The latest appropriately named Land Rover Ranger Rover Sport gets powerful new Jaguar-derived V-8s, a redesigned Aston Martin-like interior and a sportier chassis.
A new grille, headlights and taillights let your affluent neighbors know you have the latest model. One assumes a Land Rover Range Rover Sport owner resides in an upscale neighborhood because this vehicle is, after all, part of the Land Rover family. The Sport HSE has a base list of $59,645 and the more powerful Supercharged version costs $73,345.
Add desirable options, which include a Surround Camera System that gives a near-360 degree view of the exterior, Extended Leather Package, Adaptive Cruise Control and Luxury Interior Package and you're starting to talk REAL money. The bottom line of a well-equipped Sport HSE I drove totaled $67,045.
But one need not add a bunch of options because the Sport is well-equipped with upcale comfort, convenience and safety equipment, expected in any Land Rover model.
Both the versions have permanent four-wheel drive, besides four-wheel electronic traction control and a two-speed electronic transfer box with an electronic center differential. You don't have to figure all that out-just know that the Sport takes to rugged off-road driving like a mountain goat.
Most owners are proud of the Sport's off-road prowess reputation and leave it at that.
After all, it's hard to imagine owners of the conservatively handsome Sport banging through the wilderness, surrounded by mud, hills and paint-scraping trees and rocks.
Range Rover says the Sport is its "best-performing, most dynamic SUV yet...both the definitive luxury sports tourer and category-defining performance SUV." It's shorter and lighter than the classic Land Rover Range Rover on-off/road luxury SUV.
The HSE has a 5-liter naturally aspirated direct-injection 375-horsepower Jaguar-derived V-8 and the Supercharged version is powered by a whopping 510-horsepower version of that V-8. The 2009 Sport made do with "only" 300 and 390 (Supercharged model) horsepower V-8s.
Both new V-8s work with a responsive six-speed automatic transmission that has normal, manual and sport modes.
The non-supercharged engine is just fine, making the HSE very fast-- although this Sport weighs a hefty 5,487 pounds. The Supercharged model comes in at 5,891 pounds, but the extra power more than makes up for the added weight.
The Sport sits fairly low to the ground and has a bold, assertive stance. It's fairly light on its feet, so it's sometimes hard to tell that it weighs so much. Steering is fast and precise, handling is sharp, the ride is supple and the brake pedal has a nice linear action. Larger anti-lock brakes are added to handle the additional power.
A new optional "Dynamic Program" for the Terrain Response system predicts driver input and uses Adaptive Dynamics to alter throttle sensitivity, heighten steering stiffness and remap gearbox settings for more responsiveness and for better handling extreme driving conditions.
Don't expect much in the way of fuel economy, though. The regular V-8 delivers an estimated 12 mpg in the city and 17 on highways, while the supercharged engine provides 13 and 18.
Occupants sit high, but the redesigned sumptuous leather interior with its soft-touch finishes calls for extra effort to enter, and rear doorways are narrow. The optional five-camera Surround Camera System helps with maneuvering, as when parking or during off-road driving and towing. Standard are extra-large outside mirrors.
The interior has supportive front seats and easily read gauges. Major controls are large, but it takes time to sort out the many other control buttons and knobs, especially for off-road functions. Conveniently placed front cupholders have a sliding cover and the console storage bin is deep enough to swallow fairly large items. The glovebox is large and pockets in all doors are deep enough to be useful.
The rear seat is fairly roomy, but its center area is flat and hard.
The cargo area is spacious, and a two-step rear seat folding process creates a long, flat load floor. The one-piece tailgate has a convenient separate-opening window, but the cargo opening is high, although wide.
The hood glides open on twin struts to reveal a huge plastic engine cover, but fluid-filler areas can be easily reached.
The Range Rover Sport has at least a half dozen upscale rivals. But for some, there is no substitute for a Land Rover model.