After all, cars like the Porsche Cayenne prove that big SUVs can handle and perform without the compromises traditionally associated with high-riding 4x4s.
Range Rover has responded to this greater demand for on-road agility by giving the new car an all-aluminium monocoque construction – a world-first for an SUV. And this has resulted in a body that’s 39 per cent lighter than before. Lightweight aluminium suspension has also contributed to a 400kg-plus weight saving over the previous model.
Yet the Cayenne Turbo is 190kg lighter still, plus is lower and shorter, and its turbo petrol engine has an extra 159bhp, at 493bhp. But both cars have 700Nm of torque and even when driven alongside the rapid Porsche, the Range Rover feels fast due to the SDV8’s seamless wave of grunt. The eight-speed auto kicks down smoothly and provides manual control via the steering wheel paddles, too.
At the test track, the Porsche accelerated from 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds, leaving the diesel Rangie for dead. But you only have to look at how close the British SUV gets in the far more relevant in-gear figures to understand why it feels so quick on the road.
Even more impressively, the SDV8 engine remains refined when worked hard, and the Range Rover’s chassis is more than capable of hustling along a back road. Obviously, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s nearly five metres long and more than two metres wide, but the handling is so accomplished that at times it’s easy to forget how big the Range Rover is.
SDV8 models come with Active Lean Control anti-roll bars, and the lack of body movement is very impressive. On top of that, the steering is accurate and well weighted. As a result, the Range Rover turns into corners quickly with little fuss, and it remains composed throughout a bend. At this point it’s worth noting that our car was fitted with the £460 active rear locking differential, too.
Still, aside from the big 20-inch wheels thumping into really nasty potholes, this amazing agility is matched to a composed ride, and crucially doesn’t come at the expense of the easy-to-drive nature for which Range Rovers are famed.
Climb aboard the Cayenne, and it’s clear you’re in a different type of SUV. The cabin wraps around you like a sports car’s, creating an ambience at the opposite end of the spectrum to the relaxed Range Rover. It’s every bit as upmarket, though, with first-rate material quality and a great driving position.
The chunky transmission tunnel is lined with buttons, but it’s easy to get used to the layout and Porsche’s touchscreen navigation system is better than the Range Rover’s.
On the road, it’s clear from the moment the petrol V8 burbles into life that this is a performance SUV. Work the engine beyond 3,000rpm and it keeps on pulling, delivering an almost bewildering rate of acceleration for a vehicle of this size.
The Porsche is astounding in corners, too, proving taut and eager to change direction. Our car was fitted with the £2,168 Dynamic Chassis Control active roll bars and £1,012 Torque Vectoring, which both enhance the Cayenne’s ability on the tarmac.
But there’s a trade-off for this sharp edge. Even with the standard active dampers in Comfort mode, the big tyre footprint means the Cayenne Turbo wriggles over uneven surfaces, and it’s much firmer than the Range Rover at low speeds. Plus, there’s more tyre and wind noise on the motorway.
And then there’s the styling. The Cayenne has always been controversial, and in Turbo guise it’s not subtle. But it has the badge kudos to trump the new Brit. Is that enough to edge victory, or is the Range Rover’s spread of abilities wide enough to secure the sporty SUV crown?
Engine: 4.6-litre V8, 334bhp
0-60mph: 6.9 seconds
Test economy: 32.6mpg/7.2mpl
Annual road tax: £445
Engine: 4.8-litre V8, 493bhp
0-60mph: 4.5 seconds
Test economy: 20.7mpg/4.5mpl
Annual road tax: £460