- 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.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
Land Rover's rugged, spare styling is summed up very smartly in the Range Rover Sport.
A little Evoque, a lot of Range Rover -- the Range Rover Sport could be guilty of worse sins than its "column A, column B" approach to styling.
The family resemblance is strong with this one. The Sport's glassy greenhouse floats, just like its kin, and the details are kept to a minimum. It's the fender and hood vents that stand out, even when they're muted in a darkened, "Dynamic" metallic finish. The Sport's nose is slimmer than the Range Rover's, and the headlamps fare into the fenders with a longer wing that wraps around the corners. Toward the abbreviated tail, the wheel arches swell a bit more, and the lower roofline dips faster, like the smaller Evoque. It's tightly drawn, and the proportions read a little more classically Range Rover than either its bigger, upkicked companion or its stiletto-styled sibling.
The cabin's squarely in the Range Rover camp, pared down and honed to the essentials. Buttons and switches have been filtered off the dash, thanks to the touchscreen controls, leaving the structural appeal of the design to speak for itself. Even when fitted with the most extravagant color combinations, it's sturdy and serene, a pairing that doesn't always work well.
Some visual tricks make the cockpit snug in around the passengers more cozily--a higher center console, a smaller-diameter steering wheel, more seat bolstering. The lush of the full digital gauges on some models doesn't align with the more dated interface of the touchscreen controls, but in that case, beauty might only be a firmware upgrade away.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
A serious off-road appliance, the Range Rover Sport can also deliver muscular grip and ethereal acceleration.
The Range Rover Sport shares nearly all its structure and powertrains with the bigger Range Rover, and it shows--on the scale, on the way it keeps an even keel when it's sunk knee-deep in mud.
That's created its own problem: how to make the Sport distinctive when the Range Rover's so supple and powerful?
Power to weight
The same gut-wrenching changes that were applied to the Range Rover's body are in force in the Sport. Switching from a body-on-frame design stamped in steel, to an aluminum unibody that's bonded and riveted into a whole has shorn about 800 pounds from the Sport's curb weight. It's still above 4,700 lbs in base form, more than 5,100 lbs all dolled up, about a hundred pounds less than the bigger Rangie.
The magnitude of change pulls some exciting numbers out of either of the Sport's drivetrains. The new 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 is rated at 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque; it's an assertive-sounding engine at full throttle, with a hearty snarl that subdues quickly as the Sport flicks into higher gears, back into a more relaxed part of the powerband. Zero to 60 mph happens in about 7 seconds, and top speed's rated at 130 mph.
But it's really the 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 you want, if only for the NASCAR intake and exhaust riffs that were frankly the inspiration for its soundtrack. It's scored at 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque, and ripping off a 60-mph run in 5 seconds is in the realm of Cayenne Turbos and Grand Cherokee SRTs. Top speed is 140 mph, unless the Dynamic pack's specified--it's lifted to 155 mph. Either way, the Sport's stick shifter is in control--it's not a rotary like the control in the Range Rover or Evoque--unless you flick the paddle shift controls, letting the ZF automatic do what it does best, click off clean shifts without any drama.
The Range Rover Sport's more obviously, and vastly, better on pavement than it was in its first lifetime. A procession of electronic assistants get tuned for more focus and more grip than they do in the bigger Range Rover. If you don't see as much daylight between the bigger ute and the Sport, you'll feel it, particularly in the V-8 versions.
The Sport's stock and trade are some of the same air suspension and electric-steering bits as in the Range Rover, but that flagship's setup is deliberately set for a more relaxed feel. The Sport's most neutral state, when its ride height is set to normal via a console-mounted switch, and its Terrain Response system dialed into street driving, still yields quicker steering responses with more deliberate counterweight and a much calmer ride than the first-gen Sport.
The V-8 Sport goes a few electromechanical steps further to close the gap between its SUV side and its sport-sedan intentions. The Terrain Response system has continuously adjustable dampers and an active anti-lean system. It also tops off the Terrain Response system with a Dynamic mode that speeds up shifts, throttle response, removes most of the slack from the adjustable dampers, and lets the stability control system take a little bit of a break. There's also an active locking rear differential and simulated torque vectoring that increases its braking input by 15 percent, to draw the Sport's cornering lines tighter. All told, the pieces craft a handling personality for the V-8 Sport that's strikingly different from the base Sport, from the Range Rover, and about as deft as the other ultra-powerful SUVs (even if the SRT Jeeps and Cayenne Turbos are still ultimately, slightly, quicker).
Muck it up
If it's not quite the thunderclap that is the Cayenne Turbo or the SRT Jeep, the Range Rover Sport makes up for the tenth or two of acceleration with unbelievable off-road talent. The basic, lighter-duty setup this year is a new four-wheel-drive system with a Torsen limited-slip differential and anti-lock brakes limiting wheelspin, and a 42:58 torque split that can shift to 62 percent front, or up to 78 percent to the rear. It's offered only on the V-6, and wasn't ready in time for our first drives.
The more rugged version, standard on the V-8 and available on the V-6, has a low range and locking differentials, with a torque split of 50:50 that can switch to 100 percent, front or rear wheels, as traction suffers. We spent the better part of two days in Welsh hills and English river beds, letting Terrain Response's Auto mode do all of the work some of the time, and opting for its individual modes (Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl) as we trudged through the countryside without the benefit of pavement.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
Comfort & Quality
Almost as big as the Range Rover now, the Sport trims back only slightly in second-row seat comfort.
Longer and much more space-efficient than the first-generation model, the Range Rover Sport is growing into its role in the Land Rover family. It's up 2.5 inches overall from last year's version--and at 191 inches long, with a 115.1-inch wheelbase, it's just a few inches shy of the last-generation Range Rover.
The Sport also sits about 2.2 inches lower at the roofline than the Range Rover, and about 100 pounds lighter comparably equipped, though its weight rides a little higher than the Range Rover's and its dash and center console are taller, too.
Those distinctions are important more for the way the Sport behaves than for the way it coddles passengers, but it's obvious right away that the Sport's much closer to the Range Rover's comfort levels this time around the estate. The front-seat space is virtually the same, with scads of head room, but the Sport's adjustable seat bolsters and more snug cushions suit its mission better. Heating is standard and ventilation is available where it's not included.
It's a little thing, but vital to us: the Sport might have the most comfortable door caps of any SUV. The padding's soft, and the height's about perfect for confessed one-hand cruisers.
The second-row seats on the Sport don't have the spread-out knee room of the Range Rover, and there's less bottom cushion, too. The seatbacks recline for great touring comfort, and heating/cooling control is on the features list, but the abbreviated cushions will leave taller passengers with knees riding high above the seat. There's an inch more knee room, though, so contact's only a remote possibility.
The rear seats split and fold down to extend the Sport's cargo floor, for finely finished storage space. If you'd like to store more kids back there, you're covered: the Sport has a new +2 seating option, in which a small pair of seats flips up from the cargo floor. It's described as occasional, and we haven't been able to wedge into one yet--but if you're a seven-passenger carpooler more than rarely, it's worth a look. (If you're more serious, the Land Rover LR4 has better third-row seats.)
With each revision of the Range Rover Sport, the impression of quality's grown deeper. The launch model's plasticky cabin was banished in a redo a few years ago; the completely new Sport's cabin is a subtle knockout, almost indistinguishable from the Range Rover's in its stripped-down appeal and its boutique use of aluminum, wood, and leather.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
Safety gear from blind-spot monitors to surround-view cameras are now available, but crash-test scores still aren't.
Because it's brand-new, the 2014 Range Rover Sport hasn't been crash-tested yet by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Its score here is based on the usual attributes of SUVs, on its aero-style construction, and its safety technology.
All versions come with airbags and stability control, and the Sport's stability system is programmed with lots of subroutines to be run as accident avoidance. There's roll-stability control, trailer-sway control, as well as corner-brake control--all of which apply brakes selectively to neutralize the threat of diminished vehicle control. Hill-start assist and hill-descent control are also standard, as is a rearview camera.
The Sport also will be getting its own dose of the latest technology, including lane departure warnings; blind-spot monitors; proximity sensors; a surround-camera system; parking assist with help for parking in both parallel and perpendicular spots; and automatic high-beam actuation. Some of these features won't be available until later in the 2014 model year.
Land Rover's adaptive cruise control system adds more features this year in the Sport, too. At stop-and-go speeds, the system will bring the Sport to a complete halt, and a tap on the gas will resume cruising speed.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
Excellent Meridian sound systems and rear jump seats aren't overshadowed by the Range Rover Sport's flawed infotainment system.
Four variations of the 2014 Range Rover Sport will be offered in the U.S.: the base $63,495 SE, with a 3.0-liter supercharged 340-horsepower V-6; the $68,495 HSE with the same engine but upgraded features; the $79,995 Range Rover Sport Supercharged, with a 510-horsepower 5.0-liter supercharged V-8; and the $93,295 Range Rover Sport Autobiography, with the same engine as the Supercharged model, but with even more equipment and its own distinctive color and trim combination.
All versions come with the usual passel of luxury and functional features, from automatic climate control to power windows, locks, and mirrors; 14-way power front heated seats; cruise control; leather upholstery; wood trim; 19-inch wheels; a power tailgate; and an AM/FM/CD player as part of an audio system with Meridian sound. That Meridian system can be optioned up to a 1,700-watt soundbath, but concessions are made: its Signature version only has 23 speakers in the Sport, versus 29 in the Range Rover.
To that, the Range Rover Sport adds standard Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, voice commands, and a USB port. A rear-seat entertainment system with wireless headphones is an option, as are satellite and HD radio and a panoramic sunroof. Wheels can be upgraded to 22-inchers, and to off-road tires.
The audio system, phone, the standard navigation system, and other ancillary functions can be controlled on the Range Rover Sport's 8.0-inch touchscreen display on the dash, paired with a 5.0-inch display tucked between the gauges or, on some versions, a full 12.3-inch high-resolution display that replaces the gauges entirely.
The options list is more extensive when you consider the Sport's palette of paint colors and leather trims. Options on some versions include a cooler built into the center console; ambient LED lighting with colors you can choose by mood; and a package of heating controls for the windshield, steering wheel, and seats. There's also a +2 seating package, which we discuss more in the Quality section.
If we could, we'd lobby the NHTSA and Land Rover for two options we're not allowed in the U.S. The first--a dual-view touchscreen that lets drivers see controls while passengers watch a movie--and the second, a set of sonar sensors that show how deep the Sport is fording--and triggers the air suspension to its extended height when it detects water deeper than its maximum 33.5-inch rating.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
EPA gas mileage ratings are up considerably--into the 23-mpg highway range.
The 2014 Range Rover Sport gets much better gas mileage than it did in its last iteration. The previous-generation Sport's EPA numbers checked in at 13/18 mpg, or 15 mpg combined.
Now, with a new aluminum architecture and a choice of drivetrains, the Sport exceeds those numbers by as much as 30 percent. With its new supercharged V-6, the Sport gets EPA ratings of 17 miles per gallon city, 23 miles per gallon highway, or 19 mpg combined. Upgrade to the supercharged V-8, and it's rated at 14/19 mpg, or 16 mpg combined.
Stop/start is included on either Sport drivetrain. Plug-in hybrid technology is coming to Land Rover, but since we're not on the short list for the plug-in hybrid diesel coming to the European Range Rover, it's unlikely to make it to our Sport, either.