The old Range Rover Sport has sold more than 415,000 units, so I dont expect Land Rover are especially worried that it ended up with a slightly unfortunate image, even if they are conscious of it.
No, theyre likely to be more concerned with its strategic placement; not too close to either the Evoque or the Range Rover – and it must have its own USP. This is a delicate balancing act and one that is crucial if they arent to cannibalise their own sales or, even worse, lose them to their competitors because potential buyers just dont get the new model.
So there is a lot resting on the new Range Rover Sport; shall we find out if its any good?
The new Range Rover Sport is every inch a Range Rover exuding luxury, money, and a premium finish in equal measure. But is more rounded and less aggressive than the outgoing model, something that was carefully designed in according to senior sources at Land Rover who are just as keen to disassociate themselves from the local bad-boy-gone-legit as you are.
Its slightly longer than the car it replaces but up to 420kgs lighter and 15 percent stiffer. This helps no end with the ride, handling, fuel efficiency, and poise, none of which would matter if it didnt look cohesive, elegant, and damned gorgeous. Which it does.
Talking of cohesive, elegant, and damned gorgeous, the interior works rather well too. Its spacious and ergonomic and available in a wide variety of colours, including a rather fetching tri-colour arrangement that straddles the fence between gaudy and fetching with aplomb.
Equipment levels in the base HSE (for now, until next years TDV6 SE comes online) include paddle shifts, 14-way heated and electric seats, power steering column adjustment, keyless entry, and parking aids including a rear view camera. If you are feeling flush you can move up to HSE Dynamic, which adds a panoramic roof, and heated rear seats plus some more trim details and different wheels.
Owners of their own small country will enjoy the sybaritic delights of the Autobiography Dynamic that adds a whole bunch of other stuff including a Champagne-bottle-sized cooler, a heated steering wheel and air-conditioned front seats (dont knock em til youve tried em).
Buyers will have to pick and choose from the extensive optional extras that are on offer, some of which are essential, some of which are an extravagance, and all of which are hugely desirable.
Parents will be glad to hear that youll be able to seat seven for the first time in a Range Rover Sport thanks to an innovative 5+2 seating arrangement. It might only be suitable for children but its electrically operated and folds flat so that all that lovely boot space is retained. The engineers were so pleased with the way it folds away discretely that they nicknamed them the secret seats.
The Range Rover Sport is, simply, the only car youll ever need. It hustles along pesky Welsh mountain roads like a champ – after having got there in uncanny silence thanks to some heavy duty NVH suppression.
It twists and twirls and scoots along delightfully and if its limits arent as high as some, it remains poised and controllable even when you overcook it. All of which is predictable and, given the competence of the competition, essential.
What isnt essential, not really, is its off-road ability, which is uncannily good. Sure you can twist a few buttons if you need your ego stroking, but all you really need to do is to point it at the rough stuff where it will work things out for itself. I tackled steep, muddy slopes, riverbeds (no namby-pamby streams for Land Rovers PR people), and axle twisters without ever gaining the slightest impression that the car was even trying, much less breaking into a sweat. (Oh, and I also drove through a plane, yes, a plane, which is easily the coolest thing Ive ever done.)
Its not perfect though. The eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox can be a bit tardy changing down and, er, well, thats it really. A Porsche Cayenne would probably beat it round a track but for the sheer breadth of its accomplishments nothing can touch it. Well, nothing other than its big brother
Two engines are on offer for the time being, a 5.0-litre supercharged petrol engine and a 3.0-litre V6 diesel.
The 500bhp V8 is, of course, ridiculous. I saw 3mpg at one stage during a long, steep climb in the mud, and 17mpg overall. No one outside the States, China, Russia, or the Middle East will ever buy one. Which is a shame as it is epic with 60mph coming up in 5.0 seconds and the (artificially limited) top speed of 155mph arriving up shortly thereafter, all to the best soundtrack this side of a 1990s TVR. Even I managed to go from 0-100-0 in just over 16 seconds, which seemed rather quick to me.
*Three, two, one, back-in-the-room* and were now in the SDV6, the only diesel option until next years cheaper and slightly less powerful TDV6, which develops 292bhp and 442 lb/ft of torque, enough for any sane driver. 60mph comes up in 6.9 seconds and the top speed is a very respectable 138mph, all backed up by mid-thirties fuel consumption and enough mid-range surge to make overtaking effortless.
Next year will see the addition of an SDV6-based hybrid that will give V8-diesel performance with 169 g/km of CO2. Also rumoured is a four-cylinder diesel engine that should enjoy just 139g/km.
Value for Money
If you have to ask, you cant afford one. Prices start, for the time being, at 59,995 and rise to just over 80,000. Plus extras. And you know what? Its worth every penny.
At the risk of sounding like a Land Rover fan boy, the Range Rover Sport is every bit as good as we all hoped it would be. It demonstrates, in the clearest possible way, just how good British engineers are when theyre given the money and freedom to do what they do best.
If you have the money (or, more likely, it is on your companys company car list) youll never regret buying one. Dont even bother looking at its rivals because it simply doesnt have any.
For more check out ourRange Rover Sport page with a full summary, reviews, photos, stats and videos.