Range Rover Sport review
The Range Rover Sport is a seriously capable premium SUV that oozes brand appeal. Despite heavy running costs, it's one of our top 4x4s
We are big fans of the Range Rover Sport at Auto Express. It’s great to drive, fully living up to its name with strong performance and size-defying handling prowess. The SVR is a genuine sports car on stilts, but even the SDV6 has ample power.
It’s as luxurious as you’d expect a big car wearing the Range Rover badge to be. The commanding interior is beautifully finished and a lovely place to spend time, with abundant space for five and a handy seven-seat option should you need it.
Land Rover has also worked hard on a traditional Achilles’ heel, reliability: Driver Power results suggest the latest Sport is much more dependable than earlier models, with improved economy and emissions making running costs a little less extreme as well.
The Range Rover Sport is not cheap to buy, but it’s such an accomplished and impressive machine, it still earns a full five-star rating. There’s little to fault and a lot to like: with owners telling us they’re equally delighted, we’re happy to recommend it.
The Range Rover Sport has been one of Land Rover’s most successful vehicles ever. First introduced back in 2005 it was, as its name suggests, pitched as a sportier and more accessible alternative to the big, luxurious Range Rover. Its arrival allowed that car to move upmarket, with the Sport taking on the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5.
The current model is the second generation of Range Rover Sport and was first introduced in 2013. Built entirely from aluminium, it’s significantly lighter than the original – some versions get near the two-tonne mark – and the all-new chassis is wildly capable both on and off road.
Land Rover sells the Range Rover Sport in a single five-door bodystyle, with this generation introducing the option of third-row seats in the rear. It was the first seven-seat Range Rover as not even its bigger brother seats seven. The arrival of a three-row version was partly in response to customer demand: people are using Sports as their main family vehicles and want the extra flexibility.
The range is built around the best-selling engine, Land Rover’s 3.0-litre SDV6 turbodiesel. Even the hybrid version uses this engine, in contrast to models such as the Lexus RX 450h which use petrol-electric drive. There is a top-line 4.4-litre V8 turbodiesel too, but most spending this much on a Range Rover Sport will choose the 5.0-litre V8 supercharged petrol instead.
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An intriguing addition to the range in 2015 was the launch of the SVR version, using a more highly tuned version of this V8 motor. It’s an extreme machine that firmly underlines the ‘Sport’ in the name, and has even claimed an SUV Nürburgring lap time record.
Trim lines are fairly clear: HSE, HSE Dynamic, Autobiography and Autobiography Dynamic, plus the aforementioned SVR. Hybrid models are dubbed HEV and HEV Autobiography, but that’s just a branding thing – there’s no difference in equipment levels compared to the diesels.
The Range Rover Sport isn’t a cheap machine though. Even the base model is £62,000 and you seed to spend at least £84,000 to get a V8 engine. Seven seats cost £1,500 more and the choice Dynamic models also add a few thousand more to the list price.
But the Range Rover Sport, in second-generation guise, is now fully accepted as a premium SUV that is well placed to take on its natural rivals, the X5, Cayenne, GLE and Q7, plus potential new entrants such as the Maserati Levante. It could even be seen as a cut-price performance alternative to the Bentley Bentayga.
Engines, performance and drive
The second generation Range Rover Sport really moved the game on in terms of drive and dynamics. The all-new, all-aluminium architecture is very stiff and robust, and the firm’s advanced suspension design and accomplished four-wheel drive system gives a driving experience that is unlikely to disappoint.
The natural abilities of the Range Rover Sport are clear from the off. The steering is a bit light but it’s also extremely accurate and crisp, making it easy to drive this big machine both in town and on twisting B-roads. The balance is spot on, it never feels top-heavy or vague, and generally has control and composure that would amaze those who dismiss it as a big, heavy 4x4.
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All Range Rover Sports are fitted with Land Rover Adaptive Dynamics. This adapts the air suspension and electronic controls to road conditions, and it includes a Dynamic mode that impressively minimises body roll and maximises grip. Sure, the ride is knobblier here, but it’s beautifully accomplished in regular mode, with peerless body control, ample absorbency and terrific stability. Dynamically, the Range Rover Sport is little short of superb.
Owners back this up – they’re delighted with the Range Rover Sport’s handling, but even more impressed with its ride quality, where it scores a top-5 position in Driver Power. Just be aware there’s the merest trace of extra knobbliness with the 21-inch wheels of Dynamic and Autobiography versions.
Off-road abilities outclass all rivals. Terrain Response optimises things for mud, travel, snow, rocks and sand, juggling suspension height, gearchange settings, throttle response and traction control profiles: take your pick, because it’s absolutely outstanding across all of them. Even driving across rivers should hold no nasty surprises, thanks to a frankly ridiculous 850mm wading depth (and there’s even a gadget that shows you how deep the water that you’re driving through is…).
Dynamic-spec models come with an enhanced Terrain Response 2 system – this includes automatic terrain sensing, that auto-engages the correct mode when it senses a change in surface below: ingenious stuff. Also new for Dynamic models is the JLR All-Terrain Response Control. Introduced with the late 2015 upgrade this is a sort of ‘off-road cruise control’, letting the driver select a desired speed and leaving the car to do all the hard work – it can even set the vehicle moving from rest, which is idea when grip is low or terrains are rough or steep.
The SVR is, of course, another matter entirely. Decidedly performance-focused, it has massive wheels, big brakes, stiffened suspension and intricate development throughout to give it performance that makes it the SUV king of the Nurburgring. The simple fact that its top speed has been raised to a staggering 162mph should show the development that’s gone into this 2.5-tonne machine – it shouldn’t work, shouldn’t deliver Jaguar-like engagement, making it all the more remarkable that it does.
The favoured 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo diesel isn’t the newest engine around, but it still does the business. Impressively hushed and smooth-running, the two turbos deliver beautifully creamy power delivery (so long as they have boost – it still feels a bit flat at really low revs) and strong torque back-up. For most, it will be more than enough.
Indeed, the 3.0-litre SDV6 was upgraded late in 2015, giving it more power yet greater fuel economy too. It now has an extra 14bhp and, more significantly, a stonking 100Nm more torque. Performance figures are actually unchanged, despite this extra pace, but on the road it feels appreciably more muscular. 0-62mph takes a perfectly swift 7.2 seconds and top speed is 130mph – or, thanks to speed-optimised 21-inch tyres, 140mph in Dynamic guise.
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The hybrid is a curious alternative. It can run in full EV mode if you’re really gentle, but this is a big Range Rover Sport, so such instances are rare. Unless you’re in town, you’re unlikely to notice much difference – and there, it’s not the EV running that will stand out, but the extra pull from a standstill thanks to the electric motor’s instantaneous torque. Given the huge amount extra Land Rover charges over the SDV6 diesel, we expect more.
The 4.4-litre V8 turbodiesel is a lovely engine but, since the 2015 upgrades to the SDV6, doesn’t offer that much extra. This is why many may be tempted by the ultra-smooth, appealing-sounding supercharged V8 petrol which, even in ‘basic’ guise, produces 503bhp for an hilarious 0-60mph dash in 5.0 seconds.
The 542bhp SVR is even faster, doing the benchmark sprint in just 4.5 seconds, with an absolutely wonderful V8 bark and exhaust note bellow in the background for good measure. It’s a wickedly exciting, albeit unlikely, performance machine.
All Range Rover Sport models are fitted with an excellent eight-speed automatic transmission. This ZF unit is slick-shifting, intuitive and discreet. It’s controlled by a stick-shift automatic lever, unlike the rotary controller in the Range Rover: this is actually taken straight from the Jaguar F-Type for a bit of sporty JLR family lineage.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
First-generation Range Rover Sport models were very thirsty and this was accepted by owners as a price they had to pay. Things have moved on though, and the volume SDV6 diesel no longer demands you make this compromise.
Given what a large and capable machine it is, claimed fuel economy of 40.4mpg is pretty impressive. OK, CO2 emissions still look a bit high at 185g/km, but they’re now well below the 200g/km mark, thanks to the 2015 improvements that also improved fuel economy by 3mpg.
If this isn’t economical enough for you, the HEV diesel-electric hybrid appears to be an intriguing alternative. However, we don’t think economy is as much of a step up as it needs to be, given the fact even the base version costs over £84,000. 45.6mpg and CO2 of 164g/km aren’t convincing enough, particularly when compared to much cheaper alternative such as the 83.1mpg, 79g/km Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid.
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The V8 diesel chews through a gallon of diesel every 33.6 miles, and emits 219g/km CO2: the argument for it is unconvincing. Predictably, the petrol V8s are even worse, with the top-line SVR averaging just 21.7mpg. At least CO2 emissions (just) dip below 300g/km.
Naturally, V8 Range Rover Sports will be expensive to run, but the V6s won’t be far behind either. Tyres, brakes, general servicing – this big SUV has a thirst for all of them and you should budget accordingly because it’s certainly in another ballpark compared to similar-price executive saloons. At least owners report the new Sport is not anything like as expensive to run as the old one.
Insurance is another significant expense for the Range Rover Sport. It’s a premium, in-demand, highly sought after machine that’s constructed from aluminium and trimmed to the highest standards: repairing it after an accident won’t be cheap, and insurance premiums reflect this.
Ratings start expensive and become yet more expensive as you move up the range. The SDV6 starts at an eye-watering group 43, moving up to group 45 for the more bespoke Autobiography. Hybrid models lie in group 47, as does the SDV8, and the supercharged V8 petrol versions step up to group 49.
It’s perhaps no surprise to find the high-performance SVR sits in the same group 50 rating as supercars and exotic cars: its extra performance, bespoke components and appealing nature ensure it will never be a cost-effective machine to insure.
The Range Rover Sport remains an in-demand machine and, as such, it’s highly prized on the used market. Retained values reflect this with a generally strong performance across the board.
The SDV6 HSE is the star of the range. After three years, it retains nearly 54% of its initial list price; there’s little difference between five and seven-seat versions, although the HSE Dynamic does knock back retained values a little, to just under 52%.
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We’d perhaps avoid the Autobiography if you’re an SDV6 buyer looking for best used market returns: retained values drop to just under 49% which, when combined with their higher list price, means greater losses after three years. V8 diesel and supercharged petrol versions, meanwhile, retain around 47%.
The weakest models for retained values are among the most expensive. The SVR, perhaps inevitably, holds onto a middling 44% of its heady list price, reflecting its specialist nature. The poor value and unimpressive fuel economy of the hybrid model sees it perform little better than the regular diesel, again holding onto just under 45% of its list price after three years.
Interior, design and technology
The Range Rover Sport’s interior leaves you in no doubt it’s a genuine luxury vehicle. Even in standard HSE guise, there are swathes of posh Oxford leather, jewel-like switchgear and a central widescreen monitor.
It’s a more sporting layout than the formal and upright Range Rover – and, for this version, bespoke to the Sport (the previous model had an interior shared with the Land Rover Discovery). It’s like a posher, more grown up Range Rover Evoque, and feels great to sit within. Even the steering wheel is a treat to hold and look at.
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Our one grip is that, for all its luxury, the technology isn’t as up to date as it could be. The minor switchgear will be very familiar to other Land Rover drivers and even the column stalks are from the JLR parts bin.
But lavish design makes up for it. You can fully customise the premium Range Rover Sport too, with even plusher leather options and a plentiful array of trim strip decors. Newly available for 2015 is a £1,000 full-colour head-up display that displays info such as speed, gear position, cruise control information, traffic sign recognition and sat nav directions.
The regular HSE probably contains all you’ll ever need as standard: sat nav, xenon headlights, Oxford leather, heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors, electric tailgate and Adaptive Dynamics suspension. 20-inch alloys are standard too.
Our choice is the HSE Dynamic though. This adds 21-inch alloys and the gloss black exterior pack for an even more sporting and distinctive look (we also like the twin exhausts), while Terrain Response 2 and All-Terrain Progress Control are also standard.
The most indulgent model is the Autobiography, which has a panoramic glass roof, 20-inch Brembo-branded brakes, Oxford perforated leather, 825W Meridian stereo, climate front seats, heated rear seats, ‘smart’ adaptive cruise control and Land Rover InControl Apps and Wi-Fi tech. The SVR, meanwhile, lives up to its range-topping branding with a whole host of technology, luxury and performance upgrades.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
We’re still waiting for Land Rover to introduce the latest-generation JLR InControl Touch Pro infotainment system, leaving the current Range Rover Sport lagging with its low-res, slow-acting tech (owners are similarly unimpressed: in-car tech doesn’t even make a top-50 score in Driver Power).
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The system feels dated and is far from intuitive to use. Although Land Rover has modernised it recently with some InControl remote apps, it’s still off the pace. At least it’s standard on all models, though.
The stereo is excellent, even in standard form. If you can afford it, you really should step up to the powerful 825W Meridian system, which has concert hall clarity and tremendous depth: it’s standard on Autobiography versions.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Although the Range Rover Sport isn’t quite as large as the range-topping Range Rover, the interior is still highly flexible and family friendly. It makes a great everyday car that will swallow up to seven without fuss – indeed, this practicality is something that Land Rover prioritised from the off.
What stands out even more, though is the sheer comfort and luxuriousness of the Range Rover Sport. It’s a beautifully finished cabin that’s lavished in leather even in standard HSE guise, with decent quality, fit and finish for good measure.
A practical boot is handy even in seven-seat guise, thanks to the fold-flat rear seats. It doesn’t have the famous split tailgate of the large Range Rover, but makes up for this with a ‘gesture control’ automatic boot open function…
The Range Rover Sport is a big machine – not as big as a full-size Range Rover, but still amply sized. It is 4,850mm long, a hefty 2,073mm wide and 1,780mm tall: there aren’t many cars on the road more than two metres wide and nearly 1.8 metres tall…
To put it into context, a BMW X5 is 4,886mm long, 1,938mm wide and 1,762mm tall (with a 650-litre boot) and a Porsche Cayenne is a near-identical 4,885mm long, 1,939mm wide and 1,705mm tall (plus a 618-litre boot). Despite this size though, owners find it easy to drive, probably because Land Rover has designed such accurate steering, given the Sport such panoramic visibility – and fitted front and rear parking sensors as standard.
And it’s not as large as the full-size Range Rover, either: that’s five metres long, more than 1.8 metres tall, although it’s similarly bulky at two metres wide.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The big Range Rover Sport is an accommodating machine for passengers. Occupants step up high into it (the air suspension can be lowered by 50mm to help entry and exit) and, once there, they enjoy a great view out that’s extremely commanding and confidence-inspiring.
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The famous ‘Command’ driving position has been made sportier-feeling but, despite feeling a bit more like you’re sitting ‘within’ the car, you still feel like the king of the castle, looking down on other cars from the powerful forward view and clear side vision out of the big, deep windows and elbow-friendly ledges. Needless to say, the driving positon is roomy and fully adjustable: owners rate it extremely highly.
Rear seat passengers are just as well off. The high-mounted seats are firm, supportive and ample – great for long journeys if you’re lucky enough to be in the outer two pews (the middle chair is a bit less comfortable). Leg and headroom are ample, even in Autobiography models which come with a standard panoramic roof.
The third row is, typically, a bit tricky to access and, once there, it’s clear why Land Rover calls this a 5+2 rather than a genuine seven-seater like the Mercedes-Benz GLS. Admittedly, space isn’t so bad, even if you’re a lanky teenager, but it’s not a place you’d like to sit in for long journeys. Treat them as emergency chairs only, perfect for the school run.
The SVR is even more comfortable for two people in the rear, courtesy of their sculpted chairs that are a bit like racing buckets. The middle passenger is even worse off though, left feeling decidedly perched. The SVR doesn’t offer a seven-seat option either.
Traditionalists will miss the split tailgate of the larger Range Rover but otherwise there’s little to fault with the Range Rover Sport’s boot – particularly in optimum five-seat configuration.
It has a vast 784 litres in five-seat guise, which stretches to 1,761 litres with the middle-row seats folded. It’s much smaller if you go for the seven-seat version.
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Do also note, the seven-seat version doesn’t get a full-size spare wheel, as there’s simply no space for it beneath the rear seats. Something to be aware of if you’re intending to take your Sport off-road where tyres can be more at risk of punctures.
Regular Range Rover Sport models have an ample 3,500kg towing weight but note the hybrid and SVR models dial this back slightly, to 3,000kg. Worth bearing in mind if you have a heavy caravan, horse box or speedboat to tow.
Reliability and Safety
Reliability hasn’t traditionally been a strength of Land Rovers and Range Rovers, but the Range Rover Sport is looking to put that right. It’s early days yet, but owners are reporting promising things for reliability, with few of the electrical niggles and other gremlins of older models: scoring a top-20 place in the Auto Express Driver Power survey is testimony to this, particularly given the old car’s woeful 192nd position.
Build quality is another strong point, with the latest Range Rover Sport scoring a top-20 position in Driver Power: this compares to a poor 157th for the old model.
The Range Rover Sport hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, but its larger sibling, the Range Rover, was tested by the safety body in 2012, where it scored a full five-star rating. Adult occupant protection was, as you’d expect, a very impressive 91%, while child occupant protection scored 84%. It wasn’t as bad as you may fear for pedestrians either, scoring 63%, with safety assist systems rated at 86%.
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As the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport share so much fundamental architecture beneath the surface, we’d expect a similarly strong score from the Sport.
Land Rover also offers a suite of cameras to help further enhance the panoramic visibility of the high, commanding driving position – and an autonomous cruise control system was introduced in 2015 to make high-speed driving safer and more relaxing.
All Land Rovers come with a three-year warranty from new – and it doesn’t have any mileage cap. Land Rover also offers to help out with any tyre-related claims – worth bearing in mind if you’re planning to take your Range Rover Sport off-road.
Many owners choose accessories such as towbars with the Range Rover Sport: these are covered by the same new vehicle warranty as well, provided they’re fitted by an official Land Rover Approved Service Centre within one month or 1,000 miles.
Land Rover offers a suite of extended warranties – and the firm makes it easy to extend the regular three-year new car warranty as it approaches its third year, provided it hasn’t already expired. If you buy a new Range Rover Sport and plan on keeping it beyond three years, it’s a worthwhile extra spend Land Rover dealers will be happy to advise you on.
All new Range Rover Sport have 16,000-mile or 12-month service intervals. Land Rover offers an impressive Advanced Service Plan pack, that covers for five years or 50,000 miles of servicing by an official service centre, for a one-off £699 fee. This is very competitive and even includes replacing the transfer box oil and locking differential oil after five years. AdBlue top-ups for diesel models are included too.