Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
We have yet to sample the entry-level 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol (P300), but we have been impressed by this 296bhp engine’s performance in the smaller Range Rover Velar. The plug-in hybrid P400e is based on the same engine but adds a 114bhp electric motor for a healthy blast of acceleration – albeit after a bit of hesitation. The BMW X5 45e and Volvo XC90 T8 are faster. The P400e will run on electric power alone for up to a claimed 25 miles (less than 20 miles in the real world). The X5 45e and Mercedes GLE 300de have longer electric-only ranges.
Confusingly, there’s also a P400 (without the ‘e’). It’s a 3.0-litre, straight-six engine with mild hybrid assistance, and it’s quick but needs working hard to feel it. We prefer the D350 six-cylinder diesel, which has far more low-end oomph and is a wise choice if you plan to tow a heavy trailer. Rivals such as the Audi Q7 50 TDI and BMW X5 xDrive40d are a little faster. Less powerful D250 and D300 versions of the diesel are also available, although we’ve yet to try them in the Sport. The D300 impressed when we tried it in the big Range Rover, so is certainly worth trying.
The engine range is crowned by a powerful 5.0-litre petrol V8 engine with a mighty 567bhp, that’s found only in the SVR. This makes the Range Rover Sport a genuinely fast and exciting performance SUV with 0-62mph taking 4.5sec. You’ll find yourself cherishing those moments when you spot a national speed limit sign and can finally let it off the leash – the high-pitched wail of its supercharger and trumpeting exhaust fanfare accompanies its prodigious performance to intoxicating effect.
Suspension and ride comfort
Most versions of the Range Rover Sport offer exemplary ride comfort, with high speed suppleness a particular virtue. That makes this a superb car to spend a long journey in. Unlike in some luxury SUVs, you don’t have to fiddle with lots of system preferences to get the car into a comfortable mode. We would say, though, that the Audi Q7 has the edge on it for overall smoothness.
The best-riding Range Rover Sports are those at the bottom of the range, which have smaller wheels. The entry-level HSE comes with 20in wheels with deeper tyre sidewalls that absorb road surface imperfections better. Higher-spec versions with 21in and 22in wheels are still comfortable, but are less supple over bumps. The hybrid P400e feels 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. It's more comfortable on a motorway than at lower speeds and tends to thump over broken Tarmac in town.
Every Range Rover Sport feels stable and relatively agile, certainly compared with the full-size Range Rover. It isn’t the most athletic SUV of its kind, nor is it one that feels smaller than it actually is, and rivals like the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne 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 have all the high-tech handling and off-road aids you get in more expensive variants. They can, though, be added at extra cost and are worth having if off-road prowess or on-road handling poise are high on your list of priorities.
Unsurprisingly, the sharpest Range Rover Sport in the line-up is the range-topping SVR variant. It's no Porsche Cayenne Turbo, but thanks to its mischievously tail-happy nature, enthusiastic drivers will find there’s plenty of fun to be had behind the wheel. In contrast, the P400e hybrid has the least impressive handling. With its massive battery pack under the boot floor, it feel much more ponderous through corners.
Noise and vibration
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’ll notice rather more in cars fitted with 21in and 22in wheels.
The D350 diesel is delightfully silken and quiet, remaining smooth even when pushed hard. That should bode well for the less powerful diesels too, although we’re yet to try them. Nothing in the range beats the plug-in hybrid P400e in electric-only mode for refinement, but its 2.0-litre petrol engine only stays quiet at lower revs. It can also be a little clunky when switching between petrol and electric power.
Despite its six cylinders, the 3.0-litre P400 doesn’t offer any real sonic excitement. It gives off a faint murmur when you’re accelerating gently, but otherwise it’s quiet at a cruise and the engine only sounds gruff at high revs. If you want proper aural excitement, you need the thunderous SVR with its aggressive, bellowing V8 engine.
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