May 27, 2014
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE. Click image to enlarge
Review and Photos by Jeff Wilson
In theory, I had it all figured out.
My family and I would be maximizing our Spring Break motoring pleasure into Ontario’s cottage country to visit with friends and do a little skiing. Being the automotive guru I fancy myself to be, I’d planned well in advance and booked myself a vehicle I was quite excited to drive: the all-new 2014 Range Rover Sport.
In my wisdom, I’d concluded that not only would the journey be swift and luxuriant, but we’d also arrive in genuine style to impress my car-enthusiast friends. Plus, with Land Rover’s storied off-road prowess, no matter how relentless this cursed Ontario winter is, we’d have the chops to make it to our destination.
I was right on all accounts except for one. When the last big and nasty freezing-rain-turned-to-snow storm of the season hit the night before we left, I began to worry about the Range Rover Sport’s ability to get through the nasty road conditions.
Huh? Isn’t this the same rig with a selector dial to accommodate any number of unpleasant driving terrain conditions? A crossover with the ability to stand up on its air-suspension tippy-toes to prevent getting its underside hung up on rocks and logs? Why yes it is.
But my test vehicle was also fitted with touring all-season tires (surprisingly worn ones at that) better suited for showing off the Range Rover Sport’s considerable on-road handling prowess than its off-road mountain goat impressions. No matter how much suspension articulation or four-wheel-drive power distribution capability your vehicle may have, if it ain’t got the traction, it ain’t going to work on soft, sloppy or slippery surfaces.
That’s how it came to be that the Wilson family with their fancy-pants SUV (and all its legendary history of off-road excellence) was stuck parked at home like the plebeian owners of some common compact hatchback or mid-sized sedan until the plows had been out.
As we would later discover, even despite its inadequate tires, the Range Rover Sport can measure out precise distribution of power to the wheels that do have at least minimal grip enabling us to make it up the long ice-and-snow-covered laneway from the cottage when it was finally time to leave the cottage. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
After putting off the outset of our journey for another night (to the considerable chagrin of my wife and four-year-old son), we finally decided to brave the wilds of the 400-series highways and now-sunny weather and head north.
The bulk of our journey was on paved secondary roads and multi-lane highways and it’s here that the Range Rover Sport does a heck of an impression of a luxury sport wagon and not an SUV.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE dashboard. Click image to enlarge
The balance between ride comfort and handling is truly impressive with every bump or pothole we encountered being swallowed and digested before ever reaching the cabin. When the Rover encounters an onramp or two, it simply stays planted and true, and smoothly brings the big car around the bend. There is a sense of significant weightiness beneath the driver that is apparent in all Land Rover vehicles, but this new Sport has lost more than 350 kg versus last year’s model thanks to the all-aluminum body construction and its improved capabilities show this reduction.
Good handling and good brakes (which the Sport also has) are a necessity when the still-portly SUV can hit 100 km/h in less than five-and-a-half seconds. This figure is achieved in the up-level supercharged V8 version with 510 horsepower. My test vehicle, however, featured the standard 3.0L V6 – also supercharged – putting out 340 horsepower and mated to an eight-speed automatic.
While not mind-bending in its acceleration the way the V8 model is, the V6 Sport is plenty quick and had no trouble hauling my family and a week’s worth of luggage up to highway speeds and beyond. This engine – proliferated across the Jaguar/Land Rover lines – is smooth and quiet with generous torque throughout the rev range. What’s more, when driven with a bit of gusto, the Range Rover Sport emits a very pleasing and aggressive growl unexpected in such a dignified machine.