January 15, 2014
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Justin Pritchard, additional photos by Jonathan Yarkony
It was late November, and I’d stopped with the new Land Rover Range Rover Sport just outside of Parry Sound, Ontario for a fuel top-off ahead of the 90-minute home stretch on my weekly drive. The area had been walloped by a wind storm the night before, and the forecast was for snow up the way as I approached Sudbury. It’d be the first snow I’d get to drive on this year, which makes me giggly.
After relieving my bank account of about 30 bucks to top off the Range Rover Sport’s tank and start fuel consumption measurement, it was back on the highway. The snow wound up holding off until later in the week (more on this later), but driving an all-new Range Rover Sport on any sort of highway is a treat nonetheless.
Few things on four wheels are as gentlemanly and British as a Land Rover — and this all-new new Range Rover Sport is the brand’s most athletic model. The nomenclature is a bit fussy: the Range Rover Sport is the smaller, lighter and more affordable little brother to the big and stately Range Rover popular with movie actors, sports stars and other financially well endowed folks. For them, and other fans of the brand, a Range Rover is the go-to model ready for a romp in the wilderness, a night on the town and everything in between, all without missing a beat.
For this latest Range Rover Sport, hot off the assembly line in its brand new iteration, tasteful British engineers have added even more performance, luxury, handling and capability.
On the performance front, the engine lineup has changed to include a less powerful base engine. Where last year’s model got a five-litre V8 as standard, this tester got a new supercharged 3.0L V6, outputting 340 horsepower, or 35 fewer than the old V8. The upgrade engine this year is the same 5.0L supercharged V8 as last year, with 510 horsepower. Muahahahahah.
Horsepower is the go-to figure to impress your pals. It’s like flexing your biceps when someone asks to see your muscles — a good snapshot, but there’s more to it when it comes to all-out athleticism.
Especially here — where despite the overall drop in available output, performance is actually up for two reasons.
First, there’s a new eight-speed transmission, which makes much better use of the power. Second, and more importantly, by constructing this gentleman’s SUV almost entirely out of aluminum, they’ve made it more than 350 kilos (800 lb) lighter, and therefore, 350 kilos faster.
That new aluminum structure helps lay the foundation for a luxurious driving experience. Since it’s light but also very strong, drivers get a solid, quiet and robust highway feel where the gorgeously fragrant leather, heated steering wheel, heated and chilled seats, fantastic craftsmanship and assorted colors, textures and materials that line the sumptuous cabin can be enjoyed.
It looks like a million bucks in here — and it’s high tech too. You get cameras all around, touchscreen everything, and parking radar to prevent playing tradesies with other people’s paint in the Holt Renfrew parking lot.
Want to adjust the ambient lighting? Dial in a navigation destination? Call up one of the cameras to see if you’re about to roll over a sharp rock without leaning out of the window like a peasant? The slick touchscreen control centre puts these functionalities and many more at your fingertips. Ultimately, this is one of the most all-out luxurious and high-tech cabins you’ll find in an SUV, anywhere. It fully pulls its weight towards the Range Rover Sport’s hefty pricetag.
Ditto the handling. Since it’s lighter than it looks and was engineered for agility, the Range Rover Sport comes off more like a sports sedan when you toss it around. It manages its mass well. The steering is quick, eager and precise – encouraging drivers to make use of the grip and poise calibrated into the suspension. There’s virtually none of that awkwardness or clumsiness you’ll typically find in an SUV’s chassis when you push it a little. Particularly, body roll all occurs at initial steer-in, before the body takes a set and any subsequent in-corner steering inputs are transmitted directly to the tires. Even pushed, the Sport doesn’t plow or drift – preferring instead to just bite in and go gingerly where it’s pointed.
Brakes are powerful and offer good feel, backing it all up. Plus, the new supercharged V6 is a riot, smooth as silk, and makes a great sound as the whine from the Eaton TVS supercharger floods into the cabin when you punch it.
So even if you get to participating in a bit of go-fast monkey business on your favourite backroad, the Range Rover Sport never puts up a fuss. Tippy? Top Heavy? Forget about it — I’ve driven sports sedans that weren’t this entertaining to drive hard.