If there is one make that has invented the segment of the premium, stylish offroader, then it has been Land Rover. Its first Range Rover created nothing short of a sensation, and has stolen the hearts of many owners since. The love and care for this iconic first "Range" with its very typical silhouette and proportions has been growing ever more. The latest developments around the newly established Rover Heritage Department amply prove the point.
Of course, the expectations of the (future) owners of Range Rovers about how the car should drive, perform and look have always been getting higher indeed, and we can say that the latest Range Rover Sport amply lives up to it... Just read further.
Timeless and tasteful
The looks of the Range Rover has always been quite inspiring, combining great proportions with a unique styling language which embodies elegance combined with ruggedness, superb finish and a touch of luxury, which is never superfluous or frivolous. It is of course no small feat to translate or reinterpret this styling DNA in subsequent model generations, but we have to congratulate the designers and stylists that they have always succeeded in doing so.
Also in the interior we find the typical timeless "Range" layout, with a very wide central console which is ever so practical with ample space for your phones, tablets and other devices which make life entertaining, practical, interesting and easier.
Of course, the seats offer superb creature comfort, and will accommodate even the tallest or shortest among us. The quality of the used materials is beyond reproach, as is the superb level of finish and the high degree of workmanship.
We liked also the generously dimensioned embellishments in matte aluminium, as well as the large round clocks and dials with classic, timelessly modern lettering. Also the subtle illumination of the increments in the round dials is a very pleasing detail. Needless to say the quality and feel of the "Oxford" leather of the seats is superb, as tradition befits.
State of the art V6 Diesel power...
The V6 Diesel engine of the Range Rover Sport uses parallel-sequential superchargers, and indeed is as responsive as a Diesel will ever be. It is powerful, with 225 kW or 298 Din PS available at 4000 rpm, but what's even more important; the torque is a massive 700 Nm. between 1500 and 1750 rpm. Indeed, detail calibration changes have increased the performance, respectively by 14 PS and 100 Nm over the previous version.
Does this mean performance? You bet, this car is meant to be driven, and that implies an acceleration from 0 to 100 in merely 7,2 seconds, and a top speed of 210 km. Do not think however that this is a big brute of an engine delivering all this hefty work. No way, everything is happening silky smooth, under the most endearing V6 sound, something which only an efficient, thoroughbred 6 cylinder engine can deliver. You just love to push the accelerator deeper, and the noble, sporty character of this engine adds greatly to driving pleasure.
Efficient Diesels are of course frugal, and this unit is no exception: The manufacturer quotes around 8 litres/100 km for urban driving. On the open road, the consumption even drops to 6,4 litres. LPEGR, or in good English Low Pressure Exhaust Gas Recirculation, a two-stage oil pump and revised fuel-injector nozzles have increased the fuel efficiency. The result is a pronounced 7.0% improvement over the previous model.
These figures are astonishing, but indeed quite realistic if you throw in a good amount of clever, anticipative driving. Rather easy to do, we experienced, when you are sitting in your commanding driving position, relaxed and pampered by the high level of comfort and excellent ergonomics and last but not least, outstanding handling, of which more later on.
The good behaviour of the engine is greatly helped by the 8 speed ZF automatic box, which is truly clever. It will analyse your driving style and even remember it, so it can almost anticipate what you want to do with engine and car. It will almost always change gears at the ideal point, depending on how fast you want to go, and what is best for the engine in that given situation. Understandably, we left the gearlever during our test well alone in "D", and we never regretted it. The high gearing of the box in the upper gears thanks to the 8 speed layout of this transmission of course helps fuel economy a lot.
As you can expect from this premium class vehicle, not the slightest vibrations are felt in the cabin, the driveline and suspension are superbly insulated. The Range Rover is therefore made to cover long distances, in a superbly effortless way. For long trips, this Range Rover Sport is the car to have.
Delightful handling and comfort
Where this Range Rover Sport in its latest version truly scores is in its handling. This is what the Rover sets apart from the competition, and indeed, as the company saying goes, "by far."
It shows surprising agility, given its size and weight, and the car almost invites you to have an alert, sporting drive style. You are looking forward to a pleasant driving experience, every time you slide behind the wheel. Despite its impressive size and weight, the Range Rover feels nimble, and indeed you forget all about its dimensions once you are on the move.
The handling is beautifully neutral, with only the slightest body roll. The steering gives also plenty of feedback, is precise and allows you to set up the Rover accurately in fast corners or when negotiating hairpins, adding greatly to a flawless sporting driving style. Yes, this Range Rover Sport has all the panache you could ever wish for.
If you select the Dynamic Programme with the round Terrain Response knob, (see photo above) you will enjoy the benefits of torque vectoring, which balances the engine power and torque among the four wheels using both the electronic differential and the brake system. All this results in more agile cornering, with reduced understeer, and allows, as we said, neutral handling all the way. The car not only handles sportier, the increments on the round instruments now glow red, indicating that you mean business on the road...
Not that all these dynamics are at the expense of comfort. This car will never jolt you over ridges or potholes, instead it will iron out all the nasty things our modern (secondary) roads have in store for us. The seating position behind the wheel is also ideal, the front seat having numerous settings to allow you to find that position which is "just right" for you, and again, awakens the true driver in you...
Needless to say that the Range Rover is a true master on the off road path. This is where the vast experience of the manufacturer comes in, and even when you have only modest experience, you can become an off road expert behind the four spoked wheel of this Rover very soon. The selector knob on the centre console will let you choose the proper terrain mode setting, but of course you can also leave it well alone in the "auto" mode.
It has four modes for that ideal terrain response. A mode for gravel, grass and snow, a second mode for mud and deep tracks, a mode for (deep) sand, and last but not least a mode for climbing and negotiating rocky surfaces. The last mode can only be engaged, understandably, when the low gearing mode is selected.
There is of course also a Heavy Descent Control, noblesse oblige...(see photo below)
When you leave the round knob in the "auto" mode, the car will do all the rest.
When you select the off road setting, the four corner electronic air suspension will also switch automatically between two ride heights. For easier getting in and out of the car, you can select the lower ride height, which might be kinder to your (female) passenger...
When it comes to comfort, we would like to say a word of praise for the truly excellent sound of the 250W eight speaker sound system, which is also a breeze to use. Of course, audio streaming with your I Phone neatly tucked away in the large centre console is perfectly possible, and, yes, it features a CD player, which we liked so much again...
This car scores very high on many points. It has style, character, distinction. It comes with state of the art technology, allowing both masterful, silky smooth and economical performance.
But it is not only powerful, it is a true drivers' car, letting you rediscover in this segment the joys of steering a thoroughbred automobile.
It lets you steer with assurance on every road or off road path, and last but not least, it has superb, long legged, cruising comfort, making it an ideal companion for those Grand Touring trips.
Add to this the practicality, and you agree, this car is and remains a benchmark in its segment. We are looking forward for a drive with the V8 version, both diesel and petrol, but already this well sounding V6 made our hearts pound faster...
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