The Range Rover and Range Rover Sport are two of the most desirable SUVs on sale. So much so that they have both become dominant options in the luxury classes; serious alternatives to the Mercedes S-Class and other prestige saloons, as well as other high-end 4x4s.
With these all-new models, the differences between the two are smaller than ever, making it tricky to decide which would better suit your purposes. If you’re in this enviable position, read on to find out the pros and cons of these aristocratic off-roaders.
What are the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport like to drive?
Both deliver precisely the serene, cultured drive that you would hope for. All the models use the same eight-speed automatic gearbox, which does a good job of blurring shifts to the point where they’re nearly imperceptible, while refinement is outstanding in both.
A 3.0-litre TDV6 diesel engine putting out 254bhp is the entry-level engine on both cars. It’s a smooth, easy-revving motor that delivers satisfying real-world performance despite the bulk of the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport.
The Sport is also available with a more powerful, 288bhp version (badged SDV6) of the same engine, while the Range Rover gets a 334bhp V8 turbodiesel as its top-end diesel option.
Both are available with a supercharged V8 petrol, but it’s not worth the expense given how well-suited to both cars the diesels are.
There is a noticeable difference in the handling. The slightly longer Range Rover has more pitch and wallow to its body movement, although it is still well-controlled by the standards of big SUVs. The light, responsive steering means that it’s rewarding over B-roads, and soothing everywhere else. The V8 models have noticeably less body movement as they get upgraded, active anti-roll bars.
The Range Rover Sport does live up to the badge in many respects. It steers just as well, and keeps its body more tightly in check, particularly if you go for one of the top-end Dynamic models.
However, it’s still a long way from a sports car experience and you’re always aware of the sheer mass of the Range Rover Sport despite its comparably responsive handling.
Both models get Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, which allows you to select surface modes for the high-tech, permanent four-wheel drive system. For all the glamour and luxury status of these two models, they are both capable of extreme off-roading. A towing limit of 3500kg on both models will appeal to a lot of buyers.
What are the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport like inside?
Exquisite. Everything from the subtle mood lighting, lashings of stitched leather, bright digital dials, colour screen and minimalist switchgear feels expensive, and contributes to the sense of theatre that Range Rover does so well.
The two models have very similar interiors, with both getting the distinctive upright dashboard and the same standard touch-screen infotainment system, which looks great but can be a bit fiddly to use on the move. The biggest difference in the forward cabin is that the Range Rover Sport gets a conventional gearstick for the auto ‘box, where the Range Rover gets a classy, rising rotary gearshifter.
There are more noticeable differences in the back. The Sport has less leg and marginally less headroom for those in the back, though even very tall people will still feel comfortable and cosseted. The Sport also offer an occasional third row of two seats, which are raised and dropped electronically as standard if you pay the extra £1600 to add them.
Oddly, the full-size Rangie isn’t available with the seven-seat option. Instead, you get limo-like accommodation in the back, even if you spec the Executive Seats, which replaces the 60/40 split rear bench with twin, individually reclining seats.
The 5.0-metre long Range Rover is longer than the Sport by 15cm (although both are the same 207cm wide), and does get a bigger boot, with a claimed capacity of 909 litres next to the Sport’s 784 litres. It also gets the trademark split tailgate, whereas the Sport gets a conventional one-piece affair.
Even base cars in both models get full leather interior, laminated side windows, xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, climate control, rear parking sensors, satellite-navigation and a DAB radio. Panoramic glass roof and a rear passenger entertainment system that includes screens set into the headrests will be popular options.
Which one should I buy?
The Range Rover is an exceptional thing that deserves its iconic status and reputation as a genuine luxury prospect. Unfortunately, the case for it falls apart when you consider the Sport, which is almost £20,000 cheaper, offers a similarly over-indulgent cabin, slick dynamics, outstanding refinement, and a seven-seat option that the big Rangie doesn’t get.
It’s only image, or a slim possibility that the car is intended for chauffeuring duties, that could make the bigger car justifiable.
Go for the Range Rover Sport with the higher-powered SDV6 engine, in mid-spec HSE trim, and you’ll still be saving more than £11,000 over its bigger stablemate, and you’ll be driving the finest SUV on sale.