Our new Range Rover Sport is the second of Land Rover’s all-aluminium 4x4 family to be launched, and it’s completely different in design and engineering from the very popular previous model. We’re running it for a year, to investigate its durability and find out how it compares both with the previous model and its larger Solihull stablemate, the 'full fat' Range Rover.
The car Range Rover Sport 3.0 SDV6 HSE Dynamic
Run by Steve Cropley, editor-in-chief
Needs to Cope in all kinds of motoring, from fast Euro touring to sporadic serious off-roading
Run by What Car? since December 2014
What’s the Range Rover Sport like?
It’s a lot like the regular Range Rover, only a bit different: a little shorter, lighter, smaller in the cabin and its suspension settings, although very versatile, tend to be sportier. Its aluminium monocoque chassis and all-independent air suspension are closely related to those of its larger sibling, but because it is a little lighter and smaller, it is also marginally quicker and more frugal with any of the three engines offered: the 3.0-litre 288bhp V6 turbo diesel, the 4.4-litre 352bhp V8 turbo diesel or the 5.0-litre 503bhp supercharged petrol V8. All put their power through eight-speed automatic transmissions, which can be manually controlled by paddle-shift. The most popular engine is the V6, whose 199g/km CO2 output and combined fuel consumption of 37.7mpg are surprisingly decent, although they can’t keep the Sport V6 out of the 35% BIK brand.
Our What Car? test model is a Sport Dynamic, priced at £66,250 before options, but with a sliding panoramic glass roof (£1700), the '5+2' seating (£1500), a surround camera system (£700), adaptive xenon headlights (£150), heated front and rear seats (£500) and a surprisingly handy heated steering wheel (£150), so it costs £70,975 all in. If you go for the full-house Autobiography Dynamic with gadgets such as soft-close doors, plus other options, the price gets pretty close to £100,000.
What is the Range Rover Sport like inside?
Land Rover design chief Gerry McGovern has made a real issue of Range Rover interior design, emphasising premium materials, fine switch/instrument design and giving the cars a tailored quality. It’s not merely a matter of wood and leather these days, though. More modern metallic and carbonfibre finishes are also available.
The Sport continues to have a high centre console like its predecessor, but there has been a good deal of simplification of the control layout. The screen-based functions (ventilation, navigation, audio system) are new across the range, but still slower-acting than many. Land Rover has more progress to make on this. It seems unnecessary, for instance to bury the seat heater switches in the screen functions so you have to delay turning them on when reversing out of your drive because the rear reversing camera is trying to give you a decent view behind.
However, the surroundings are universally superb and so are the multi-adjusting seats, which we’ve already proved are long-distance comfortable.
What's the Range Rover Sport like to drive?
The whole point of the Sport’s relatively tall, handsome shape, for many buyers, is to provide what Range Rover users know as 'command driving'. The view from the driver’s (or front passenger’s) seat is exceptional, and so is the comfort - and the driving experience is founded on that.
Our V6 Sport feels fast off the mark and very refined, aided by its smooth, quick-shifting eight-speed auto, which ensures you’re always in the right gear. The torque of this engine makes many users question the need for either of the more powerful options, because even this least powerful car can spring from 0-60mph in an impressive 7.8 seconds and can reach 130mph flat out. Better still, it feels energetic, especially in the selectable Dynamic mode that is integrated into the Terrain Response system of our model, the HSE Dynamic. For keen drivers, this mode is just about ideal: it configures the suspension for good cornering control, sets the accelerator and transmission up for quick response, yet wind and road noise are very subdued (a key Range Rover trait) which gives the Sport a rare feeling of effortlessness even when it’s pressing on.
One especially enjoyable feature is the Sport’s very high top gearing, which means the torquey engine is turning quite slowly at motorway speeds (70mph is less than 2000rpm), which also keeps noise low and aids cruising fuel consumption.
The Sport comes with the marque’s familiar Terrain Response system which allows the driver to request particular configurations (examples are Dynamic, Mud & Ruts, or Grass-Gravel-Snow) that adjust steering effort, accelerator response, gearbox behaviour and suspension height to suit particular circumstances. The Dynamic setting comes only with some models, and is intended to enhance the Sport’s already impressive on-road credentials.
Compared with most cars this one is big and high, so it’s clearly not as agile as smaller machinery, but its sophisticated suspension and excellent driving visibility make it very easy to place on the road, and control body roll very well. Traction is sure, even on greasy roads, and the brakes always feel powerful and quick-acting, even in brisk stops from motorway speeds, and even though the whole vehicle weighs considerably more than two tonnes. Range Rovers of the past have been prone to noticeable braking nosedive, but not this one.
The steering is best described as 'meaty'; effort varies a little according to the Terrain Response setting but above 20mph it’s never truly light. When it comes to parking the Range Rover Sport at the supermarket you’ll find it’s accurate to manoeuvre but this is still quite a big (and wide) machine.
Is the Range Rover Sport practical?
Like those in the front, rear passengers proceed in great comfort. Second-row passengers sit high, courtesy of what Land Rover calls 'arena seating' but knee room is adequate rather than generous. The third-row seats are only really for kids, and even they have trouble clambering into place through the rear doors. Land Rover’s other offerings, the Discovery and Discovery Sport, make more sense as seven seaters.
Range Rover Sport fuel economy
This is a big issue, especially for anyone who remembers Range Rovers as they were, when an honest 15mpg was the best you could expect. By comparison, the V6 diesel’s fuel consumption is phenomenal, and so is the touring range. We’re homing in on 4000 miles already (The RR Sport is one of those cars that effortlessly accumulates miles) and we’ve not yet had a tank average fall below 30 mpg. If you put a modicum of effort into it, you can return 32-35mpg. Touring range is a very comfortable 420 miles.
Conclusions so far
The Range Rover Sport is a fine machine, and pretty good value if you shop carefully for options. In the light of events, we’d have been happy with a standard HSE, probably without 5+2 seating and arguably without the huge glass sunroof. That would look like pretty good value for money.
We’re a bit disappointed in the touch-screen functions, but delighted withthe Sport's styling, inside and out, while the dynamics are terrific. Almost as terrific, in fact, as the fuel efficiency, which seems remarkable.
Range Rover Sport 3.0 SDV6 HSE Dynamic statistics
Target Price Click here for the latest Target Price
Price with options £70,975
Mileage to date 4109
Fuel economy 33.1mpg
True MPG na
Emissions/company car tax 199g/km/35%
Cost per mile 124p
Insurance group 45
Typical quote £1054