New Range Rover Sport first drive

Range Rover SportWhen the new Range Rover Sport goes on UK roads, of off them, in the next few weeks the all-new five door models will weigh in at up to 420kg less than the outgoing versions.

This 33% weight saving is equivalent to five passengers and their luggage, although it still weighs nearly 2.2-tonnes. The new models use the same type of aluminium monocoque body construction and suspension components as the new Range Rover launched earlier this year. There is a 25% increase in body stiffness for improved torsional rigidity. Despite its Range Rover family styling the previous Sport models used a body on steel chassis construction derived from that used by the Land Rover Discovery.

Not only does the weight saving improve fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions by 15%, the new Range Rover Sport is more agile on and off road with much improved handling manners.

Jason Walters, the Land Rover’s Off Road Capability Manager, said following global customer clinics the feedback for the requirements for the new Range Rover Sport was ‘More Range Rover – More Sport’. In other words, more interior space and comfort and better on-road driving dynamics without losing the off-road performance. He added “We have responded to that and the new Sport is the fastest, most agile, most responsive Range Rover yet.”

Prices range from £51,550 for the 3.0-litre TDV6 258hp diesel SE specification which arrives in January 2014. Now available is the 3.0-litre SDV6 292hp diesel with HSE, HSE Dynamic and Autobiography versions priced from £59,995 to £74,995 and top of the range is the 5.0-litre V8 supercharged 510hp petrol Autobiography Dynamic priced at £81,550.

Range Rover SportAll the power units have been revised to offer more power and torque yet with lower CO2 emissions and improved fuel economy. The petrol engine comes from Ford’s Bridgend plant and the diesel’s from Ford’s Dagenham facility and the vehicles are built at the Land Rover Solihull facility. All models have permanent four wheel drive, air suspension, a ZF eight speed automatic transmission and stop/start as standard. There is also a vast range of extras that can be added to the new Range Rover Sport including a 5+2 power operated occasional seating option, thanks to the 178mm long wheelbase, which enables customers from 169 worldwide markets to create their ultimate bespoke SUV.

To come early next year is a 4.4-litre SDV8 334hp turbodiesel and yet to be disclosed four cylinder engines, likely petrol and diesel, to be built in Jaguar Land Rover’s new Wolverhampton engine plant. A diesel hybrid version will join the line-up later next year.

Range Rover is adamant about not giving sales forecasts for the new Sport models but since its introduction in 2005 over 415,000 have been sold worldwide. In the UK 7,732 Range Rover Sports were sold in the UK last year against 18,033 of the smaller Range Rover Evoques and 3,316 Range Rovers. The Range Rover figure was lower than the average annual sales of 4,500 units due to the introduction of the new model earlier this year.

In the UK 66% of UK Range Rover Sport sales go to retail customers and 95% of them choose the SDV6 292hp turbodiesel engine. The most popular level of specification is the HSE taken up by 72% of UK buyers, 16% go for the Autobiography level, SE attracts 8% of sales and the Autobiography 5.0-litre supercharged petrol takes just 4% of sales.

To debut the new British built Range Rover Sport to the global media, Land Rover has just finished their five week long media launch involving nearly 1,000 Journalists from 169 countries as far away as Australia, USA, China and Russia. As a British brand the event was based in gentile Cheltenham before ‘scribes’ took to the roads through the Cotswolds, into the Welsh borders, across the narrow and mountainous tarmac and gravel tracks of the Brecon Beacons, including the military gunnery ranges, before returning via Land Rover’s famous Eastnor Castle estate 4×4 test facility. After that the programme included straight line acceleration and emergency braking tests at Cotswold Airport Kemble. The finale was pure motoring theatre where the unique experience of driving the new models up and down very steep ramps in, out and through a decommissioned Boeing 747 aircraft to showcase the Range Rover Sport’s agility and the ease of manoeuvring a vehicle 4,850mm long in confined spaces. A unique and not to be forgotten driving experience.

It is just a shame that the vast majority of UK customers will not experience just what the Range Rover Sport, and indeed the Range Rover, is capable of off-road. It is well worth while undertaking an off-road driving course at one of Land Rover’s centres to see and experience just how capable the best 4×4 luxury SUV is. It is truly phenomenal.

Most of the time the Range Rover Sport will be used for family, business or lightweight recreational use and rushing up and down motorways, in some luxury and comfort, but that misses out on using all the technology and capabilities this vehicle now has.

In the space I have to write this story it is impossible to cover all aspects of the new model. Try it and you will buy it, there is no better vehicle off-road. On road the handling is sharp and well controlled but perhaps not so composed as the BMW X5/X6 SUVs which really are designed for fast road travel. The Range Rover Sport nearly competes but vastly outperforms the BMW models when it comes to driving away from roads and onto the rough stuff. Of course the ‘new money’ types, followers of fashion and professional footballers who appear to buy the Range Rover Sport will never use the vehicle’s all-terrain potential but they will miss out, especially considering the significant amount of money they have paid for their vehicle.

Range Rover SportRange Rover SportRange Rover SportThe Range Rover Sport is Land Rover’s most technology-packed vehicle to date including several brand new innovative features. For example, customers can specify the new Wade Sensing feature, monitoring depth when driving through water as the vehicle gains an extra 150mm in its wading capability to 850mm. The Park Assist function now includes new ‘Park Exit’ and ‘Perpendicular Park’ features. The vehicle offers state-of-the-art audio systems in three levels ranging up to the stunning 1700W Signature Reference system which has 23 speakers.

Standard specifications across all grades reflect the luxury and premium quality associated with Range Rover. The SE comes equipped with leather upholstery, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, DAB digital audio, a power tailgate, intelligent stop-start, two-zone climate control, heated front seats, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, HD navigation, four-corner air suspension with automatic levelling, Terrain Response, descent control and Say-What-You-See voice control.

Among the additional features provided on the HSE are 20-inch alloy wheels, perforated leather seats featuring 14-way electric front seat adjustment with memory function, heated rear seats, power steering column adjustment, front fog lights, paddle shift controls, heated windscreen, rear view camera and aluminium treadplates.

HSE Dynamic adds both extra styling and handling features, including stainless steel pedals, a bright finish for the twin tailpipes, a glossy black grille and vents, 21-inch alloys, illuminated treadplates, twin speed transfer box, torque vectoring and the added functionality of Terrain Response 2 Auto that selects the right mode if required for driving over sand, mud, rocks, in water and so on.

The Autobiography Dynamic specification befits its flagship status, introducing as standard; High Beam Assist for the headlights, configurable interior mood lighting, Meridian Surround Sound audio system, illuminated treadplates, adaptive cruise control with Queue Assist, an advanced preventative safety package including emergency braking and active front seatbelts.

All customers have the opportunity to make their new Range Rover Sport truly individual thanks to the range of optional features and accessories. This extends to 11 interior colour themes, four aluminium finishes, three headlining colours, 17 exterior paint finishes, seven alloy wheel designs, three contrast colours for the roof and three finishes for exterior accents.

Briefly the aspects of the new Range Rover Sport that impressed me most was the roomy interior, but I wouldn’t take the third row of seat option which stows under the boot floor as it does away with the space for the spare wheel, the range of functions the driver can easily select to assist them, the quality of the interior, the new sharp exterior styling, the agility of the vehicle and its nimbleness off road, the relative ease of threading a passage through trees and obstacles and going up or down the most outrageously steep and slippery inclines.

It’s very good on road, but even better off it, it’s just a pity that isn’t the territory where it will be used most of all.

Range Rover SportRange Rover SportRange Rover SportThe outrageously fast 5.0-litre V8 supercharged 510hp, 461lb ft of torque petrol engine gives a zero to 60mph time of just 5.0 seconds and a top speed of 155mph but even more impressive, for some, is the exhaust note. Officially this unit will return 22.1mpg in the Combined Cycle, our test drive returned 20.2mpg for fast on road driving and 15.9mpg for acceleration testing and off-road driving. With CO2 emissions of 298g/km road tax is the highest level at £1,065 for the First Year rate reducing to £490 for the second year onwards. Company car tax is the maximum 35%.

By far the best selling engine will be the 3.0-litre SDV6 turbodiesel with 292hp and 442lb ft of torque which covers zero to 60mph in just 6.8 seconds with a top speed of 138mph. CO2 emissions are lowered by 13% to 199g/km so road tax is £475 in the First Year rate and then £260 for the second year onwards. Company car drivers will pay 34% in BIK tax. In the Combined Cycle this engine will officially return 37.7mpg and on or test returned 36.4mpg for on road driving and that reduced to 29.2mpg after some serious off road travel.

MILESTONES. Range Rover Sport 3.0 SDV6 Diesel. Price: £59,995 for best selling HSE specification but £74,995 for the Autobiography Dynamic model as tested. Engine/transmission: 3.0-litre, V6 turbocharged, 292hp, 442lb ft of torque, stop/start, 8-speed automatic, high/low ratio transfer box, permanent 4WD, bespoke standard mud/snow tyres. Performance: 138mph, 0-60mph 6.8 seconds, 37.7mpg (36.4mpg on test on road driving), CO2 199g/km, VED road tax £475/£260, BIK company car tax 34%. Insurance group: 43 tbc. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,850mm, W 1,983mm, H 1,780mm. 5/7 seats, boot/load space 784 to 1,761-litres, braked towing weight 3,500kg. For: Utter brilliance off road, responsive, nimble, precise, loads of easy to use technology, powerful but fuel efficient engine, looks good inside and out, comfortable ride, classy image. Against: High prices for high spec versions, auto gearlever fiddly to use, improved road handling but the supreme off road capabilities will always compromise on road high speed handling.   Miles Better News Agency

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