2014 RANGE ROVER SPORT REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Premium SUV
Engine/Trans: 375kW/625Nm 5.0 8cyl petrol | 8spd auto
Price (plus on-roads): $161,600 | $171,960 (as tested)
Fuel Economy l/100km claimed: 13.8 | tested: 17.7 (on road), 20.4 (off-road)
“Head to the racetrack in the morning, and into the bush in the afternoon.”
That’s the premise on which the all-new Range Rover Sport was built. It is, according to Land Rover, an all-in-one vehicle.
Ok, all well and good, but how does it fare as the premium all-rounder?
The previous Sport - saddled with the Discovery platform - was too heavy to live up to its Sport moniker.
The new Sport, however, has ditched its Disco origins and benefits from aluminium architecture. Weight has dropped a staggering 420kg.
It’s still a big car though. Weighing in at 2310kg, there’s plenty of metal to move around. Good thing then that we have the most powerful engine in the range.
We spent a week behind the wheel, and, after a few visits to service stations, here’s our report.
Quality: Modelled on the Range Rover proper, there’s not much to separate the Sport from its more expensive (and bigger) brother.
There’s the same basic layout, the same soft-touch materials, the same steering wheel and the same infotainment system.
Inside, you’d swear they were the same car. While the seats are shaped differently and the dash angled back a little more, the Sport is into the realm of the Vogue in terms of sumptuous build quality.
We were disappointed however to see the car indicate a suspension fault, with a warning light coming up on the dash during city driving. We pulled over, switched it off, started it up again and the fault was cleared.
Electronic glitches like this should have been dispensed with a long time ago; it is 2014 after all.
Comfort: With a name like Sport, you’d expect the seats to be quite snug, and so it proved. With adjustable hip-hugging bolstering and lumbar, the seats are not only fabulous to sit in but beautiful to look at as well.
The leather quality is superb, as is the shaping and stitching.
Rear-seat passengers get heaps of legroom and despite the two outside possies being shaped as virtual buckets, three adults can sit quite comfortably across the bench (though we wouldn't advise it for a trip across the Nullabor).
The climate control also worked a treat for the high-30s week we experienced while we had the car.
Equipment: Standard equipment on the Sport HSE includes rain-sensing wipers, power-folding heated mirrors, auto-headlights with high beam assist, 14-way adjustable electric front seats, and a multifunction, electrically-adjusted steering wheel.
Cruise control, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors with rear view camera, Bluetooth phone and media, DVD/MP3/CD, sat-nav, USB ports, voice control and a powered tailgate round it out.
Storage: This is one area where the Sport is let-down with a lot of wasted interior space. For example, the Vogue gets two gloveboxes, the Sport gets one, despite a similar dash design.
The boot is taken up by a full-size alloy wheel, and, though its rated at 784-litres, its shaping and plastic mouldings makes it less practical than the figures suggest.
There are two cupholders up front, neatly hidden by a sliding wood cover, while the rear gets two in the drop-down centre armrest, as well as a small wallet tray with a latching lid.
Each door has a generous pocket at its base and in the wide centre console rises to a massive padded armrest which opens to reveal a deep, but narrow, cubby hole.
ON ROAD | RATING: 3.5/5
Driveability: Press the start button on the dash and there's a quick whirr followed by the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 literally roaring into life.
Using the joystick-style gear selector – lifted from the Jaguar F-Type – it’s a simple push forward for Reverse and pull back for Drive.
Eight forward-speeds ensures there’s ample power and torque available in every gear, especially with a 375kW/625Nm powerplant up front.
It’ll reel off a 0-100kmh sprint in just 5.3 seconds, which, when you’re moving over 2.3 tonnes from rest, is eye-widening. On the roll it feels even more potent; overtaking only takes a flex of the right-foot.
A consequence of all that grunt is that, under hard acceleration, it can feel a tad unwieldy.
You arrive at corners carrying a lot more pace than is prudent, so you’re thankful for those massive Brembos. But tip it into a corner and it responds with a precision and feel that is better than seems possible.
Refinement: Unless you’re gunning it through sand or accelerating hard on the road, the V8 isn’t too intrusive, with a nice background burble.
At idle there’s no rocking and the eight-speed auto is silky smooth when changing, using the engine’s torque to its advantage.
Even with huge wheels, the cabin is very quiet (double-layered glass helping here).
Ride and Handling: Land Rover always strikes a good balance between steering which is light but still provides enough feel to know what’s happening at each corner, and the Sport is no different.
If anything, it’s a touch heavier than other LR products and inspires more confidence when pushing the boundaries of grip.
The drive in normal driving is split 42/58 which, Land Rover says, offers a more rear-biased drive experience.
Curiously, the tighter and more aggressively you push, the better the Sport handles it.
You can feel the suspension flattening out body-roll when weight transfers laterally, stiffening up the outside springs during aggressive cornering.
A slalom reveals how it works with a beautiful ride at the straight-ahead but with a defiant anti-roll action kicking in when pushed.
It must be said that even with 22-inch hoops fitted, the suspension does a fabulous job of keeping everything supple.
Braking: There’s no mistaking the bright-red Brembo callipers up front. They clamp onto massive 365mm discs with the rear callipers grabbing the same size rotors.
OFF ROAD | RATING: 4/5
With our tester optioned with stunning 22-inch wheels, we decided it prudent to steer clear of rim-scratching rocks.
Instead, we sought to see how those low profile tyres would go churning through a boggy dust bowl.
Our first goal was to see if it would handle those conditions straight out of the box. So, we headed into the sand on road pressures.
The first run, with plenty of speed and Sand mode on the Terrain Response dial went well. The V8's grunt saw it power through with no issues.
The second run was done a bit slower, seeing if we could find a point at which it would bog down. We found it.
It buried itself quickly and even when the suspension offered extended-height mode, the wheels simply pushed deeper into the sand. Thanks to the guys in the HiLux who snatched us out.
Dropping the pressure to 20psi yielded an entirely different result.
There was nothing we could do to bog it down. Sand mode allowed plenty of spin, only using traction control to kick the car in a different direction if it started to slow down.
The electronic brain used to sort out how much movement is happening is simply superb.
With the V8 roaring away it sounded like an old FJ with a Chev conversion – flame-spitting brilliance.
The air-suspension is also superb in keeping a flat ride while absorbing the bumps and thumps underneath, meaning the cabin stays composed while everything is sorted out underneath.
In short, the Rangie is fabulous off road. But would you expect any less?
ANCAP rating: The Range Rover Sport has not been tested by either ANCAP or EuroNCAP as yet.
Safety features: In addition to the two airbags directly in front of the driver and passenger, there are side, seat-front, thorax and pelvis, an "inflatable lanceless curtain system", seat belt pre-tensioners and rollover deployment of restraints.
ABS, brake assist and ESP which includes Terrain Reponse comprise the electronic side of things.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km with an option for Land Rover Assured Extended Warranty which will cover both on and off-road breakdowns.
Service costs: Costs vary depending on conditions and service interval. Intervals are set for every 12 months/26,000km for normal driving conditions. See you local Land Rover dealer for more information.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
BMW X5 M50d ($147,900) – With the absence of the X5 M proper, the M50d is the closest in price to the Rangie.
It’s clearly a lot better on fuel, and corners more confidently but can’t hold a candle to the Sport off-road. (see X5 reviews)
Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG ($177,400) – With an engine note to rival the Rangie, the ML is more about straight-line speed than off-road prowess.
It has more usable space and is more economical, too, but will suit a different kind of buyer (see M-Class reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s hard not to fall in love with the Range Rover Sport V8’s intoxicating power and gatling-gun sound. But then you have to step back and look at it more objectively.
If it’s pure torque you’re after, you could spend another ten grand and jump up to the full-fat Range Rover Vogue SDV6.
That one gives you the best ride this side of a Phantom, excellent economy, even better off-road performance and a heap more usable space.
Alternatively, you can save yourself nearly $60,000 and drop down to the entry-level TDV6 and revel in the 600Nm on offer while taking advantage of its excellent dynamics. Compared to the Vogue, the Sport TDV6 is a bargain.
Either way, the supercharged V8, lovely though it is, is simply too expensive and too thirsty to be anything but a luxury.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- TDV6 SE - $102,800
- SDV6 SE - $113,600
- V6 Supercharged Petrol HSE - $123,100
- SDV6 HSE - $125,800
- SDV6 Autobiography - $145,500
- V8 Supercharged Petrol HSE - $161,600
- V8 Supercharged Petrol Autobiography - $182,400
- SDV8 - $TBC
- Diesel-Electric Hybrid - $TBC