Wednesday 18 October 2017

This wild Rover has everything

Even if you want to drive through the fuselage of a Boeing 747, this sporty off roader can do it, writes Geraldine Herbert

Geraldine Herbert

Geraldine Herbert

With style oozing from the contrasting roof panels to where the beefy 22 inch rubber meets the road, the new Range Rover Sport is at once sporty, purposeful, and elegant. Styling details borrowed from the Evoque gives the chiselled exterior a more menacing almost hot hatch-like stance. It is also starkly different from the model it replaces, in fact as Forbes magazine recently noted "some new cars are so good that they almost shame their predecessors".

The Sport is Land Rover's latest entry in a line-up that has helped propel the British company to be the belle of the automotive ball. From its inception in 2005, the Sport was all about improving on road dynamics without compromising off road ability.

Following the phenomenal success of the Evoque and the critical acclaim for the new Range Rover this new model needs to justify both the Range Rover and Sport badge. But there's stiff competition for the wallets of SUV buyers. Porsche has set the benchmark for on road dynamics with the Cayenne and a new BMW X5 will be here in November.

Land Rover engineers have responded with a Sport that is longer, wider and faster than before. Whereas the previous Sport was based on the Discovery this one is lighter thanks to an all-aluminium body. The result is the most responsive and the most agile Land Rover ever made.

Inside it is beautifully luxurious with an uncluttered and clean dashboard. The quality is far better throughout. The seating position is lower than before but every bit as commanding. There is also an option of two extra seats in the back making it a good family car choice. The business-class aura extends to the rear where there is a huge amount of space and a host of gadgets to keep all entertained or distracted on long journeys.

There are two engines to choose from; a 288bhp 3.0 SDV6 diesel and a supercharged 510bhp 5.0 V8 petrol. At the launch we had the opportunity to drive both versions; the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 is an insanely fast car with an impressive surge of acceleration. The one most likely to appeal to buyers is the diesel. Sprinting from 0-100km in 6.8 seconds, the diesel is no compromise and returns 37.7mpg and 199g/km of CO2. Both are mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Land Rover's Terrain Response System gains a new Dynamic mode for a sportier driving experience. Switch to dynamic and the dash dials go red and the character of the car changes completely. Beautifully controlled on bends, the suspension is transformed and is both forgiving and stiff in equal measure. On the road the Sport feels nothing like its predecessor and while it is still a huge vehicle and tips the scales at about two tonnes, it is light and agile.

At Eastnor Castle, Land Rover demonstrated the formidable go anywhere capabilities of the new Sport. From deep water wading, muddy ruts and unbelievably steep climbs and descents, the Sport makes light work of any terrain. A new feature on the Sport is Wade Sensing where cameras in the wing mirrors monitor water level and this information is relayed to a screen on the dash.

To reinforce the point that the Range Rover Sport is truly a first-class piece of engineering Land Rover's final party trick for the launch was getting us to drive the Sport onto a Boeing 747. Up a steeply racked incline the Sport nudges through the doors of the aircraft. Once in there's an obstacle course through the fuselage of the airliner to overcome before passing first class and then under the cockpit to drive out of the plane. Hard to envisage anyone ever needing to drive this way but still good to know you could.

The new model will arrive in September and prices are likely to start under 90k.

The Range Rover Sport is more car than anyone would need; with more space then most will use and more equipment then you will know what to do with. Better looking, more dynamic and more frugal, the new Sport may have shamed its predecessor but it may also have rendered the full-size Range Rover redundant.

Irish Independent

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