There are currently 4 members of the Range Rover family – the Evoque, the Velar, the Range Rover Sport and then the original Range Rover. Is it time for the Sport to be the favourite?
In the past, my opinion has of the Range Rover Sport hasn’t always been the most generous. I thought the first generation was the odd middle child in the Land Rover lineup at the time. The Discovery 3 was far more capable and practical and the full-fat Range Rover Vogue was more luxurious and more desirable. This opinion only grew more negative as time went on and the Range Rover family grew with the Evoque and the Velar and then with the new Discovery coming out looking 10 times fresher than the outgoing Disco 3/4, what was the point of the Sport?
Well, since the second-generation Range Rover Sport (L494) was launched in 2013 I must concede that it has grown on me rather a lot. And the main reason for this U-turn in attitude towards the car is very simple. I actually drove a few and got a much better feel for them and this new face-lifted version is definitely the best looking and best driving yet.
On the outside, there’s no denying it’s a handsome car. The new sharper and narrower headlights give the car a more aggressive presence the deeper bumper gives it an overall more athletic aesthetic. With this being the HST model, it also benefits from a light sprinkling of carbon fibre on the bonnet vents, side vents and a few other bits of trim around the exterior. And then there are the massive 22″ wheels that confirm to those wondering that this car may have all the gadgets and ability to climb mountains and ford rivers, but it is definitely built for the road.
This may seem like a bizarre idea given that the jewel in Land Rover’s crown is the fact that they can outperform any other SUV off-road – but the reason the Sport is so impressive is that it is a fantastic car to drive on the road. Everything about the Sport is designed with driving in mind. In the Vogue, you sit in a high up and commanding position with great visibility all around you and in the Discovery there’s a definite utility feel to the interior but the Sport has an almost-GT personality to it. You sit lower, the window line is higher and the controls are closer to the driver. If you got in blindfolded, you’d be hard pushed to guess it was a Range Rover over a proper grand touring car.
As is the way with these cars, the inside is plush. Very plush. The bright red Pimento and Ivory leather seats are incredibly comfortable and heated and cooled, the interior mood lighting provides a soothing ambience whilst the suede cloth roof lining and steering wheel give the car a sportier finish. As with the majority of Land Rover’s range, the Sport features the digital screen set up with a dynamic driver’s display, Touch Pro Duo display set with Navigation Pro screen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto and then the lower screen for all your driver modes and climate controls etc… Whether you think this abundance of screens is entirely necessary, there’s no denying it gives the car that premium feel one should expect from a vehicle with a price tag of over £80,000.
So far, it’s business usual for the Range Rover Sport – it’s very comfy like the full-fat Vogue but with a sporty edge – but it’s under the bonnet of this P400 HST where things start to get interesting. You see, this model is powered by a new MHEV powertrain featuring a turbocharged inline-6 petrol engine coupled with a 48-volt system that powers an electric supercharger. Unlike the P400e and other plug-in hybrid engines on offer, this model cannot run on electric power alone, instead, it uses the electric supercharger to fill in torque gaps and spool up the turbocharger more efficiently resulting in not only better emissions and economy, but also a more direct and responsive throttle.
As the name suggests, this HST powerplant produces around 400hp and 550Nm of torque and when you couple this with the aluminium body, you end up with a surprisingly spritely SUV. 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds and the top speed is 140mph which is impressive for any smaller, lighter saloon car, let alone the Range Rover Sport. And this is where I go back to talking about why and how this car works. Yes, there is a bit of badge snobbery working to the car’s advantage as everyone wants to own a Range Rover but it’s also great to drive. The steering is nicely weighted and the adaptive air suspension keeps the body flat with not too much body roll in the turns. It’s a great “best of both worlds” driver’s car.
Compared to the Porsche Cayenne the Sport is more practical and compared to the BMW X5 it feels more driver-focused and it is by far more capable than both of them should the weather turn nasty. There’s also a huge amount of kit available for the Sport with a large proportion of that included in this HST trim and if the MHEV engine set up isn’t for you, there is a plethora of engine and trim choices available from a trusty turbo diesel to a 575hp supercharged V8 petrol engine, but I have to admit that in the week I had this HST model, I grew very fond of both the power delivery and drive and also its surprising frugality.
Thank you to Land Rover UK PR for the loan of the Range Rover Sport P400 HST and for their continuing support of Well Driven – you can configure your own Range Rover Sport on the Land Rover website now. Another big thank you goes to Rick at Sprite Photography for yet another incredible set of photographs.