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Car reviews - Land Rover - Range Rover Sport - 5-dr wagon range

Launch Story

Land Rover logo2 Aug 2005

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

LAND ROVER'S Range Rover Sport deserves its own name.

For starters, it isn't a Range Rover at all. Even though it looks like a scaled-down version of the 1995-2002 P38 model.

In fact, LR says it hopes to snare fans of the P38 who cannot or don't want to make the financial and/or size leap to the latest Range Rover Vogue.

Because lurking underneath the Sport's relatively rakish and eye-catching body is DNA of the latest Discovery, right down to most of the engine choices, quick-witted transmission and height-adjustable air suspension.

And inside it's as cosy and comfortable as owners of older Range Rover models expect, except that there's a whole heap more technology wrapped in a cabin that seems better built, more ergonomic and just as luxurious as any model previously.

A firmish but supple ride adds to the salubrious feel of this Solihull-sourced SUV.

Yet the new Discovery underpinnings are immediately obvious in the Sport's hugely impressive off-road abilities.

Having that separate chassis and advanced Terrain Response technology takes the sweat as well as the guesswork out of serious off-roading.

The Sport only looks like it can't follow a Disco when it clearly can, as a test over an extremely rugged 4WD track proved beyond reasonable doubt. It goes places you wouldn't dream of taking a VW Touareg to, let alone a BMW X5.

All is takes is a push of a couple of buttons to raise the suspension and get all the electronic aids in place, as well as the ability to point and squirt.

Speaking of which, when used on-road, the Sport's accelerator might surprise because of how responsive it is - although this depends on which model you drive.

Unfortunately the 2.7-litre V6 turbo-diesel was absent from the launch program.

And the 4.4 V8 tested on the open road is certainly powerful enough but hardly an out-and-out sports car as far as instant response is concerned (a 2.5-tonneage sees to that).

It's as quick as you'd want a vehicle of this size to be but not quite the rocket that a 4.4 badge would have you believe.

Plus, without the adjustable anti-roll bar and trick dampers to quell bodyroll, the 4.4 Sport just doesn't seem quite as tight and taut as the BMW.

It does, however, handle and corner much, much better than anything ever shaped like this has ever before.

No, for a semblance of sports car-like performance it's the 4.2-litre supercharged V8.

Driven on a race track fast by us but incredibly hard by racing car professionals with GoAuto as a passenger, the supercharged Sport belies its blunt aerodynamics, high seating position and upright stance by flying around the racetrack with impressive degrees of grip, roll-resistance (that'd be the Dynamic Response suspension-firmer) and strong stopping power.

Sadly, again, there weren't any opportunities to drive the supercharged Sport on any public roads.

However, it seems unlikely that, with the Discovery's T5 off-road chassis underneath, BMW's X5 will be reeled in as the sportiest SUV in this segment.

Which is another reason why the Sport tag - though appropriate in comparison to any Land Rover that's ever come before it - isn't really quite the complete description for the SUV LR calls the Range Rover Sport.

But it's still a quick, competent and satisfying all-rounder that will please more SUV buyers more of the time than any of the Sport's current-model competitors - with the exception, ironically enough, of its brilliant but more expensive Vogue brother that also carries the Range Rover moniker.

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