Behind the wheel of the more road-biased Range Rover Sport model, testing V6 turbodiesel and V8 supercharged petrol engines on road, runway, gravel and sticky mud. It’s lighter, faster and more efficient than ever. Priced from £51,550.
The all-new, full-size Range Rover is already with us, and as in the past, there is now a Sport variant to back up its range-topping, big dollar big brother. The Sport traditionally tucks under the Range Rover in price and spec, and offers a more hunkered down, road-biased design for those that take to the tarmac far more often than muddy fields.
With this all-new Range Rover Sport we see that hunkered look to go with the curving new styling language, and the potential to order it without the second box of low-range gear ratios that are only ever used off-road – although every new Range Rover Sport model is four-wheel drive – and an option to buy a third row of seats sized for the kids, making a 5 + 2 interior.
The cars I’ve just tested over two days on- and off-road both had the full set of off-road ratios for mud-plugging; powered by the either a V6 diesel or V8 petrol engine – the two engines to be initially offered. A lower output V6 diesel is on the way, as is a V8 diesel, a hybrid and some best-value, all-new 4-cylinder power. The new Range Rover Sport collection starts at £51,550, but you can almost double that cash for the powerful, high-spec cars.
3.0L V6 Diesel 292PS
The only initial choice for diesel fans is this 3.0L V6 Diesel 292PS model – although a 3.0L V6 Diesel 258PS is coming soon – and it’s these V6 diesel motors that will likely make up most of the UK sales.
As with any Range Rover, the money you spend dictates how super-luxury things get inside, but regardless of the trim level, the all-new car gets plenty of ‘basics’ to talk about.
First up and, like the new Range Rover, the Sport is too made from aluminium, making it up to 420kg lighter in V6 diesel form than the very-well-selling Sport it replaces. The new car’s interior is also noticeably wider, and with a large sunroof in place, very airy and well-lit too. In short; lighter, faster, and with greater economy, space, safety- and driver-aids, but also basically more expensive. The development team questioned customers and got the green light to build a more expensive car, but one that promised to be ‘better at everything’.
Climbing into our V6 HSE diesel test car and Range Rover fans will feel right at home. The look of the new Sport’s interior is familiar, with its wide and chunky dashboard, large centrally-located colour screen and general square-sided interior design lines. It looks like a Sport, only bigger – rear seat passengers get a good chunk of extra knee space (+24mm) – but the designers have not gone for a radical interior styling change just for the sake of it.
It’s a commanding view from the high up driving position through the huge windscreen, and with soft leather seats and a leather steering wheel all electrically adjustable in a multitude of movements, you’d be hard pushed to make yourself uncomfortable in any of the new Range Rover Sports. Even this lower-mid-level HSE model gets great comfort levels.
On the road
The new Sport’s thoroughly modern, all-aluminium, LED- and venting-detailed exterior is backed up by all the latest in engines, transmission and electronics that the famous SUV brand can offer. And while this looks like a big car – 2,115kg – for a 3-litre diesel motor to haul, the 292PS (288bhp) V6 really does not disappoint.
Every new Range Rover Sport gets an 8-speed automatic gearbox made by ZF, and with eight forward speeds and a thumping 600Nm of torque to play with, flooring the 292PS V6 will result in a healthy thrust forward to 60mph in just 6.8 seconds, and on to 130mph at the top. It’s a barely audible diesel engine too.
The torquey, surging nature of the V6 diesel will delight cruising Range Rover fans, I think, with plenty of grunt to get this curvy SUV charging. During a 0-100-0mph acceleration and emergency braking test – on private property – I found the V6 smooth and very poised, and quick to stop with the big Brembo brakes applied as hard as possible. This new car does everything with more poise and control than the car it replaces, with clearly much thought and engineering going into making it indeed feel sportier. After a few hours of mixed and sometimes fast driving, I saw around 27mpg on the in-dash readout, with the official CO2 figures for this car a respectable 199g/km.
This HSE-spec car doesn’t get the Dynamic suspension as standard, that kicks in higher up the trim tree, and features continuously adjusting dampers but still, even without, it corners quickly and calmly on the road, with all the faster hustle that the potent V6 motor is capable of.
There is a little stiffness felt over some of the deeper and sharper potholes; that usual compromise between a suspension set up that’s good for tarmac and off-road, but there is generally plenty of quiet and smooth wafting to be done in this car, and road and wind noise are soon forgotten, as you rarely hear them. This test car also used its all-weather tyres and full-spec off-road transmission to chew through sticky mud and deep water – up to 850mm of water wading for the new Sport – with the usual Range Rover brawn and capability.
5.0L V8 Supercharged Petrol
The fastest, most powerful and most expensive new Range Rover Sport model is this one. Over 500bhp of supercharged V8 power. It’s an engine we’re used to from the previous Range Rovers and also the big Jaguars, but now it’s wrapped in this lighter aluminium body and harnessed by all the very latest on- and off-road suspension and electronics engineering.
The 5-litre, supercharged 8-cylinder motor makes just over 500bhp and 625Nm of torque, and again gets the ZF 8-speed transmission. Official performance stats are 5 seconds for 60mph and 140mph at the top. That’s a quick, big car.
There’s a new exhaust for the V8 Sport that makes a quiet burble at cruising speeds and hearty thrapp when you open the taps. It’s a pumping V8, and those around you will hear and know this with the new Range Rover Sport.
On the road and in Dynamic mode – which sharpens throttle and steering feel, and runs an extra taught-ness through the computer-controlled suspension – and the 2,310kg supercharged Sport is a fast-pleasure to hustle down the back lanes.
Slow traffic can be safely overtaken in little more than a blink of an eye, and the high-tech suspension keeps weight and body-roll remarkably well in check. Huge Brembo brakes are as powerful as they are massive, so this Range Rover Sport really does live up to its Dynamic driving mode. The digital clocks glow red when you switch round to Dynamic mode to signal this car’s most impressive driving mode preset.
With power considerably up over the diesel car, so economy must dip. After several hours of hard road driving and some off-road mud and gravel stages, I saw around 17mpg on the in-dash display, so there is a price to pay for the impressive performance. But, if automotive theatre is your thing, the supercharged V8 is certainly a crowd-pleaser. CO2 sits at 298g/km, so road tax for a start will be over £1,000 per year.
The faster new Sports get a wide range of new safety and performance technology; most notably for apex-hunters are a Torque Vectoring system and a new computer controlled rear differential. Torque Vectoring uses power and braking separately for each wheel for best cornering effect as the driver makes turning inputs. To put it basically, inside wheels – through the corner – will be slowed, while outside wheels sped up, to pull the Sport through the bend. And with the new differential helping out too, the faster Sport models can corner surprisingly tight and hard. Big GT car feel with serious off-road talent, then? Sure, it’ll cost you, but the supercharged Sport delivers the dynamic goods in spades.
In the mud
The Sport may be the big Range of choice for those with the road on their mind, but new all-weather tyres and the traditional clever Land Rover undercarriage means the V8 supercharged is ready to get filthy. I had it up to the bonnet badge in muddy water and chewing up deeply muddy slopes and it never got stopped by the scenery. Off-road prowess is the Range Rover mantra after all.
The new Range Rover Sport is ready to order now and you must choose between the 292PS diesel and the 510PS petrol. The diesel engine works great in the Sport; it’s quick enough and smooth and quiet, with more of an eye on the economy.
The supercharged petrol makes a wicked rumble however and is seriously quick for a full-size SUV. Price and intended use will influence your own test drive choices of course, and while many test-drivers on this event would take the impressive diesel as their own, sighting enough performance and better economy as their reasons, I personally would be hard pushed to take my eyes off the supercharged car. Its Spitfire soundtrack and hard-charging performance would make it my Range Rover Sport of choice, to hell with the price of fuel!
By Dan Anslow
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