The rules of engagement – with Range Rover's new Sport
It's quick, agile and much smarter – but will cost more than the old one, reports Eddie Cunningham
For the record, I've been no big fan of the Range Rover Sport. If I was going to own a Range Rover (never) I'd want the original. The mother ship.
Could a new Sport change my mind? All I'll say for now is it is going to be fun watching it and the new BMW X5 (here before end of year), the Audi Q7, Mercedes M-Class and Porsche Cayenne trade blows.
But it is fair to say this is a much better looking Sport, tangibly bigger and roomier inside – one key criticism overcome.
However, it will cost a lot more (late €80,000s as opposed to late €70,000s) – one key criticism added.
I believe every car has its core plus or minus. In this case it is 'engagement'.
Where mother ship Range Rover swishes you to your destination, you DRIVE the Sport.
Naturally it has loads of mother-ship stuff – platform, engines, dynamics, air suspension (tweaked) and the unmistakable family look. Yet it is substantially different, with 75pc unique parts.
It's much lighter (420kg) because it has a single body/chassis (monocoque) rather than one built on a platform. They have also used significantly more aluminium in the architecture.
Obviously it takes less power/fuel/effort to move something 420kg lighter. So, if you beef up your engines – 3-litre V6 turbodiesel TDV6 up to 258bhp; SDV6 up to 292bhp – you WILL go faster. All the better if you manage to cut fuel consumption and emissions (15pc).
If the suspension (upgraded air system automatically adapts to demand and conditions) is good enough and if you can find a better way of transmitting power to the wheels you will not only go faster you will feel it in every twist of the road and turn of the wheels. It is called engagement.
If, like me, you pushed it a little bit more you find real agility.
A lot of technology kept it upright, flat on bends, gave it grip on slippery gravel roads, and balance on bouncy surfaces in the course of my drives. It was devilishly quick and tirelessly grippy.
Remember this is a large SUV. I forgot that sometimes.
Not everything was perfect, but after a couple of hundred miles on a variety of roads, and a good old dust-spewing gravel 'off-road' session, I wanted more. A verdict in its own right, I suppose.
The great thing is that Land Rover's Terrain Response System now automatically selects the settings to suit the conditions. Off-road mode works at higher speeds (up from 50kmh to 80kmh) while ground clearance goes up 51mm to 278mm.
The 8-spd gear box gave me a starting platform; paddle gear shifts gave me discretion. No roar or shunts here. The diesel engine revved high but smoothly. The V8 petrol was a different, delightful experience but we'll buy the diesels here (50:50 split between two versions).
Lower, wider and shorter it may be, but the longer wheelbase made it roomier. There's 24mm more knee room at the back; the wider cabin gave us better shoulder-room. You can have 60/40 or 40/20/40 split rear seats so you can add an optional third row which folds flat or sits up at the push of a button. Costs extra of course.
Ah! the cabin. It was rather special. The stitched leather upholstery – in red (I loved it) – made it for me.
They've now got a vertical gear shifter and the centre console is higher. Great driving position, good vision front and back.
There's loads of technology, among them Lane Departure Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition and Automatic High Beam Assist. There is also a new Wade Sensor which tells you how deep you are in the water (I need that). The deepest you can wade now is 850mm (+150mm).
The Sport arrives late August/early September but really is for the 141-reg period (January 1 to June 30).
While it will cost in the late €80,000s I'm told it will be specced to the gills.
On the face of it, the price represents a big hike. However, most people, apparently, were spending around €85,000 after adding spec to the old one so the gap won't be as big as might first appear. Still . . .
I believe this is a far more complete package now. Possibly the best prestige SUV drive I've had.
So much so I think I'd rather have the Sport than the mother ship now. It is far more – what's the word? – oh yes! engaging.
Range Rover Sport The Key facts
3-litre, 292bhp, SDV6 diesel: 0-100kmh 6.8 secs; 199g/km, €1,200 road tax
3-litre 258bhp TDV6: 0-100kmh 7.1 secs, 194g/km, €1,200 road tax.
Supercharged 5-litre 510bhp V8 petrol: 0-100kmh 5 secs, 298g/km, €2,350 road tax.
8-spd automatic gearbox: New climate control system, electric tailgate, stop/start, air suspension, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Roll Stability Control (RSC), Electronic Traction Control (ETC), Trailer Stability Assist (TSA), Hill Descent Control (HDC) and Gradient Release Control (GRC), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Corner Brake Control (CBC).
Next year: 4.4-litre 339bhp SDV8 diesel 0-100kmh 6.5 seconds, 229g/km, €2,350 road tax.
Possibility: 4-cylinder diesel.