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Range Rover Sport

New auto box part of round of updates that aims to keep sumptuous SUV at top of tree

The Range Rover Sport has topped the sporty SUV class for years now. It has unrivalled upmarket appeal and go-anywhere off-road ability, but is also rewarding to drive on the road. As a result, the Sport has been a huge sales hit since its debut in 2005.

However, rather than sitting tight until the all-new model arrives early next year, Range Rover has refreshed the Sport to keep pace with its rivals. So can more power and a new gearbox help it beat the Infiniti FX?

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Not much has changed in styling terms, but the monstrous dimensions and iconic slab-sided shape give the Range Rover real presence. The Autobiography model in our pictures comes with extra visual touches like a special grille and diamond-cut alloy wheels, but even the mid-spec HSE we tested gets 20-inch wheels and black headlight inserts.

Yet the Sport is a victim of its own runaway success: there are so many on the road that it lacks the exclusivity of the rarer Infiniti. Still, nothing beats a Range Rover for luxury, and the quality cabin materials trump those used in the FX. The chunky switches and a new rising gear selector feel very solid, but the car is beginning to show its age in places.

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While new gadgets like the optional Dual View touchscreen (£615) are great, it’s angled away from the driver, so it’s hard to reach and difficult to read in sunlight. Even worse, things like the slender door pockets and high cabin floor make the Sport feel cramped. Yet when combined with the huge glass area, this extra height offers a superb view of the road – useful whether you’re threading through city traffic or tackling rutted off-road tracks.

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Although the Sport feels smaller than the FX, it still swallows over 2,000 litres of luggage with rear seats folded and features a new aluminum tailgate that opens to a height set by the driver.

On the move, the Range Rover has a clear performance advantage over the Infiniti. Its 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 diesel produces 252bhp – that’s 10bhp more than before – and power is delivered seamlessly by a new eight-speed ZF auto. The Sport was quicker in-gear than the FX at the track and although its ride is on the firm side, air-suspension means it still irons out bumps better than its rival.

Despite weighing nearly 400kg more than the FX, the Range Rover is more agile through corners, with less body roll and tighter turn-in. It also runs rings around its rival off-road thanks to its Terrain Response system.

This ability comes at a price, though: the Sport costs £3,680 more than the better-equipped Infiniti – so is it worth the extra?

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Chart position: 1Why? A new ZF gearbox has made the Range Rover more refined and economical, and at the same time even more engaging to drive. But the Sport’s strongest assets are still its unrivalled practicality and off-road prowess. As the default choice, this isn’t a car for those who want to stand out, and many buyers will prefer the cheaper and roomier Discovery 4.

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