Range Rover Sport

The new Sport shares a lot underneath the Range Rover, which is incredibly refined. Does it live up to its potential?

To talk to my colleagues about where I am going, I roll down the windows of the new Range Rover Sport and then I take off on the road.

The Sport effortlessly passes the ’50-metre test’, which measures how a car feels once it is driven off and parked in a parking lot. Land Rovers are renowned for their smooth control weights and predictable responses. Within two minutes I am on a motorway, and wind noise is increasing, so I open the windows.

The Sport instantly becomes one of most quiet and isolated cars on the market. This Sport feels almost exactly the same as the larger, full-size Range Rover. This may come as a surprise but it should not. Because they were both developed simultaneously and have so many similarities underneath, the two models arrived within months of one another.

 Both the Range Rover and Sport are built on Land Rover’s Modular Longitudinal Architecture. It is primarily made of aluminium and claims to be 35% more rigid than the previous car. Although the Sport is smaller and shorter than its sibling, it has very little dimensionally. Both have the same wheelbase of 2997mm (the longer-wheelbase Range Rover increases it, of course), and the Sport measures 4946mm while the Range Rover is 5052mm. It measures 2047mm across the body, and 2209mm when the mirrors are out. But it’s 50mm lower, at 1820mm.

The weight difference is a little more. The first time I drove a Sport P530 with a 4.4-litre V8 from BMW and 523 bhp. It weighs in at 2430kg, while the Range Rover regular with the same engine is 2510kg. Although 80kg may sound a lot, we are only talking about 3%.

The suspension is where the most differences exist mechanically. Both cars have double wishbones at the front and rear. There is also a five-link setup at the rear. The Range Rover has single-chamber airsprings. However, the Sport has dual-chamber springs. One of these has a variable volume which gives it more dynamic variation. It doesn’t seem like much, I know. The question is whether the Sport feels more like a new body style than it does a significant departure from what it was before. It’s the first impressions that I get of the sport’s refinement when I open the windows.

The interior is the same. The dash is covered in a large wedge of leather. There are a variety of vents and big seats with flip-down armrests. Land Rover’s Terrain Response controller and clear heating and ventilation dials behind the touchscreen. The Sport’s seat is 20mm lower than the Range Rover’s, but the Range Rover’s steering wheel has two wider horizontal spokes instead of the Sport’s 3-spoke design. However, when we talk about steering wheel diameters you will sense that we are talking about details.

Materials, fit and finish are also excellent. Range Rover wants to be a luxury brand, so the Sport price starts at PS80,325, while the P510e is PS108,600, and the V8 costs PS116,190.

Mind you, at an awards show where there was a luxury vehicle award, I sat beside a Bentley executive. She didn’t like the idea of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class being considered. Different market, different people: Can luxury be achieved if you also sell a car like the Ford Focus? It’s easy to imagine Range Rover having a similar conversation, but the Range Rover isn’t compromising on its clean design. It’s a first-rate vehicle that is equal to the top-end Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5s. Although it isn’t a Bentley Bentayga, it is priced as one.

To me, the Cayenne is my most natural rival. The Range Rover’s ‘big’ is owned by a landowner. The Sport is parked outside the business of its owner during the week, and at the shop or gym on weekends. This is more like the Cayenne. The combination of road-going dynamism, comfort, and SUV-ability is what makes the positioning interesting. Cayenne is a sporty road car, but an SUV second. The Sport? It is possible.

Nothing else in the class comes close to it when it comes to ride quality and isolation. It’s almost as if the Range Rover’s imperious aloofness has survived intact. To increase the comfort level, the speakers can be set to anti-noise. Talking to your partner in private about calling in at a fast food joint would bring laughter from the children behind you. It’s so quiet.

It is also sturdy and long-legged making it a great companion on the motorway, whether you choose to use it as a V8 engine or as a plug in hybrid. I will test this later. The combination of a 32kWh battery and a 3.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor gives it 503bhp, 18-20g/km CO2 and a range of 70 miles. These figures can be as variable as any other electric range or combusted range; Land Rover estimates that it will travel at least 70 miles on an electric-only basis.

  The PHEV – also known as the P510e, or the P440e when it is lower-powered – weighs in at 2735kg more than the V8. It’s the car I love the most. At 2735kg, it is heavier than the V8. The Cayenne monitors your sat-nav to see what kind of corners you are expecting and adjusts accordingly. Although the Cayenne is more confident and flatter, it does everything I need from an SUV.

Although the V8 is lighter, it’s still more fuel efficient at 24.1mpg, and 266g/km. However, we are talking degrees. It still weighs 2.5 tonnes. I also off-roaded in the V8. An indication that the engine needs to be reset (because there is no Land Rover experience complete without one). It’s a must-have software update for early cars. It’s impressive in finding traction on steep slopes, dragging wheels where they don’t belong, and taking Land Rovers to places where others wouldn’t. It’s here that the rear steer is most appreciated. This reduces the turning circle by less than 11m. It can go around trees and through gates as a smaller car. It can also tow 3500kg (3000kg with the PHEV).

It is truly remarkable that it can achieve all of this while still being a lot of fun on good roads, even when it is at its most heavy. Jaguar Land Rover’s cars are the best, and that’s something you can depend on. It may not be as sporty as the Cayenne, but it is still fun and will out-ride any other vehicle in its class.

Although the Sport isn’t as distinct as the Range Rover’s model, I suspect the upcoming SVR model will. However, it doesn’t change the dynamic mix it has created. It is the perfect combination of road car/4×4 and it works well.