while a "double-tier glovebox and multiple console bins contribute to good small-item storage space." Cars.com reports "interior cargo room measures 33.8 cubic feet but grows to 71 cubic feet when the 65/35-split rear bench seat is folded."

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2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Safety

The 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport hasn’t been crash-tested, but an extensive list of safety features is reassuring.

Without NHTSA or IIHS testing completed, TheCarConnection.com’s editors were unable to draw conclusive evidence of the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport's safety features or capabilities. Crash tests on the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport had not been conducted by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) when this article was published.

There are, however, plenty of reassuring safety features in the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport. Cars.com reports that standard safety features "include antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags, an electronic stability system with rollover mitigation technology, and front and rear parking sensors." In addition, the "rear seats have child-safety seat anchors."

According to Cars.com, "large windows and high seating position give the driver a commanding view of the road," but "the large 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport C-pillars, however, limit visibility." The 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged models "can be equipped with adaptive cruise control that maintains a preset distance between the Range Rover Sport and a vehicle in front of it," the reviewer says.

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2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Features

Surprisingly, the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport is missing a few features common to less expensive vehicles.

The 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport is so well equipped with standard features that options are practically gratuitous.

Kelley Blue Book reports that the Land Rover Range Rover Sport 2009 HSE trim is "equipped with a naturally-aspirated 4.4-liter V8, six-speed ZF automatic transmission with CommandShift manual-shift mode, electronic air suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Hill Descent Control (HDC), Terrain Response four-wheel-drive system, traction control, front side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, bi-xenon headlamps, fog lamps, eight-way power driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, park distance control, Bluetooth phone integration, harman/kardon LOGIC 7 stereo with six-disc MP3/CD audio and 14 speakers and DVD GPS navigation with voice recognition and seven-inch LCD view screen." Cars.com notes, "for 2009, the Range Rover Sport gets more power equipment. It now has power-folding side mirrors, an eight-way power passenger seat and a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel."

Moving on to Land Rover Range Rover Sport options, Kelley Blue Book reports that "Land Rover 2009 options include a Cold Climate Package (HSE), rear-seat entertainment package with two headrest-mounted LCD monitors, adaptive headlamps, adaptive cruise control (on the Supercharged trim level), SIRIUS Satellite Radio, locking rear differential, Dynamic Response suspension and 20-inch alloy wheels (HSE)."

MotherProof is not impressed by what the Range Rover Sport has to offer in terms of options and is disappointed in what is absent: "there's no backup camera, no power liftgate...and there's no auxiliary jack for an MP3 player." This source also complains that although the front console has "a nifty cooler box," it "wasn't useful on a day-to-day basis."

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Styling 8
Performance 8
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