Range Rover Sport review
The latest Range Rover Sport is more luxurious, more efficient and better to drive than ever before
The latest Range Rover Sport fits between the compact Range Rover Evoque SUV, and Land Rover’s full-blown Range Rover flagship. Designed to combine the British brand’s trademark comfort, luxury and off-road ability with a racier, more involving driving experience, the Range Rover Sport is a direct rival for the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 and Mercedes M-Class.
The Range Rover Sport also has a neat trick up its sleeve in the form of an optional seven-seat layout. The third row of seats unfolds from the boot floor and helps give the upmarket off-roader genuine MPV versatility. This practicality doesn’t come at the expense of comfort and luxury, though, because the Sport’s interior feels every bit as upmarket and cosseting as the flagship Range Rover’s
In an effort to make the new Range Rover Sport feel more agile, Land Rover has ditched the old car’s hefty steel chassis in favour a lightweight steel monocoque. In combination with new active anti-roll bar technology and adaptive dampers it helps provide the latest Range Rover Sport with surprisingly nimble handling.
Yet none of this on road composure comes at the expense of the Range Rover Sport’s legendary off-road prowess. Not only does the Sport get Land Rover’s Terrain Response, which automatically adjusts the traction control, gearbox and throttle for maximum traction, it also gets standard air suspension. This addition allows you to raise the ride height to clear large obstacles, with the additional benefit of a pillow soft ride on the road.
The Range Rover Sport’s weight reduction also helps boost, despite using the same line-up of engines and the old car. Buyers choose from two versions of the 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, a 4.4-litre V8 diesel and a pair of 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol units. And that’s not all, because there’s also a frugal petrol/electric hybrid version of the 3.0-litre V6 diesel.
The entry-level Range Rover Sport TDV6 diesel returns combined cycle economy of 38.7mpg with 194g/km of CO2 and the range topping 5.0 Supercharged V8 Autobiography and SVR models give poor 22.1mpg fuel returns and 298g/km CO2 emissions.
There’s also a diesel/electric hybrid version of the Ranger Rover Sport, which emits 169g/km and 44.1mpg – although at £82,650 it isn’t cheap.
There are just four trim levels to choose from – HSE, HSE Premium and the racy SVR. All models come loaded with standard kit, including leather seat trim, climate control and sat-nav.
Our choice: Range Rover Sport SDV6 HSE Dynamic
Range Rover has a distinct design language that has evolved over the past 45 years. Originally it was an upmarket alternative to the utilitarian Land Rover, and this emphasis on form over function has seen it become one of the world’s leading luxury brands.
The Range Rover Sport takes cues from the compact Evoque and scales them up to the Range Rover’s dimensions. That means you get an imposing front end, with distinctive daytime running lights, and the familiar Range Rover script on the edge of the bonnet.
Further back, the slab sides are similar to the full-size model’s, and it’s easy to confuse the two unless they’re parked side-by-side. At the back, the roof is lower than the Range Rover’s, while the pinched rear end and high-set tail-lights are now a familiar design flourish.
You can add a £1,300 Stealth Pack, too, which adds black alloys, roof and trim. It won't be to al ltastes, but there are plenty of exterior options, such as 13 wheel designs and 17 colour choices.
Inside, the move up to Range Rover running gear means there’s more space and greater luxury. Leather is standard, but again you can upgrade to nine other options, while the dash inserts and headlining can also be personalised. The cabin has the quality feel of its larger sibling, and from behind the wheel, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that you’re driving the larger car.
The dash is the same, adding touches of hi-tech design. It’s a configurable widescreen digital display that shows useful driving data, navigation instructions and entertainment information. On that subject, the multimedia system and climate controls are also borrowed from the larger car, and while on the whole that’s no bad thing, the new nav system on the Land Rover Discovery Sport makes the set-up here look dated. It’s still functional, though.
Given its two-tonne kerb weight, you'd expect the Range Rover Sport to feel cumbersome and heavy through a series of corners. However, thanks to the extensive use of aluminium in its construction, the Range Rover Sport is still lighter than its closest rivals, and it helps give the British machine surprising agility.
There’s a choice of two diesel engines and one petrol unit, but we'd take the entry-level 3.0-litre SDV6 diesel. With 288bhp it’s got more than enough performance for every day use, allowing the Range Rover Sport to complete the 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds.
The 4.4-litre SDV8 is a little smoother, but has a greater thirst (a combined cycle of 32.5mpg compared to 38.7 for the SDV6) and higher CO2 emissions, plus it doesn’t feel a lot faster in real world situations.
Buyers with very deep pockets can choose one of the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 petrol models. In standard tune it produces a healthy 503bhp and a muscular 625Nm of torque, resulting in a rapid 0-60mph sprint of 5.0 seconds. The recently revealed SVR boasts an even more powerful 542bhp version of the same engine, which helps slash 0.5 seconds off the 0-60mph benchmark.
All versions of the Range Rover Sport are fitted with a Terrain Response system that allows the driver to switch the car's handling dynamics, depending on the road surface. In Dynamic mode - while the steering is still light - there's next to no body roll and lots of grip.
On the normal setting, body-roll is more than acceptable and its air suspension easily handles bumps and ruts with aplomb. The Range Rover Sport is more stable than an X5, and does a better job than the BMW of keeping you on your planned course in a bend.
Where the Range Rover Sport really excels over its rivals, though, is in the rough stuff. The Terrain Response system alters the car's suspension, gear, ride height and throttle response, according to the mode selection. There are settings for mud, gravel, snow, rocks or sand and the Range Rover Sport is absolutely outstanding across all of them.
The Terrain Response system raises the car's height by 65mm to 278mm, which gives it greater ground clearance. A raft of displays also show you exactly what's going on when you take the Range Rover Sport off-road.
Land Rover also offers the Range Rover Sport a whole lot of off-roading options such as a surround-view camera system and Wading Depth indicator, which give even greater confidence when taking it off road.
On previous models, Land Rover didn't have the best reputation for reliability, but the latest Freelander, Discovery and Range Rover models are going some way to rectifying that. The newest incarnation of the Range Rover Sport shares some of its running gear and electronic systems with the bigger Range Rover, and Land Rover's rationale behind this, is by sharing technology across the range, technology will improve.
As the Range Rover Sport was launched for the 2014 model year, it's still too early to comment as to whether the decision of tech sharing has worked. Apart from the odd electrical problem, it appears that the latest models from Land Rover are reliable.
The newest Range Rover Sport hasn't yet been crash tested by Euro NCAP. However, being based on the standard Range Rover which scored five-stars, it is expected that it will perform equally well as it also comes with the same safety systems which include Xenon lights, advanced stability control, roll control and eight airbags.
As it's based on the massive original Range Rover, it should come as no surprise that the new Range Rover Sport is an extremely practical car. However, while its standard boot size is 784-litres - miles ahead of that found in the BMW X5 - with the rear seats folded flat, the Range Rover Sport falls 109 litres behind its german rival (1,761-litres to 1,652-litres).
Like the Land Rover Discovery, a third set of row of seats is available on the Range Rover Sport as a £1,600 option but they are tough to access and rather cramped. The air-suspension can be lowered by 50mm to improve access and a flat floor in the back means all three passengers will get plenty of foot space.
However, the two sculpted outer seats found on the third rear bench will leave the central rear passenger feeling perched above the other occupants.
Whichever way you look at it, the Range Rover Sport is a big, powerful four-wheel drive car that will cost a lot of money to run. However, thanks to the aluminium chassis, Land Rover has slimmed the Range Rover Sport down and the SDV6 diesel returns a combined economy of 37.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 199g/km.
A Mercedes ML350 or Porsche Cayenne Diesel is also cheaper to buy than the Range Rover Sport, and company car tax bills are lower. The TDV6 diesel which arrived in early 2014 returns a slightly better combined economy of 38.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 194g/km.
An electric-diesel hybrid version of the Range Rover Sport arrived at the end of 2013 and is the most economical car in the line-up thanks to its 169g/km of CO2 emissions and combined cycle of 44.1mpg. Yet its only available in range-topping Autobiography guise, and it features an eye-watering £82,650 price tag. That make it around £6,000 more than an identically equipped SDV6 model – meaning you’ll have to do a lot of miles in the Hybrid to offset its hefty price premium.
The price of a Range Rover Sport is around £51,000, which makes it almost £20,000 cheaper than the standard Range Rover. Like its bigger, more expensive brother, the Range Rover Sport is expected to hold on to its value well. As you’d expect, there are plenty of options to choose from, but the Sport is so well-equipped as standard that you’re unlikely to want to add extra kit.