The Land Rover Range Rover Sport has been redesigned for 2014 to be the fastest, most agile Sport ever. That's largely because it's shed a whopping 800 pounds. Most automakers strive to cut just a fraction of that weight loss for better performance and fuel economy.
The Sport still is no lightweight at 4,727 to 5,093 pounds, and you can feel the weight when driving rapidly through tight curves or making quick moves. But it's a lot more fun to drive than its predecessor.
The old Sport's body-on-frame construction is gone, replaced by an aluminum unibody like the one for the new Range Rover. Aluminum panels replace steel ones. A new high-strength aluminum structure helps give the 2014 Sport better roadability, although it's no Porsche Cayenne.
With two full-time four-wheel-drive (4WD) systems, the new four-door hatchback Sport has the off-road abilities of a mountain goat, with an added 2 inches of ground clearance for an overall 11-inch clearance. An optional system for serious off-roaders adds a low range and a locking center differential to the all-wheel-drive system.
However, I wonder how many regular owners of this $62,600-$92,400 SUV would want to get its body dented or scratched during off-road driving.
The 2014 Sport has a new smoother, swept-back design. It's 2.5 inches longer, at 191 inches, than its predecessor, with a seven-inch-longer wheelbase for a larger cabin and room for an optional third-row seat. That seat, though, is really only suitable for kids.
The center of the more sculpted second-row seat is too stiff for comfort and is best left to the huge fold-down armrest that contains two cupholders.
Replacing a normally aspirated V-8 as the base engine is a supercharged 3-liter V-6 with 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. I tested the Sport with the V-6, which provided strong in-town and highway performance. If you want more punch, the Sport also is offered with a whopping supercharged 5-liter V-8 with 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque.
The official 0-60 mph time is 6.9 seconds with the V-6 and 5 seconds with the V-8. Towing capacity is 7,716 pounds.
Both engines shoot power through a new eight-speed automatic transmission, which replaces a six-speed unit. The slick new automatic has an easily used manual-shift feature, controlled by the console shift lever or optional paddle shifters.
Fuel economy is improved, but still isn't a strong point. The V-6 delivers an estimated 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on highways. It has an efficient start/stop capability to prevent fuel from being squandered when the engine is idling for an extended period. With the V-8, estimated economy is 14 city and 19 highway. The fuel tank has a 27.7 gallon capacity.
Helping keep the Sport firmly on roads are new aluminum front and rear suspensions, with a four-corner electronic air suspension setup that lets the Sport glide over rough surfaces. To sharpen the Sport's on-road performance, it has gotten firmer dampers, longer front suspension links and different front-end geometry.
Although supple, the Sport's ride is on firm side. Assisting handling are four-wheel electronic traction control, a roll stability control system, hydraulically actuated anti-roll bars and adaptive dampers. Hill Descent Control helps during rugged off-road driving.
The electrically assisted steering is quick, but has a rather heavy feel. The brake pedal has a nice linear action. Brakes have electronic brake force distribution for surer quick stops, besides cornering brake control. You can get the V-8 with adaptive dampening and active lean control, an active locking rear differential and torque vectoring via braking.
A small rotary console dial controls a fully automatic Terrain Response system. The V-8 Sport adds Dynamic mode to the dial's commands to sharpen handling.
Large door handles enhance entry, but stepping in or getting out requires extra effort. The posh, quiet interior has an especially large front console, but there are supportive leather seats and a bunch of safety and comfort features expected in a luxury vehicle. They include dual-zone climate control, sumptuous power front seats and soft-touch surfaces at key touch points. A heated steering wheel and heated rear seats also are available.
Controls are easy to use, although the driver's door-mounted power windows controls are set very high. An 8-inch Touch-screen with a driver information system is easy to use, although bright sunlight causes gauges to be a bit difficult to read.
Safety features include numerous air bags and side curtains, besides optional adaptive cruise control.
There's an optional virtual gauge display and a full-length sliding panoramic glass roof.
Occupants sit high, with plenty of glass area (even without the sunroof), although large outside mirrors and thick windshield pillars partly block a driver's vision when turning corners. The cabin has a decent number of storage areas.
The power-operated open/close hatch is handy when your arms are full of groceries, but the wide cargo area floor is high. Rear seatbacks easily flip forward to greatly enlarge the cargo area.
If nothing else, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport has lots of old snob appeal, and that's something you can't really buy.