Leaner than its brother, this Range Rover is far more agile – and still luxurious.
by LARRY PRINTZ
Range Rover. The very name evokes traditional English images of musty stone manor houses, hunting and the House of Windsor. It’s a grand SUV for a grand lifestyle.
But the Range Rover Sport? Well, what a difference an extra word makes.
This is an SUV built for prowling the paved, privileged enclaves of wealth rather than beating the brush in search of grouse. Not that the 2014 Sport can’t do that; it is, after all, still a Range Rover. Think of it as a refined, sophisticated Burberry cashmere chesterfield, as opposed to an ancient, mud-splattered, frayed Barbour hunting coat.
You could be excused for thinking that the Range Rover Sport is little more than a lifestyle accessory, one that shouts of the life a Range Rover buyer would like to have rather than the one he actually does. But the Sport is more than a prop. It’s a real SUV, a wood- and leather-lined livery that can shuttle the kids to school or get you to work on time, come hail or high water.
All models have a single-speed transfer case and locking differential to get you through the worst muck and mire. When the weather gets biblical, a two-speed transfer case and electronic differential ensure an extra measure of traction.
If you do venture into the forest primeval, you’ll find this vehicle easily trades its sneakers for hiking boots, thanks to the Terrain Response 2 system, which automatically optimizes the engine, transmission, differentials and chassis to match the terrain through one of five settings: General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl. And it’s once you’ve engaged these different modes that you can feel this vehicle’s best asset: its weight loss.
Thanks to its new all-new aluminum body, which is derived from that of the larger Range Rover, the Sport has shed almost 800 pounds, so it doesn’t feel as if you’re driving around in a vehicle with the agility of a garden shed. It feels sportier than its brother, despite their shared DNA. On the road, you’re not aware of how much suspension travel is available once off-road, thanks to an air suspension that keeps the vehicle flat in corners. Bumps elicit little side-to-side rocking. Steering is ideally weighted and the ratio is perfect. In fact, it performs like a car.
How can such a capable SUV be so sporty?
Well, it doesn’t hurt that the Sport sprints to 60 mph in a mere five seconds when equipped with the 510-horsepower, 5.0-liter supercharged V8. Opting for the more fuel-efficient 340-horse-power supercharged 3.0-liter V6 requires a bit more patience – two seconds’ more. Both engines are married to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
While the V6 doesn’t have the bottomless well of torque expected in a luxury vehicle, it’s perfectly adequate – especially considering its EPA fuel economy rating of 17 mpg city, 23 highway. Of course the V8 is thirstier, with ratings of 14 mpg city, 19 highway, but with good reason. It’s significantly more powerful than the V6, with the effortless, domineering feel of power expected from a luxury vehicle.
Reinforcing the difference in personalities is the exhaust note. While the V6 sounds like a rarefied European sports sedan, the V8 burbles and rumbles like an American muscle car.
That contrasts nicely with the opulent interior, which is not only beautiful but also masterfully crafted, with an air of refined, elegant simplicity. Better yet, the 2014 model is 2½ inches longer than the outgoing model, allowing for a more accommodating second-row seat. An optional third-row seat is offered – and is perfect for relatives or friends whom you don’t particularly like. A better choice would be to opt for the Meridian sound system, which transforms this SUV into a four-wheel concert hall.
Such pampering is typical of Range Rovers, even the 2014 Range Rover Sport.
Think of it as the middle child in the Range Rover line, splitting the difference between the small, city-dwelling Evoque and its lavish, estate-dwelling brother. It’s an athletic lifestyle prop, one that can make anyone feel like royalty, whether on the road or in the rough.
Engine: Supercharged 5.0-liter V8
Wheelbase: 115.1 inches
Length: 191 inches
Cargo volume: 17.3-62.2 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 7,716 pounds
Wading depth: 33.5 inches
Curb weight: 5,093 pounds
EPA rating (city/highway): 14/19
Fuel type: Premium
Base price, base model: $63,495
Base price: $79,100
As tested: $85,490
Where to find it: Land Rover Virginia Beach