2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 16, 2012

The most broadly talented luxury SUV of its kind, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport is plush, quick, rugged, and authentic--as well as pricey, thirsty, and not especially spacious.

A Range Rover for a more enthusiastic set of drivers, the Range Rover Sport may not be the brand's hallmark vehicle, but it is its most exciting vehicle, even with the arrival of the pint-sized Evoque.

Reimagined on a smaller scale than the big Rangie, but with much of its off-road ability, the Sport is the stepping stone between the formal, regal Range Rover and the higher-performance, street-ready utes that more of us are shopping and buying now. Looking at an M-Class, a Cayenne, or an X5? Then you're likely looking at a Range Rover Sport, too.

And for good reason. The Sport's on-road performance is almost astonishing for its weight and its size. At the same time, there's still enough off-road capability baked into its body and frame to enable those fantasy-camp treks across banana republics worldwide--the kind that aren't at the other end of the mall from where you parked, drat.

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With some running gear in common with the seven-seat Land Rover LR4, the Range Rover Sport couldn't look, feel, or drive more distinctively. The scaled-down Range Rover look just works, from the bluff front end to the spare use of detail, to the sloped rear end that clearly predicted the Evoque while it was still an LRX concept floating around Land Rover HQ. The cockpit's lavish without looking spoiled, a lovely balance of top-drawer materials and functional knobs and rockers, now bathed in a warm LCD touchscreen glow.

Power for the Sport comes from the Jaguar-Land Rover 5.0-liter V-8, with or without supercharging. The naturally-aspirated version pushes out 375 horsepower and 375 pound-feet; with supercharging, it howls out 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. Brisk acceleration in base form (0-60 mph in about 7.2 seconds) becomes stunning in Supercharged models, dropping to a scant 5.9 seconds. With either drivetrain, the Sport gets a brainy all-wheel-drive system and a six-speed automatic transmission.

Outfitted as such, the Sport makes its talents known in the mud as well as it does in corners. It's truly surprising how tenaciously it clings to the road, and how deep a stream it can ford, but sometimes the ride quality gets a little rough and bouncy, reminding you that the gulf between its extremes is a vast one. The available adaptive suspension goes a long way to soothing ruffled ride motions.

Inside, the Range Rover Sport wavers between snug and tight. It's not a roomy cabin by any means, and four adults will find comfortable spaces for relatively long road trips--but not much additional space for their belongings or the occasional yawn and stretch. The cargo hold's especially small, with a high floor.

Neither the NHTSA or the IIHS has crash-tested the Sport, but it offers blind-spot monitors and a rearview camera, along with the stock and trade stability control and all-wheel drive. What it can't do is much for your carbon footprint--gas mileage is abysmal on an absolute scale, and low even for its luxury class.

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2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Styling

A Range Rover viewed through a Neutra filter, the Sport's leaner, cleaner, and more sporting, inside and out.

Disguising its size with a collection of crisply drawn lines that mimic the Range Rover without aping it, the Range Rover Sport authentically creates its own style from hand-me-downs.

Refined and urbane, even in the context of the woodsy, regal Range Rover, the Sport clearly predicted the future Evoque when Range Rover introduced the mid-size SUV back in 2007. The Sport's sloped rear end is the defining touch, but the very simple, very elegant front end doesn't really have an analogue in the SUV world--because there's nothing overdone or overstated about it.

Upright sides and a vertical front end, contrast with the sloping window and roof lines of the Sport, giving it the look to bear its name. Part classic Land Rover, part modern super-SUV, this is the most high-performance Range Rover you'll find--and it looks it. It's nearly impossible to detect that this model has more in common mechanically with the upright LR4 than with the ur-Rangie.

The cabin's a reflection of the instant-classic sheetmetal. Hallmark cues abound. Rectilinear forms now frame LCD-driven displays, balanced out by the arriviste--the rotary terrain-response knob that now dominates the center console. All around, there are fantastically finished panels, whether finished in leather, wood, or plastic.

The gauges and displays are all easy-to-read, whether you choose the HSE or the faster Supercharged model. Both versions of the Range Rover Sport looks quite similar too, though aficionados will be able to spot the minor clues.

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2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Performance

Like the Cayenne and X5 and ML, the Range Rover Sport's street performance has the power to astonish.

As capable on pavement as it is off the road, the Range Rover Sport fulfills the current Land Rover mission better, possibly, than any of its vehicles--to be a refined driving experience, no matter what the conditions.

No 5,500-pound vehicle has the right to be as exceptionally quick, composed, or grippy as the Sport. Like the Cayenne, X5 and ML, the Sport does an astonishing thing in bridging the gap between real SUV credentials and sport-sedan driving talent.

Even base Sports have very quick acceleration, coming from a smooth, strong 5.0-liter V-8. The 375-horsepower engine has 375 pound-feet of torque, and coupled to a six-speed automatic, it's enough to pull the Sport to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. Adding a supercharger to the equation lifts output to 510 horsepower (identical figures to those in the Jaguar lineup), and 0-60 mph times drop to 5.9 seconds. It's not quite as fast, by the stopwatch, as a Cayenne Turbo or X5M or ML63 AMG, but in driver perception it's right in the thick of it.

Ride and handling rise to nearly the same lofty levels. The stiff suspension of the Sport makes it somewhat less comfortable than the standard Range Rover, however, and the street-tread tires don't do as well when grip is minimal. Ride quality can be a bit stiff, but that's the price paid for so much handling and performance. Once you've mentally factored in the added ride height and body roll--much of which is factored out by the adaptive suspension--the Sport hangs into corners with the best of these high-performance SUVs.

Both Range Rover Sport trims come with standard all-wheel drive and advanced dynamics and traction control systems. While the Range Rover Sport, and the Supercharged model in particular, give up some off-road capability in trade for superior on-road handling and speed, both are still capable of impressive off-road feats.

Perhaps best of all, however, is how easy Land Rover makes it to access all of this performance. Behind the scenes, a symphony of differentials, electronics, and sensors combine to do amazing things to manage traction, speed, and driver control--but the driver doesn't need to understand how they work in order to use them. Just turn the knob or press the touch-screen button to suit the conditions and you're set.

A word about the off-roading: As high-tech as it is fast and luxurious, the 2012 Range Rover Sport relies on a pair of screens--one 5-inch TFT mounted in the instrument panel, and a larger touchscreen in the center of the dash--for driver-vehicle communication. These interfaces provide a wealth of information, access to settings, and control over the vehicle's function and features.

For off-roading or performance driving, the Adaptive Dynamic System and Terrain Response System readouts are particularly useful, displaying real-time workings of the differentials and wheels. The instrument panel shows even more information, and can be driver configured to display trip, speed, and other information. The Dynamic program is controlled by a center-console knob, allowing the driver to choose the drivetrain setting to suit the surface.

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2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Comfort & Quality

The Range Rover Sport's cabin's painstakingly finished, but it's also somewhat cramped.

When it was revamped in the 2010 model year, the Range Rover Sport's cabin received new, richer finishes for its somewhat tight accommodations. It's carried over again, almost intact, for the 2013 model year save for a new choice of a lighter-colored interior.

The cabin's a success, from a luxury point of view. With fewer buttons and switches cluttering the center console, the upgraded materials shine through in a way they couldn't in the original Range Rover Sport, back in 2007. It's truly a luxury SUV, thanks to ample leather and wood trim, and attention to detail.

However, the Sport's cabin is on the small side, and even the front bucket seats can feel somewhat confined for drivers used to very big SUVs, even the bigger Range Rover. Head and shoulder room are fine, but knee and leg room are on the slim side, thanks to a wide center console and a shorter wheelbase than on the longer Range Rover and the Sport's mechanical sibling, the Land Rover LR4. Medium-sized passengers will have no problem finding a comfortable seat, though, and the multi-adjustable front buckets have the snug fit and feel of a luxury sport sedan.

The exterior size of the Sport doesn't quite translate into interior volume in the cargo area. The cargo floor sits high, too. The rear seats fold down nearly flat, though, and the Sport has plenty of small-item storage within reach of the driver and other passengers.

Wind, road, and engine noise is minimal, though they rise as the speed does, becoming truly noticeable only at extra-legal speeds. As with any vehicle, particularly those with wide tires, some road surfaces can induce tire noise as well.

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2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Safety

No crash-test scores are available, but the Range Rover Sport has some of the latest high-tech safety equipment.

Like many luxury vehicles that sell in small volumes, the 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport doesn't have any crash-test data to confirm the assumptions about its safety.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has put the Sport through a full series of crash tests, and we don't expect that either will, since the Sport is nearing the end of its current model cycle.

Even so, the middle Range Rover has the usual and some cutting-edge standard safety equipment. All versions get standard dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control with roll control; hill descent control; and active headrests.

The Supercharged model is also available with radar adaptive cruise control that works with the emergency braking system to scan the road and detect possible collisions, aiding the driver in braking.

All Sports have the Range Rover four-wheel-drive system as well, which integrates a handful of traction modes with a locking differential to accommodate drivers putting it through its paces on a huge variety of surfaces--from bone-dry pavement to sloppy, knee-deep mud and glare ice.

Both versions of the Range Rover Sport offer excellent visibility thanks to plenty of glass, a low beltline, and a high seating position, though rearward visibility is somewhat reduced by thick pillars at the very back of the vehicle.

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2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Features

The Range Rover Sport has the usual exotica and electronica; the navigation system's a bit fussy.

The Range Rover Sport used to be the "base" Range Rover model, but with the Evoque now in the lineup, it's relieved of those duties. Still, it's not shy about piling on the standard equipment--everything from leather and wood trim, to a navigation system, to a standard Harmon Kardon audio system with 11 speakers and 380 watts of power.

Aside from the difference in engines, the primary differences between the Range Rover Sport HSE and Supercharged are the options. Most of the Supercharged's standard gear is optional on the HSE. However, supercharged versions get red Brembo brake calipers this year, with an option of keeping the stock black ones--for discretion, we suppose.

Upgrades for either model include a rear-seat entertainment system, a beverage cooler, and a wide array of interior individualization. Adaptable air suspension, surround-view cameras, and a choice of alloy wheels are also available, as is a premium audio system with 825 watts of power, 17 speakers, and surround sound.

Other new options introduced for this year include a towing package, now offered across the lineup. It includes a variable rear differential lock that is found on other Range Rover vehicles, and helps keep a tighter rein on axle slippage when off-road driving modes are engaged.

A GT Limited Edition of the supercharged model gets special sport badging, 20-inch wheels, shift paddles, premium audio, and HD radio.

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2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Fuel Economy

Brute strength has its price: the Range Rover Sport's gas mileage is abysmal.

You might expect, and be content with, abysmal gas mileage in a vehicle so powerful and expensive as the Land Rover Range Rover Sport. Call it expectations met.

The EPA says the current Range Rover Sport earns fuel-economy numbers of 13 miles per gallon city, and 18 miles per gallon highway, when fitted with the base engine in HSE trim. When it's supercharged, the drivetrain turns in EPA ratings of 12/17 mpg.

In short, the Range Rover Sport is going to burn some gas, no matter what you do with it--but given its on- and off-road capabilities, it'll be money well spent. Long-distance commuters might want to consider other options, however.

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August 11, 2015
2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport 4WD 4-Door HSE

Great car in every way

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Cannot fault this car at all.Looks good and reliable and great on fuel.really is a joy to drive.
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