New Range Rover Sport vs BMW X5

The new Range Rover Sport steps up to the plate to face its luxury SUV rival from BMW. Let’s see if it can knock the ball out of the park...

Range Rover Sport and BMW X5 front header

The contenders

New Range Rover Sport P440e Dynamic SE

List price £87,530
Target price £87,530

Plug-in version of new Range Rover Sport has more power than the X5 and promises an even better electric range, but then it is more expensive

BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport (M/Tech packs)

List price £77,020
Target price £75,688

Our long-time favourite luxury SUV is back to defend its crown. Plug-in hybrid tech gives it an official electric range of more than 50 miles

The new Range Rover Sport is two cars rolled into one – and we don’t mean that figuratively. This plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version quite literally has the powerplants of two cars.

To an extent, that’s true of all PHEVs, but most have four-cylinder petrol engines and relatively small drive batteries to keep weight down. This one has a whopping great 3.0-litre straight six, a battery bigger than the one in a Mini Electric and an electric motor more powerful than a Renault Zoe’s. And that means it tips the scale at nearly 2.8 tonnes – more than twice the weight of an Audi Q2.

NEW Range Rover Sport rear panning

So, this is not a car that will help save the planet. It is, however, an achingly desirable luxury SUV that’s almost unbelievably cheap to tax for company car drivers. It’s also around £20,000 cheaper than the mechanically similar full-size Range Rover that was launched earlier in the year.

To find out how good the new Sport really is, we’ve brought along our long-time class favourite, the BMW X5 xDrive45e. It’s also a PHEV, and while it has a smaller battery than the Sport, it’s lighter and much, much cheaper.


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

In order for a PHEV to make sense, it needs to be driven using electric power whenever possible. So, it’s a good thing that both of these SUVs can easily cover off the average commute without burning a drop of petrol – as long as you set off with a full battery, that is (and we’ll come to the business of charging later).

BMW X5 rear panning

In our real-world tests, conducted in temperatures of 10-12deg C, the Sport managed 46 miles of pure electric driving, versus the X5’s 36 miles. Expect a longer range in both if you’re pottering around town, or a shorter one if you’re sitting at 70mph on the motorway.

As long as you switch the cars to EV mode and avoid breaking through to the lower reaches of the accelerator pedal (something that’s hard to do by mistake, because there’s pronounced resistance), the petrol engine will stay dormant. And acceleration is decent enough without its help, albeit noticeably stronger in the Sport. It can also do around 90mph in EV mode (the X5 can only just nudge 70mph), which will be handy if you ever drive on the Continent.

In hybrid mode, the cars choose for themselves when to run on electric power and when to call on the petrol engine. Or if you need full performance, even in EV mode, you simply stamp hard on the accelerator pedal and both power sources do everything they can to fire you down the road as quickly as possible. And these are fast cars. In our test, the Sport managed 0-60mph in 5.9sec, with the X5 cutting a second off that time, despite having less power.

Range Rover Sport and BMW X5 front action

There’s a simple explanation for that: it’s almost a quarter of a tonne lighter. And while the 2.5-tonne X5 could hardly be described as a lightweight, these things are relative – and carrying around less flab, combined with a squatter body, helps the X5 to change direction more sharply. It grips harder, too – although the Sport’s ‘mud and snow’ tyres doubtless didn’t help its cause.

In any case, the Sport handles surprisingly well for something so big and heavy – especially when you switch to its sportier driving mode. We also prefer its faster, meatier steering over the X5’s lighter, less feelsome one. Another boon is the Sport’s optional four-wheel steering (part of the £5530 Stormer Handling Pack fitted to our test car but currently not available, due to the semiconductor chip shortage). This makes the car remarkably manoeuvrable, giving it a much tighter turning circle than the X5.

Both cars ride comfortably on standard air suspension, although if that’s a top priority, you’ll want to avoid the optional 22in wheels fitted to our Sport test car and the 21s on our X5 (part of the M Sport Pro Pack). The Sport edges it, though, with a supremely settled high-speed ride, making motorway journeys a pleasure. There’s a bit more vertical bounce in the X5 as its suspension tries to quell bumps, and both cars are a little less composed around town than their lighter petrol and diesel brethren.

NEW Range Rover Sport wheels

The Sport’s smooth motorway manners are backed up by excellent refinement. The X5 is a very quiet car, make no mistake – but the Sport is even more hushed at both 30mph and a 70mph cruise. Our only minor complaint is that there’s noticeable wind noise around the front pillars, although that’s partly because there’s so little noise from everywhere else.

When called upon, the petrol engines in both cars cut in and out surreptitiously, and you won’t struggle to slow down smoothly despite the regenerative braking systems that come fitted as standard. The X5’s brake pedal is marginally more reassuring, and there’s more of a slowing effect when you simply lift off the accelerator pedal; any declines in the Sport will have you reigning it in manually using the brake pedal.

Next: What are they like inside? >>

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