Land Rover, a refined cadre of five-door crossovers, started selling its wares shortly after the end of World War II. In some ways, the company stood tall and ahead of its time selling luxury vehicles designed for backroad travel with rugged five-door styling at a time when a majority of vehicles sought on-road status in sedan or two-door coupe designs.
Fast forward to 2023 and American automotive Big Wigs General Motors and Ford have discontinued sedans all together and remaining coupe offerings find themselves in peril. The once popular two-door Chevy Camaro recently announced retirement intentions.
Some confusion requires ironing out between similar sounding Land Rover and Range Rover designations. Simply put, Land Rover denotes the umbrella brand name while Range Rovers constitutes an available model within the brand designate. Thus, all Range Rovers qualify as Land Rovers but not every Land Rover can be construed a Range Rover.
Think of the upscale British-born Land Rover brand as an all-terrain import choice with three distinct families: Range Rover, Discovery and diminutive Defender, the only member with two side doors. This week a five-door Range Rover ‘Sport’ arrived for testing. Sport is one of four Range Rover models including the entry-specific Range Rover Evoque starting just north of $50,000, Ranger Rover Velar and the top choice simply deemed Range Rover.
The mid-size Land Rover Range Rover debuted in the 2006 model year offering two distinct V-8 engines. The latest third generation makeover arrives in the 2023 model year which our Sport SE tester is based upon.
This third generation’s wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) stretches by three inches resulting in a slightly roomier cabin space. Overall length adds 2.5 inches while overall height stretches about a half inch. Several years back, Range Rover made the delicate yet successful switch from bulky-yet-beefy body-on-frame underpinning to a smoother-riding unibody, without compromising decades of off-road capabilities.
Total number of Range Rover Sport trims reaches four in 2023; two boast mild gas-electric hybrid boosts mated to six-cylinder engines (Sport SE, Sport SE Dynamic), while a third adds plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) requiring a nightly plug-in (Sport Autobiography) and an old-school, twin turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 (Sport First Edition). All mate to a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission and include all-wheel drive.
Land Rover continues as one of a handful of automakers still offering an eight cylinder as the industry inches closer towards higher fuel economy and more electrification. Remember, the Range Rover V-8 is a limited offering in 2023. An all-electric Range Rover Sport is planned for the 2024 model year.
In the U.S., Land Rover continues as a well-established niche player aiming at a monied crowd. Total U.S. sales in the 2022 calendar year reached 59,480 qualifying the brand for less than a half-a-percent share (.44 percent) of the U.S. auto market. Thanks in part to the Covid 19 pandemic and accompanying computer chip shortage, those figures are down from 89,778 and .60 percent respectively from 2021.
Our all-wheel drive Range Rover Sport SE with premium Giola Green paint posted a $83,000 starting price ending at $90,245 after factoring in a $1,475 destination charge. In addition to the premium exterior Green ($710) other notable extras included a black contrast roof ($1,000), 22-inch styled wheels ($1,550), full-size spare ($500) and cold climate package with heated windscreen ($640).
If $83,000 looks, sounds and feels higher than most other luxury mid-size competitors, you’re right. While BMW X5, Genesis GV80, Volvo XC90 and Mercedes-Benz GLE enjoy lower overall pricing, none include Land Rover cache.
Our tester’s sophisticated 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder gas engine combines traditional compressed air mechanics and mild electrification. On board are both turbo and super chargers relying upon forced air induction to increase horsepower in addition to a 48-volt electric motor. Total horsepower generated reaches 355.
In its simplest terms, a ‘mild’ gas-electric hybrid differs from a ‘full’ hybrid in that the mild version’s smaller electric motor acts as an assist to the internal combustion engine. With a full gas-electric hybrid, both the electric motor and internal combustion engine work in parallel to drive the vehicle with the electric motor capable of driving the wheels on its own independently of the gas engine in specific settings. Neither mild or full hybrids need nightly extension cord plug-ins. That’s left for plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEVs).
The sizeable 23.8-gallon tank recommends premium unleaded fuel. Expect 19 miles per gallon city and 26 mpg highway.
The 2023 version of Range Rover Sport also marks the debut an adaptive off-road cruise control, built into the standard ‘Intelligent’ all-wheel drive. This system provides a constant set speed when slowly off-roading so drivers can focus on the steering aspects.
Another added feature, rear-axle steering turn back wheels up to 7.3 degrees. This helps maneuver Sport tackle low-speed maneuvers in tight on-road parking lot spaces and off-road corners.
All four side doors include strap-like handles extending out from the body, providing an easy grab when approaching and entering. Once low speed driving commences, these protrusions glide back flush into the sides, improving aerodynamics along travels only to ready themselves outward once more when the transmission moves to park.
A muscular stance returns for 2023 with the apex found at the front the blackened A pillar with a downward roof slant extending towards the hatch. Four bejeweled premium in-line LED bulbs brighten the way (and a frosting of daytime running lights underscore the bulbs) within very narrow housing on each side of the relatively abbreviated horizontally-oriented front grille. Block lettering proudly spells out RANGE ROVER above the rectangular grille.
From the side, the gap between hood and front fender form the start of a character line that continues as carved out curvy indent through the side doors above door straps to connect up with the tips of taillight housing.
Narrow red taillight housing connects rear fenders to the hatch door with RANGE ROVER embodied between and under the power hatch window. Dual framed rectangular exhausts tip trim with chrome accents.
Can’t miss the sizeable 8.5 inches of ground clearance as climbing into and out of seating requires an upward motion. Luckily every Range Rover includes adjustable air suspension summoned through the settings tutorial of the center screen. Even with the lowest setting enacted, it’s still a healthy hip swag. When off-road, ground clearance may be raised an impressive two-and-a-half inches more.
Ranger Rover Sport, including our volume leading SE tester, comes standard with five-rider capacity. Cargo volume behind row two measures in at a very usable 31.9 cubic feet. Peek under the flat cargo to spot the available full-size spare, a vanishing extra in many vehicles; and worth the extra $500. Some Range Rover trims offer seating up to seven with an optional third row in long wheelbase editions.
Narrow horizontal decorative air vents reside near the dashboard’s top traveling from side to side with the exception of the region above digital dashboard dome. Two tiny up and down arrow heads built into venting ahead of shut-gun riders activate two separate bi-level glove box doors; one flips up, the other down. More than ample headroom awaits in this tall-standing five-seater with ceiling grab handles above all four side doors.
The eight-speed automatic transmission assists with a stubby electronic transmission grab shifter found between front buckets that fits snuggly in the right palm. Too many modern shifters order up small, wacky and sometimes clunky tabs or bars but Range Rover got the tactile wrist connection right. A tip forward summons reverse and back orders up drive/forward.
The unique HVAC system includes a pair of large multi-functional dials right of the transmission shifter. Twist right or left to adjust dual front temperatures. A pull up of either dial summons a fan speed option, controlled by the same twisting motion to speed or slow air current. A push down activates the heated front seat option. A nearby iconed push button monitors fan direction; a much smarter design than having to depend upon swipes and pinches solely from a multi-function screen.
The electronic push start/stop button benefits from premier placement with a location near the transmission shifter and away from steering column interference. Also nearby, a volume on/off button working in tandem with the flat screen, resting at a slight angle (not pushed into the dashboard) for easier finger access and less sun glare.
The all-digital 13.7-inch instrument panel is neatly partitioned off into usable visual bites and includes a central digital speedometer.
Thanks to its block design, headroom throughout remains spectacular. Visually speaking, driver’s enjoy great road perceptions helped in part with high ground clearance. Both sculped front buckets enjoy ventilated cushions and massaging nuances.
All Range family members now include both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Smartphone compatibility standard along with wireless charging found in a narrow slot under the 13.1-inch touch screen. Lots going on within the swipe-friendly screen, but rows and columns of icons underscore with words expediating the learning curve. Practice Practice.
At a Glance
2023 Range Rover Sport
Price as tested: $90,245
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged/supercharged mild hybrid
Overall Length: 194.7 inches
Wheelbase: 118.0 inches
Overall Height: 71.7 inches
Overall Width: 80.6 inches
Fuel economy: 19 city/ 26hwy.
Assembly: Solihull, UK