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Car reviews - Land Rover - Range Rover Sport - TDV6 5-dr wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Superb tractable performance from new twin-turbo diesel V6 agility for a large SUV blend of on-road and off-road finesse
Room for improvement
Feels as wide as a block of flats in town, becoming expensive

14 Dec 2009

OLD MONEY is very familiar with the Range Rover the luxury 4WD has been parked up beside sandstone estates, polo fields and the like since 1970. It’s the new money - and those with less money to spend - that Land Rover is chasing with its cheaper, more nimble Range Rover Sport.

The addition of Jaguar Land Rover's new twin-turbo V6 diesel engine as a key part of a 2010 model-year facelift for the five-year-old Sport, and has infused the entry-level Rangie with a well-rounded athleticism that makes the TDV6 arguably the pick of the range.

The Sport remains a chunky design that's unmistakably related to its big brother, the Range Rover Vogue. The addition of LED lights and the front-end freshen-up suits a design that is maturing well, and gives the MY2010 owners sufficient differentiation from the legion of MkI Range Rover Sports mixing it up in the wealthier suburbs.

The interior has also been given a light going over and while it has most things you’d expect from a premium luxury SUV, it doesn’t offer some features you might expect - such as a reversing camera.

A large centre stack and console dominates the cabin of the Sport, which makes it feel smaller than it really is. The cabin feels more compact than that of the cavernous Discovery 4, and the cargo area is not the accommodating space you might expect it to be.

At least you have the choice of lifting the complete tailgate or just the window and frame section to get to the cargo space, which makes it handy in tight parking spaces or when wedging in the last bit of soft cargo.

The seats are supportive and there is plenty of occupant space, while the combination of a high seating position and Land Rover's trademark low window line makes it easier to see out to the front and sides than some passenger sedans.

The Sport is still one of the easiest large luxury SUVs to manoeuvre - which is a blessing because as a wide vehicle at two metres, you will know every inch of its side mirrors while travelling along narrow urban streets.

The centrepiece of the 2010 Sport range is of course the new turbo-diesel V6. The parallel sequential turbocharging requires a long-winded technical explanation, so let us cut to the chase. It works.

This is a brilliant engine with all the benefits of turbocharging without any of the lagging drawbacks. Land Rover claims that the 3.0 TDV6 delivers 500Nm of its 600Nm of torque just 500 milliseconds from idle, and while response off the mark does not feel that quick, it is clear the delay in response is amazingly short for a turbo-diesel SUV.

The engine fires up quickly and settles to a smooth and relatively quiet idle, and the engine just gets more impressive from then on. It is very responsive, and a prod of the accelerator gets the Sport lifting its nose in a way that the previous single-turbo TDV6 could never do.

The midrange is superb - brush the throttle and the Sport shoves its way forward in a manner that makes it seem far more agile than a big, heavy SUV has any right to feel.

Even when revved, this engine is smooth and relatively quiet. Yes, you’ll know it’s a diesel, but you won’t be constantly reminded of that with incessant clattering and vibrations coming from the engine bay.

But while the engine is a treat, the transmission isn’t quite so spectacular.

Even though selecting the auto transmission’s Sport prograe improves the speed of gearshifts, in certain situations when left in Drive, the transmission seems to pause as it decides to unlock the torque converter. That's not unusual these days as manufacturers pursue methods that will glean the best fuel economy, but it can become annoying if you want to quickly access the extremely generous torque reserves the TDV6 offers.

It’s like the transmission has reintroduced some of the lag that the twin-turbocharging removed.

But that’s really being picky. It’s otherwise hard to fault this excellent powertrain, and if you really want to access its performance there is always the transmission’s manual mode, which allows you to keep the engine on the boil.

Land Rover says that the 3.0 TDV6 will achieve 9.2L/100km in combined urban/highway use. During our test, we achieved an average of 8.7L/100km on an easy highway cruise, and 14.5L/100km in short urban runs including peak-hour traffic. Given the performance on tap, these are very good figures.

The all-independent height-adjustable air suspension provides a lush ride, making the Sport one of the best-riding 4WDs on the market, although its 19-inch wheels and low-profile tyres do betray their inherent lack of compliance by thumping over potholes.

The Sport corners without much bodyroll and while it certainly feels big and heavy, it is more nimble than its taller close relation, the Discovery 4. The responsive steering - albeit a little too light in assistance - and relatively agile chassis make the Range Rover Sport pretty confidence-inspiring.

The Rangie Sport is easy to drive quickly, and its brakes are nice and strong too.

Off-road, the Sport has very good wheel travel for an all-independent design and while it may lack the inherent stability of traditional long-travel live axles, it more than makes up for it with excellent traction aids such as the now-familiar Terrain Response system, which allows the driver to select a specific set-up to suit particular terrain.

There are few luxury SUVs that are as well-rounded as the Range Rover Sport TDV6.

The addition of the new diesel engine makes the Sport even more compelling than before and even though it has become more expensive there will be plenty of Sport buyers who will appreciate the sledgehammer performance and subtle refinement of the new TDV6 engine.

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