Land Rover Range Rover Sport 4x4 performance
We have yet to sample the entry-level 2.0-litre four-cylinder models (the Si4 petrol and SD4 diesel), but we have been impressed with the performance of both units in the smaller Range Rover Velar. The plug-in hybrid P400e variant, which combines the Si4's 296bhp petrol engine with a 114bhp electric motor gives a healthy blast of acceleration when you put your foot down – albeit not quite enough to match the equivalent Volvo XC90 T8. It can also be a little sluggish pulling away on full throttle as the two power sources sort themselves out. You can run the P400e on electric power alone for up to a claimed 31 miles (about 20 miles in the real world) and at speeds of up to 85mph.
It can’t match the 3.0-litre six-cylinder SDV6 diesel's all-round abilities, though. Indeed, the SDV6 has even more mid-rev shove, helping to mask the car’s considerable mass and make it a better option for towing a heavy caravan – even if rivals such as the Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 272 and BMW X5 xDrive40d are still that little bit faster.
If you want sports car levels of performance, there's the SDV8. With a 4.4-litre diesel V8, this model is effortlessly quick and the engine responds consistently whenever you touch the accelerator – something that can’t be said about the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol. Yes, it is quiet and smooth at low revs, but the V6 needs working very hard to get the best performance from it. Driven normally, the V6 petrol actually feels a little weaker than the SDV6, while also coming with the additional penalty of poor fuel economy.
'Weak' isn't how we'd describe either the 518bhp 5.0-litre petrol V8 in the Supercharged or the 567bhp version in the SVR; 'extravagantly powerful' would be a more pertinent description. Indeed, the latter in particular makes the Range Rover Sport a genuinely fast and exciting performance SUV. You’ll find yourself breathing a sigh of relief when you spot a national speed limit sign and can finally enjoy the delicious, high-pitched wail of its supercharger and trumpeting fanfair of its exhausts that accompanies the prodigious performance. That said, a generally slow-witted automatic gearbox dulls its performance lustre, and if you fancy something similarly fast but much more economical, have a look at the diesel Audi SQ7 instead.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport 4x4 ride
Most versions of the Range Rover Sport offer exemplary ride comfort, although the Q7 (on optional air suspension) still manages to treat you to an extra edge of waftability. Particularly impressive is the Range Rover Sport's suppleness at high speeds, making this a superb car to drive on a long journey and, unlike in some luxury SUVs, you don’t have to fiddle with numerous system preferences to get the car into a comfortable mode.
The best-riding models are those at the bottom of the range on the smallest wheels; entry-level HSE trim, for example, with 20in wheels. Higher-spec and higher-powered versions with 21in and 22in wheels are a little less supple over bumps, especially around town, but are still pretty comfortable. We also found the hybrid P400e to be a little firmer than conventionally powered models.
The SVR model – the only Range Rover Sport offered with performance road tyres on its optional 22in wheels – has the stiffest ride of all Sports. It's more comfortable on the motorway than it is at lower speeds – when it tends to thump over broken Tarmac in town – but if ride and performance are of equal importance, we refer you again to the rather pillowy SQ7.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport 4x4 handling
All Range Rover Sports offer an excellent blend of stability and relative agility. It isn’t the most athletic SUV of its kind, nor is it one that feels smaller than it actually is, and some rivals also offer more grip and tighter body control. However, the Range Rover Sport is an easy car to drive along a twisty road, mostly thanks to the consistency of its controls.
Every model apart from the SVR uses the same height-adjustable air suspension set-up, but entry-level HSE versions don’t get all the high-tech handling and off-road aids of more expensive variants. These can be added as an optional extra and are worth having if poised on-road handling or driving across tricky terrain are high on your list of priorities.
Unsurprisingly, the sharpest Range Rover Sport in the line-up is the range-topping SVR variant. Primarily, it still feels like a two-and-a-half tonne SUV and not a sports car, but turn in to a fast corner and it remains surprisingly flat, even if it wouldn't see which way a Porsche Cayenne Turbo or SQ7 went down a challenging, twisty road. However, it's far more tail happy than those rivals, so if lively handling rather than chasing lap times is your thing, there's definitely buckets of fun to be had behind the wheel of an SVR.
On the other hand, the P400e hybrid is the least impressive Sport in the bends. The problem is the massive battery pack under the boot floor makes it feel much more ponderous in the corners. There's more body lean and its far less willing to make fast direction changes.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport 4x4 refinement
There’s some wind noise on the motorway – that’s inevitable for such a large, upright car – but the disturbance is limited to a gentle flutter around the door mirrors and front pillars. Versions on 20in wheels don’t suffer from much road noise, but you hear more in cars fitted with 21in and 22in wheels.
There’s little to choose between the SDV6 and the SDV8 when it comes to engine noise. Both diesel engines are smooth at low revs and when cruising, and remain well mannered even when worked hard.
Nothing in the range beats the plug-in hybrid P400e for refinement when it's operating in electric-only mode, while the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol (which includes the P400e's engine, when it's running) is quiet provided you stick to lower revs; let it spin up towards the redline and it gets very vocal, emitting a four-cylinder rasp that, arguably, not everybody will find appropriate for a luxury SUV. It can also be a little clunky when switching between power sources. Meanwhile, the V6 petrol engine is pretty quiet at low revs, then as the revs climb it generates a pleasant V6 howl, albeit one overlaid with a whine from the supercharger.
Both V8 petrol versions have extravagant engines with loud soundtracks to match (the high-performance SVR variant is especially thunderous). While they can be more muted when driven gently, they certainly announce themselves when driven hard. Still, both are performance engines rather than silky, luxury ones, and the soundtrack is arguably a big part of their appeal.