2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Test Drive and Review

15 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Test Drive and Review

A Wales of a good ride

The bad news is that I’m going to have to expand my dream garage again. The good news is that I’ll squeeze in another Land Rover — the 2014 Range Rover Sport. And since it’s a dream garage, renovations won’t cost a dime. After spending a few days driving through the real-life dreamscape of Wales in the United Kingdom.

I’m convinced that Land Rover has made such significant refinements to Range Rover’s middle child that it has emerged as a distinctive, superb vehicle.

The 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport will start at $63,495 for the SE; $68,495 for the HSE; $79,995 for the Supercharged; and $93,295 for the Autobiography trim level. V6 equipped models are rated to achieve 17 mpg city/23 highway, while V8 models get 14 mpg city/19 highway, according to the EPA. All Land Rovers come with a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty.

Let’s drive.

First Glance

Land Rover’s lineup is bifurcated in the United States. On one side, the workmanlike LR2 and LR4 (known as the Freelander 2 and Discovery 4 in some other territories). On the other side, the Range Rover. Range Rover Evoque and Range Rover Sport.

During the previous generation (2005 to 2013, with a cosmetic refresh in 2010), the Range Rover Sport shared many design cues with the luxury-oriented Range Rover. The latest Sport reinterprets the design language from Range Rover’s 2013 makeover and the stylish Evoque, which made its debut in 2012, bringing continuity to the Range Rover lineup for the first time. Line up the three vehicles, and there’s no doubt that they are related, and that they are each designed for a purpose.

RR Sport slots in right behind the big Range Rover. Though the two vehicles share a wheelbase at 115, RR Sport gives a few inches in height, width and length at 191 vs. 196 for the Range Rover. Up front, the flat hood overlays a mask grille that connects the adaptive Xenon headlamps. Blacked-out B-pillars support the illusion of a floating roof that slopes downward toward an Evoque-like rounded rear.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, adding up to a gorgeous, eye-catching SUV. Land Rover’s build quality is first-rate, with deep, rich painted surfaces and high quality metals. This SUV has presence.

In the Driver’s Seat

2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Photo #169; Jason Fogelson

The big news in seating in the RR Sport is an available third row, which Land Rover admits is designed for occasional use. I didn’t get a chance to sit in the third row — based on photos and measurements, it’s a two-person, short hop seat, most appropriate for kids and quick trips. When not in use, it power folds into the floor, leaving a flat load floor for cargo.

Up front, new driver and passenger seats are sculpted with additional padding and great adjustability. First and second row seats feature heating and cooling, and four zones of climate control assure comfort throughout the cabin.

The Sport’s dash has been streamlined and simplified, with a broad horizontal panel dominating. I would have preferred a higher position in the center stack for the navigation screen, at least as high as the instrument panel and driver information screen above the steering wheel. But I do like the ease of operation with the combination of touchscreen and hard buttons surrounding the screen.

The center console is uncluttered, with the gear selector and Terrain Response selection near the driver, and a covered compartment hiding cup holders next to the passenger. Land Rover offers a variety of real wood and metal trim packages — my favorite was the machined aluminum trim that’s standard in the Autobiography package. Switchgear, buttons, knobs and everything that you touch on the Sport’s interior feels first rate, solid and durable.

Meridian handles the audio duties, with a premium Meridian 23-speaker 3D surround system available that includes speakers in the roof. Rear seat entertainment hooks up to a pair of monitors in the back of the front seat headrests, a great feature that avoids ungainly, visibility-blocking fold-down monitors.

On the Road (and Off)

My test drive took place on the wrong side of the car. It was my first experience with right hand drive, and I have to admit that the first part of the drive was spent in total terror, retraining my brain and trying to overcome a lifetime of driving habits. Eventually, I became accustomed to the reverse image, and I was able to enjoy the Sport’s performance. I may have bumped the wheels against the left curb once or twice. Okay, three times.

But for the most part, right hand drive is fine. And by fine I mean it’s a perverse affectation that the Brits, Japanese and Australians should be mocked for.

I could go on and on about how great the Sport is to drive. In the interest of space, I’ll hit some of the highlights. The first thing that Land Rover engineers did right is reducing the vehicle’s weight by a claimed 800 lbs. Want to make any vehicle perform better? Start by cutting the curb weight.

Instantly, you’ve improved acceleration, handling and braking. You’ve probably improved top speed and even towing capacity. All of that is true with the Sport. Weight savings have been achieved across many areas of the vehicle, but the biggest chunk came from switching to aluminum for the primary material in the unibody construction.

Using so much aluminum also contributes to a claimed 40% improvement in body stiffness. The way manufacturers claim percentage increases in body stiffness makes me think that we must have been driving some pretty floppy jalopies until very recently. The stiffness, along with improved aerodynamics and noise suppression, results in a totally silent cabin while driving, which just reinforces the sense of luxury and refinement that the Sport projects.

Power is provided by one of two engine choices: a new supercharged 3.0-liter V6 (340 hp/332 lb-ft of torque) and the same 5.0-liter supercharged V8 (510 hp/461 lb-ft of torque) that’s found in the Range Rover. A ZF eight-speed automatic transmission sends the power out to the four-wheel drive system. Paddle shifters are standard. Nobody needs the V8, by the way. The V6 is plenty fast, scooting from zero to sixty in just 6.9 seconds.

But guess what? You’re going to want the V8, and its potential to reach 60 mph in 5.0 seconds flat. V8 models can also get a Dynamic mode, which sharpens on-road manners for aggressive driving. Land Rover set up a few tests on an airfield under controlled conditions, with a pro driver in the passenger seat.

I drove the V8-powered Sport in a run from zero to one hundred to zero in 18.23 seconds, then did a flying straight line top-speed test where I hit 145 miles per hour, the fastest I have ever driven any vehicle. The amazing thing about the test was how serene, controlled and quiet the Sport remained throughout. I was absolutely flooring the accelerator, then positively jamming the brake pedal to the bottom, and the Sport never complained, never stumbled, never hesitated in its appointed duties.

I will never forget that top speed run.

A Land Rover must be as remarkable off-road as it is on pavement in order to satisfy the faithful. The Sport comes with Terrain Response 2, the same program that powers the new Range Rover. In addition to the expected off-road driving modes, Terrain Response 2 adds Auto, which allows the Sport to make its own best judgment about which mode will be the most effective in the given conditions.

Maximum ground clearance is improved by 2 over the outgoing model, and there’s a 7 adjustment between on-road and off-road driving modes. Approach, departure and breakover angles are all superior to the previous Sport’s, and wading depth is an astonishing 33.5, which we tested through some obstacles on Land Rover’s Eastnor Castle off-road course. On all-season road tires, the Sport drives as smoothly and easily off-road as it does on smooth dry pavement.

It’s really, really impressive.

Journey’s End

2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Photo #169; Jason Fogelson

I fear that I sound like a giddy teenager when I read back over this review. I was totally taken with the Range Rover Sport, in a way that I never expected. I had a similar reaction to the new Range Rover. but now I think that the Sport has stolen my heart with its more relaxed dimensions and casual elegance.

It even begins to look like a bargain, especially when I consider all of the advanced technologies available on the vehicle — many of which I haven’t even had time or space to discuss in this review.

Driving the Range Rover Sport in Wales was the experience of a lifetime, and I’ll never forget it. But only part of the memory is about Wales — most of the memory is about the Range Rover Sport. I’d be happy to drive it anywhere — any urban street, any suburban jungle, any rock crawling, mud bogging, trail chasing situation I happen to encounter during my travels.

This is a great SUV, right at the top of my list and highly recommended to anyone who can afford the best of the best.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy .

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