2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Review

2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport - Sport is not just in the name.


The Land Rover Range Rover Sport is a large crossover SUV. It's slightly smaller and less expensive than the Land Rover Range Rover, though it rides a similar wheelbase. Seating for five is standard with a two-place third-row bench optional. Key competitors include the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC90.

As the name implies, the Range Rover Sport is intended to be Land Rover's driver-oriented large SUV. SE, HSE, Supercharged, Autobiography and SVR trim levels are offered. Prices run from $64,950 to $111,350. Buyers can choose between four engines: supercharged 3.0-liter V6 with 340 horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-lliter diesel with 254 horsepower, supercharged 5.0-liter V8 with 510 horsepower and supercharged 5.0-liter V8 with 550 horsepower. All engines mate to an 8-speed automatic.

Like all Land Rover vehicles, the Range Rover Sport comes standard with all-wheel drive and is available with the Terrain Response system. Maximum towing is 7,716 pounds on all models except for the SVR, which can tow up to 6,600 pounds.

Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front and rear parking sensors, rearview camera and front, front-seat side and full-length side-curtain airbags. Available safety equipment includes adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking, surround-view camera system, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning.

The Range Rover Sport has a $995 destination charge and is assembled in the United Kingdom.

New for 2016 is a diesel engine option. Dubbed the Td6, the oil-burning V6 is the predominant engine offered in Land Rovers across the globe - and the only V6 offered in Europe. What is gives up in horsepower to its gas-burning brothers it makes up in torque. The diesel produces 440 pound-feet at a low 1,750 rpm. That allows the engine to motivate the 5,500-pound Range Rover Sport with authority. Zero-60 mph comes up in just 7.3 seconds. What's more impressive is mid-range passing scoot, where the Sport literally jumps ahead in traffic.

The 8-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, but is forced to do so more often because of the diesel engine's lower powerband. Thankfully, you don't notice unless you are watching the tachometer. Performance is not affected by passenger or cargo load, which is a problem with some competitors. The engine has slightly more idle clatter than gas engines in competitors but is smooth otherwise.

There's little doubt that Land Rover is king when it comes with luxury off-road capability. From the Terrain Response system to the low-range transfer case to the adjustable ride height, the Range Rover Sport has the tools to conquer all but ridiculous off-road situations. However, a lot of that ability rides on tire choice and the Sport comes with street-biased tires, so if you plan to take it off road you might want to swap out the tires.

One of the benefits of the turbodiesel is improved fuel economy. The EPA rates the engine at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. Those numbers are significantly better than Range Roger Sport models with gasoline engines and better than many competitors. In routine every-day driving, you might average as high as 25 mpg overall. If your commute includes a lot of stop-and-go driving that number might drop to 22 mpg.

Carrying the performance badge for the Land Rover brand, the Range Rover Sport doesn't impress with lithe agility but more with overall athleticism That feat is not a case of brute force as much as it is an accomplishment in thoughtful engineering. The tires certainly have ample dry-road grip and body lean is kept completely in check by the adaptive suspension. Brakes have ample stopping power and a sensitive pedal. The steering is commutative, nicely weighted and quickens with driving pace. All told, they work together to help the Range Rover Sport shrink around the driver and feel much more capable than a 5,500-pound SUV should be.

The Range Rover Sport's on-road prowess doesn't affect the overall ride as the suspension does an excellent job of softening impacts and reducing secondary motions. Also notable is the reduction in side-to-side motion - often called head toss - that's so common in large SUVs.

As you might expect, interior noise levels are low. There's little wind rush, road noise or engine rumble. In hard acceleration, the diesel engine doesn't seem as smooth as a gas V8, but it is by no means unrefined.

Range Rover Sport has a nicely designed cockpit with most controls falling close to hand. Materials and assembly quality are a cut above - exactly what you would expect in a vehicle at this price point. Initially, drivers may be off-put by the sheer volume of buttons and knobs, but most are clearly marked. The touch-screen navigation system is easy to program but seems slow to react to input and also does not support Apple Car Play or Android Auto.

Front seats are nicely cushioned and supportive. Head and leg room are great. Outward visibility is good and the Sport can "kneel" to make getting in and out easier. Second-row seats are also quite comfortable and offer acceptable leg room. Still, taller adults might ask front-seat riders to scoot up a bit. Third-row seat is really just for children as it doesn't offer adult-appropriate head or leg room.

Cargo space disappoints. Maximum capacity is 62.2 cubic feet and that's near the bottom for large luxury SUVs. Still, that's plenty of space for most uses and the tailgate opens wide to a flat load floor. The power-folding third-row seats are a nice touch, but they move very slowly. Interior storage is just adequate.

No one needs a Land Rover - or a Mercedes or BMW for that matter. However, if the budget allows, the Range Rover Sport is a very intriguing blend of sport, utility and versatility. It coddles with luxury but doesn't back away from twisty roads. There are more than a few competitors, so take the time to drive them all and you might even find that discounts are available.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.