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

The Car

31 Mar 2006

LAND ROVER has released its fifth all-new model in the English marques’ 57-year history.

The Range Rover Sport, codenamed L320, is a luxury SUV based on the latest (L319) Discovery’s T5 platform and shares most of its underpinnings.

This is in spite of its slightly shrunken RR appearance and namesake.

However, from $85,000 to $150,000 for the 20-only fully loaded ‘First Edition’ models, the Sport straddles both of its established siblings on price.

Furthermore, although the design references the RR (particular the previous-generation P38 edition), the lower and sloping roofline, faster-rake windscreen and D-pillars, smoother clamshell bonnet, similar but slimmer headlight clusters and single-piece and more-rounded tailgate (with separate-opening glass) visually differentiate the two.

Built at Solihull in England, the Sport is meant to look like it’s "going fast even when it’s standing still" according to LR design director Geoff Upex.

Helping out its top speed is a competitive 0.37 drag coefficient rating.

Mechanically the Sport falls in line with the latest Discovery in sharing Jaguar-derived engines (a turbo-diesel V6 and a pair of AJ-V8s – 4.4 and supercharged 4.2).

All have been heavily modified to suit their LR applications.

The Sport’s archenemy may be the BMW 5 Series-based X5, but it features LR’s full complement of ‘Terrain Response’ off-road chassis developments as well as the availability of ‘Dynamic Response’ for performance-car on-road capabilities.

The latter is a hydraulically activated, computer-controlled anti-roll system that senses (by monitoring steering angle and horizontal acceleration) and then reacts to counteract bodyroll, the natural tendency of a tall and heavy vehicle through corners.

Think BMW’s ‘Dynamic Drive’ and you’ll get the picture. Dynamic Response becomes available as a $6700 option in non-supercharged models from December this year.

Steering is by the ZF Servotronic rack-and-pinion speed-sensitive system that’s rigidly mounted directly onto the chassis frame for sharper responses.

Unusually for an SUV, LR honed the Sport’s handling at Germany’s Nürburgring race circuit and the Nardo high-speed test track in Italy, so the availability of four-piston Brembo brakes raises no eyebrows.

Keen to communicate the Sport as its "best-performing and best-handling vehicle" ever, LR has dubbed it the ‘Sports Tourer’.

Nevertheless, the company says it subjected the Sport to its usual off-road test program, with in excess of six million kilometres covered in the Outback, Dubai, Death Valley, Canada, Sweden and in Great Britain over a 110 degrees centigrade temperatures.

It was devised in concert with the second-generation Discovery soon after Ford purchased LR from BMW in 2000, making the Sport only the second LR developed under its stewardship after the Disco.

So there’s a strong integrated body-frame structure (basically a refined separate ladder-frame chassis) supporting steel doors and mudguards, boron steel A and B-pillars and an aluminium bonnet and tailgate.

And underneath all models there’s independent double-wishbone air suspension made up of electronically controlled air springs that harden at speed or during cornering.

However, the wheelbase is 140mm shorter than the Discovery’s for improved agility, while the suspension is firmer for sportier responses.

Like the Discovery, there are five off-road ‘terrain’ settings – normal, grass/gravel/snow (slippery conditions), mud and ruts, sand and rock crawl – selectable by the Sport’s driver.

This accesses an assortment of advanced driver aids – namely stability, traction and anti-lock braking controls – as well as the latter’s Hill Descent function, ride height and the standard automatic gearbox.

Driving all four wheels full-time, the auto is a ZF six-speed (6HP26) unit with sequential-shift capabilities and a lower-ratio-extending Sport mode. The 4.2 supercharged Sport’s gearbox has additional clutch-strengthening to cope with the extra torque.

There’s a two-speed transfer box with on-the-fly low-range for off-road action, as well as LR’s E-diff centre and rear differentials (in V8s) for when performance dynamics are the priority.

The E-diff biases drive in a 50:50 front/rear distribution set-up, automatically varies torque depending on conditions and can lock the centre diff automatically using a multi-plate clutch.

Least powerful of the motors the gearbox is mated to is a version of the 2.7-litre common-rail turbo-diesel V6 servicing Jaguar’s S and XJ types.

Pumping out 140kW of power at 4000rpm and 440Nm of torque from 1900rpm, it has a single-KKK rather than the twin-turbocharging found in the cars mentioned above for broader low-speed tractability.

Next up comes a 220kW/425Nm 4.4-litre petrol V8, with power and torque topping out at 5500rpm and 4000rpm respectively. A lightweight unit, it features variable valve timing technology (VCP in LR speak) and oil-lubrication-abilities even at extreme angles.

Sportiest engine of the range is the closely related supercharged 4.2 V8.

Its 287kW at 5750rpm means power jumps 30 per cent, while 29 per cent extra torque (for a 550Nm maximum) helps a 0-100km/h sprint time of about 7.6 seconds – making this the fastest LR ever.

Inside the five-seater Sport steals cues from both siblings with dashboard architecture similar to the Discovery’s married to a high specification that mirrors the RR’s.

Yet the instrumentation and major controls are placed closer to the driver for a more ‘intimate’ environment despite the lofty seating.

On the safety front the strong body devised to cope with the vehicle’s performance aspirations also leads to increased crash worthiness.

Six airbags (front, side and downward-deploying full-length curtain types) are standard, along with fuel and engine cutout, doors-unlock and interior-lights-on devices in an event of a crash.

Equipment levels include automatic air-conditioning, electric front seat adjustment and an electronic park brake, while more money buys satellite-navigation, high-end audio with rear DVD screens, an integrated mobile phone, bi-Xenon headlights with cornering capabilities and adaptive cruise control (not on diesel models).

The Supercharged model also adds 20-inch alloy wheels (up from the base Sport’s 17-inch set 18s and 19s are also available), twin stainless steel exhausts and additional brightwork to the body.

LR says that, at $85,000, the Sport TDV6 is more than $10,000 cheaper than an equivalently equipped BMW X5 3.0d, while a buyer stands to save around $9000 if he/she specifies a VW Touareg 4.2 V8 to a standard Sport 4.2 V8’s level.

Sport sales begin in early August, with LR hoping to sell around 1100 units in its first year on sale, along with over 2000 Discovery models and around 200 RR Vogues.

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Did you know?

The Range Rover Sport's visuals were partly inspired by the second generation Range Rover from 1995-2002.

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