BMW 530d GT vs Range Rover Sport

Does the BMW make as strong a statement as luxury off-roader?

Range Rover takes some beating for country club kudos, but BMW’s latest luxury model is also targeting buyers who want to make a statement – so it’s set to pinch sales from the Range Rover Sport.

This is the car that took the British brand from being the darling of the countryside to the king of urban cool, and it’s a common sight on our roads. That could count against it here, though, if the fickle finger of fashion makes the 5-Series GT the next big trendsetter.

Large SUVs are not the hot property they used to be, but Land Rover’s sporty offering has benefited from a raft of updates to make sure it doesn’t get left on the shelf. A revised bumper, slim new grille and fresh lights give the outide a new look, yet the biggest improvements are reserved for the interior.

Land Rover has completely redesigned the Sport’s cabin, with better-quality materials, a modern facia and updated switchgear bringing the SUV bang up to date. The interior has a real sense of luxury, but it can’t match the classy BMW for passenger comfort. And rear legroom is tight in comparison, as the big Brit has a shorter wheelbase.

A large boot and split tailgate help the Range Rover claw back some ground in terms of practicality. While the latter is heavy, it lifts to reveal a wide, unobstructed opening. Plus, as the rear screen raises independently, you can access the boot in tight parking spaces.

The BMW takes a more radical approach – mimicking an idea first seen on the Skoda Superb. Its boot opens in the same way as a saloon or hatch, depending on which tailgate-mounted button you press to open it. And with separate rear seats that fold flat, slide and recline, the GT has an advantage in the flexibility stakes.

The Range Rover’s seats aren’t as clever – but there’s no shortage of intelligent engineering under the skin.

Although it’s the performance model in the Land Rover range, the Sport still gets the superb Terrain Response System, which has been improved for the latest model. It is foolproof to use, and provides genuine go-anywhere ability.

What sets the Sport apart from the BMW in this test is its legendary refinement and comfort. Aside from some body shudder over tarmac ridges, the ride is comfortable and relaxing, while the adaptive dynamics system ensures there isn’t too much body roll in corners or excessive dive under braking.

So although the British SUV can’t match the 5-Series for handling involvement or agility, it’s not as cumbersome as its size suggests. And while its bluff shape means there’s a little wind noise at high speed, refinement is difficult to fault overall. The sublime sense of relaxation you get from behind the wheel is a large part of the Range Rover’s appeal.

Engine smoothness is a strong point, too. The new 3.0-litre TDV6 has 29 per cent more power than the 2.7-litre unit it replaces. Plus, Land Rover claims its 600Nm torque output is the highest of any six-cylinder diesel passenger car.

Then again, the Sport needs plenty of pulling power, as it weighs in at a hefty 2,535kg. At the test track, we weren’t surprised to find it was two seconds slower than the BMW in the sprint from 0-60mph, with a time of nine seconds exactly.

Driven back-to-back with the 530d it feels sluggish to respond, although performance is adequate for an SUV of this size, especially as the six-speed ZF automatic transmission has such smooth and rapid changes.

Our Range Rover featured the £196 optional steering wheel paddles, which provide manual control of the gearbox. Among the other expensive additions was adaptive cruise control (£1,370) and twin screen rear entertainment (£2,202).

Cutting-edge technologies include a camera system that gives an all-round view of the car for tight manoeuvres, but the similar set-up in the BMW is an even more essential bit of kit as the GT’s high tail makes rear visibility atrocious.

Choosing the tech-packed Range Rover Sport will still set you apart from the executive crowd, plus it’s smarter, greener and faster than ever. But does it remain the height of fashion? The GT has distinctive looks and a versatile, comfortable cabin – and makes a statement without the SUV label or running costs...

Details

WHY: If you want to make a style statement, a Range Rover is hard to beat. TDV6 Sport has prestige feel and diesel power.

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