Range Rover Sport review
The latest Range Rover Sport is more luxurious, more efficient and better to drive than ever before
The all-new Range Rover Sport slots into the Land Rover line-up between the compact Evoque and limousine-rivalling Range Rover. This all-new vesion ditches the heavy steel platform of its predecessor in favour of a much lighter aluminium chassis, used on the 2013 Range Rover. Clever active anti-roll bar techonolgy and adaptive dampers aim to deliver agile handling without sacrificing comfort, while a hefty reduction in weight means even stronger performance from the familiar line-up of petrol and diesel and engines.
It has the straight-line performance and sharp handling to match the Porsche Cayenne – a car considered to be one of the finest handling SUVs on the market. Yet it’s equally at home cruising the motorway or negotiating city streets in comfort – and it does a better job of that than the refined and luxurious Mercedes M-Class. What’s more, it’s hugely capable off-road, although it’s a shame that the vast majority of buyers will never get anywhere near the limits of the Range Rover Sport’s abilities in the rough.It’s not the most economical choice, but comes loaded with kit that makes it feel just a little bit more special than its rivals. If you need a car for all seasons, the Range Rover Sport is by far the most desirable option you can buy. In fact, it’s so impressive in this respect that it makes you wonder why you’d need to splash out an extra £20,000 to upgrade to the Range Rover.
Our choice: Range Rover Sport SDV6 HSE Dynamic
There's certainly no escaping the Range Rover Sport’s size. It’s longer and wider than its rivals here, and the chunky lines mean it looks more imposing than the slimline Porsche and squared-off BMW.
It has plenty of traditional Range Rover styling cues, too, with black window frames creating the effect of a floating roof, a clamshell bonnet and small light clusters on either side of the tailgate. But there are plenty of modern touches inspired by the Evoque. The two-bar mesh grille, slender headlights and deep front bumper are similar to Range Rover’s smallest model’s, while the tapering roof line and steeply angled tailgate glass are also nods to the Evoque.
The luxurious cabin again takes cues from its siblings, and the dashboard has the same TFT screens as in the Range Rover. Everything is trimmed in either leather or metal, and the finish is genuinely first-class, with only the blocky, low-res display for the sat-nav letting things down.
You'd expect a car that looks as big and bulky as the Range Rover Sport to be a bit of a handful in corners, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Extensive use of aluminium in its construction means the Range Rover Sport is lighter than its closest rivals, and that ensures it’s surprisingly agile.
There’s a light feel to the steering, but turn-in is positive, and with the Terrain Response system switched to Dynamic mode, there’s next to no body roll and lots of grip.
Even in Normal mode, roll in corners is acceptable, and the air-suspension does an excellent job of keeping the Range Rover Sport in check when dealing with bumps and ruts – it’s far more stable than the X5 for example and does a better job of keeping you on your planned course in a bend.
This composure is even better when you’re taking things easy. The Sport’s ride is nearly as comfortable as the full-size Range Rover’s, and it’s quiet and refined at motorway speeds.
Where the Sport really pulls ahead of its rivals, though, is with its off-road ability. It uses the latest Terrain Response system, which alters the suspension, gears, ride height and throttle response according to the mode selected, and proves impeccable off-road. There are settings for mud, gravel and snow, rocks or sand, and the air-suspension raises the car’s ride height by 65mm to 278mm, giving it far greater ground clearance. A host of displays shows you exactly what’s going on, too, while an optional surround-view camera system and Wading Sensing depth indicator mean even greater peace of mind when you’re off-road.
The SDV6 model is our pick, with this 288bhp launching the Sport from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds – a full two seconds quicker than before. It’s also incredibly smooth, although the SDV8 model is arguably a little smoother still. If neither of those are quick enough for you, there’s always a supercharged petrol V8 at the top of the range.
Land Rover hasn’t had the best reputation for reliability in the past, but its latest models are addressing that. The Range Rover Sport shares some of its running gear and electronic systems with the larger Range Rover, and one reason for this is to improve reliability by using the same technology across the range.
Both cars are new, so it’s too early to say whether this has worked, but initial signs are good. Apart from the odd electrical gremlin, it seems that the latest models from Land Rover are proving reliable.
The Sport hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but the standard Range Rover earned a five-star rating. As it’s based on the same platform, the Sport should perform equally well, plus it comes with all of the same safety systems, such as xenon lights, advanced stability control, roll control and eight airbags.
The Sport is very spacious. There’s a 784-litre boot – well ahead of the BMW X5's 650 litres – although if you fold the rear seats, the big Brit falls 109 litres behind its rival, with a 1,761-litre capacity. Our car came with the £1,500 electrically folding third row of seats, but these are difficult to get to and cramped. The standard air-suspension can be lowered by 50mm to improve access, while a flat floor in the back means all three passengers get plenty of foot space. The sculpted outer seats will leave the central rear passenger feeling perched above the other occupants, though.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Range Rover Sport is a big, powerful car with four-wheel drive, so it’s still quite costly to run - lease rates and company car tax bills won't be cheap. Yet thanks to significant weight-savings over its predecessor, the SDV6 model promises to return a respectable 37.7mpg and puts out 199g/km of CO2 – that’s a 15 per cent improvement over the old car. A Mercedes ML350 or Porsche Cayenne Diesel are cheaper to buy and company car tax bills are lower. A slightly less powerful and slightly more efficient TDV6 model is due to arrive early in 2014, while a diesel-electric hybrid with CO2 emissions of 169g/km will make its debut at the end of 2013. With a list price that starts from around £51,000, the Sport is almost £20,000 cheaper than the Range Rover and is predicted to hold on to its value almost as well as the bigger, more expensive model. The Sport is well-equipped, too, so its price shouldn't be pushed up too far by accessories, despite their being plenty of extras on the options list.