There’s nothing quite like the latest Range Rover Sport from iconic British company Land Rover. Part supercar, part SUV, it’s all excitement
IT WON’T have escaped your notice that UK firm Jaguar Land Rover is doing rather well. Last year was it’s best-ever, both in terms of sales and profitability – often an elusive factor for British car marques. A major driver of the success is the top of the range Range Rover series of off-road capable, luxury SUVs.
The Range Rover was thoroughly re-engineered for 2012, losing 400kg weight thanks to the use of aluminium. The four-wheel-drive limo also took another step upmarket citing top Mercedes-Benz and BMW saloons as its main rivals.
But while the new Range Rover was a revelation, the Range Rover Sport which followed is absolutely dazzling. Quite simply, Land Rover’s claim that the new Range Rover Sport is “The fastest, most agile, most responsive Land Rover ever” is accurate, not just hyperbole.
Land Rover Global Brand Director John Edwards said at the car’s spectacular launch in New York, USA, “The all-new Range Rover Sport is a vehicle that has been designed and engineered without compromise. With Land Rover capability at its heart, it is one of the most road focussed vehicles we’ve ever produced, but of course still offers unsurpassed all-terrain capability.
“We’ve taken ride, handling and agility to another level for Land Rover to deliver a truly rewarding, sporting drive, together with unmatched luxury, capability and versatility.” To prove the Range Rover Sport’s credentials, Land Rover has put the car through a series of challenges over the past year, starting with setting a new speed record at the annual Pikes Peak hill-climb event, near Colorado Springs, USA.
This was followed in the UK with a duel against a WW2 Spitfire plane – no guns, just a timed race. Then, just a couple of months ago, to launch the car into the all-important Middle East market, Land Rover raced a Sport across the ‘Empty Quarter’, the world’s second largest desert after the Sahara.
The drive team completed the 528-mile (849km) journey from Wadi Adda Wasir in Saudi Arabia to the border of the United Arab Emirates in 10 hours and 22 minutes at an average speed of 51.87mph (81.87kmh). This is on sand, by the the way, not tarmac.
The previous Range Rover Sport was little more than a tarted up Range Rover, but not so the new Sport. Styling is much sleeker, with a lowered rear roofline that looks a bit like the Evoque. It’s altogether more aggressive and muscular than the standard Range Rover which keeps a dignified air.
However, the Sport has also been on a weight-saving diet – up to 420kg less heavy depending on spec. The chassis and suspension are where a major part of the saving is, thanks to the use of aluminium. This is all good because lighter rolling gear makes the chassis work better. The ride quality on the latest Range Rovers is just sublime – amazing when you compare it to the normal lumpy ride of an SUV.
The new Sport is 62mm longer than its predecessor. However, it is shorter than other 7-seater SUVs and most E segment saloons, which helps manoeuvrability and ease of parking. However, a significantly longer wheelbase (increased by 178mm) provides greater room and improved access for rear passengers. How do you make it shorter but increase wheelbase? By having shorter overhangs front and rear which also helps roadholding and handling at higher speeds.
You can tell the new Sport from the ‘ordinary’ Range Rover more easily now too. There’s a ‘faster’, more raked, windscreen, a streamlined and rounded profile and lower, dynamic sloping roofline.
But while the Sport is the company’s most road focussed Range Rover yet, it’s still a 4×4 at heart. Wheel-travel is class-leading and provides exceptional wheel articulation of 546mm – that’s more than 21 inches – to deal with tough conditions. Maximum ground clearance is increased to 278mm (12.4 in) and the upgraded air suspension system automatically varies between two ride heights. At the same time, Range Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system automatically selects the most suitable terrain programme, ie tarmac, mud, sand, rocks.
A choice of two full-time 4WD systems is offered. One system provides a two-speed transfer case with low-range option, for the most demanding off-road conditions. This has a front-rear torque split of 50/50 percent and 100 percent locking capability.
The alternative system is 18kg lighter and features a single-speed transfer case with a Torsen differential. This automatically distributes torque to the axle with most grip, working together with the traction control systems to deliver grip in all conditions. The front-rear torque split of 42/58 percent is designed to provide a rear-wheel drive bias for optimum driving dynamics.
For 2014, there’s a choice of power. For the US and Middle East, where petrol rules, there’s a supercharged 5.0 litre V8 with a stonking 510bhp. This is serious power capable of accelerating this still big and heavy car from 0-60mph in 5.0 seconds. That’s a time bordering on supercar sports territory. The downside is that the 105-litre fuel tank will practically suck itself inside-out at Wide Open Throttle. There’s also a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol alternative but why would you bother? Give me a 5.0 litre V8 anytime.
For Europe and other regions where the price and availability of petrol is an issue, the newest engine is a 4.4-litre V8 turbodiesel. This develops a max of 339bhp and an extraordinary spread of torque to give a 0-60mph time of 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 130mph. Driven sensibly, the fuel burn is 32.5 miles per Imperial gallon (8.7 litres per 100km in metric terms). There’s also a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel which gives better mpg and slightly less performance.
A hybrid version combining a diesel engine and electric power is due to be announced later in the year. Last year, Land Rover showed off a prototype Range Rover with the hybrid powertrain by driving a team of three cars from the company’s HQ in Solihull, UK to Mumbai, India. Crucially, the CO2 emissions from this engine are 169g/km, helped by an intelligent Stop/Start system (also fitted to other models).
Inside, the Range Rover Sport is another masterpiece. Few makers do luxury cabins better than the Brits, mixing soft touch plastics with leather.
Interior packaging is optimised to create a more spacious rear cabin with 24mm more knee room, while occupants also benefit from the wider cabin. New, neatly integrated third row, occasional 5+2 seating can be specified. These powered seats leave a flat floor with no loss of boot space and are split 50/50.
Finally, no modern vehicle is complete without connectivity. The Range Rover Sport’s ‘Connected Car’ technology allows the driver to check the status of the vehicle via an App installed on their smartphone and also provides support features such as Stolen Vehicle Tracking, Emergency Call and Land Rover Assist Call. Finally, a high bandwidth Wi-Fi Hotspot can be installed so passengers can use the internet and get the best data connection for their smartphones or tablets.