Car reviews - Land Rover - Range Rover Sport - TDV6 5-dr wagon
Land Rover models
Fastback Range Rover looks, interior comfort, diesel engine’s economy doesn’t come at the cost of performance, weight loss has helped dynamics, keeps genuine off-road ability
Room for improvement
Wide centre console eats into front-seat legroom, analogue dash, low-brow audio settings, falling roofline will leave taller owners ducking under tailgate
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17 Nov 2014
By BARRY PARK
Price and equipment
The five-variant Sport line-up includes two diesel V6-engined models in different states of tune, a diesel V8, and either a supercharged petrol V6 or V8.
We’re testing the cheapest Range Rover Sport that money can buy, the $102,800 TDV6 SE, powered by a 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel V6 that continually sends its drive to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. If you’re shopping at the top of the range, the supercharged V8 costs from $182,400 before on-road costs.
Price-wise, that stacks up more steeply than the opposition, although you do get a lot of lightweight metal for your money.
For instance, the BMW X5 xDrive40d, powered by a stonking unbent 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel six costs from $115,900, or if the Range Rover’s subtle fastback coupe-like styling is more to your liking, the X6 xDrive40d featuring the same engine as in the X5 costs from $127,545.
Audi’s ageing Q7 will sit you behind the wheel of a single-turbo 3.0-litre diesel-engined model priced from $90,500.
Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, offers its ML350 CDI with a single-turbo 3.0-litre V6 with eyebrow-raising performance priced from $101,900, while Porsche will sell you a single-turbo 3.0-litre diesel V6 for $101,100 with an options list as long as your arm.
The Range Rover Sport, then, is surrounded by sharks. However, while the others pretend to have mud-plugging ability, the Range Rover Sport has it – an important point of differentiation.
Standard equipment runs to LED daytime running lights and tail-lights, on-the-fly height-adjustable suspension that ties in with a pop-up dial for matching the terrain to off-road driving modes, rear parking sensors that tie into the eight-inch colour screen mounted high in the centre of the dash, leather trim (white in our test car), dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, an eight-speaker audio system that underwhelmingly only adjusts for time and bass, Bluetooth phone connection with voice control, rain-sensing wipers and headlights that switch themselves on at dusk, anti-glare rearview mirror, satellite navigation and more.
It looks good, too, sitting on default 19-inch alloy wheels with a full-size alloy spare tucked under the boot floor, with bonnet- and guard-mounted air vents lending aggression to the fastback lines.
As with the luxury car set, though, how much you spend on a Range Sport depends on how much you individualise it. Metallic paint on our test car was a $2100 spend, a panoramic sunroof that really brought the outdoors inside the cabin was $4000, and adding front parking sensors – a bit of a must for the urban jungle – is part of a $3860 comfort pack that adds Xenon headlamps and a self-dimming function for the high-beam setting.
All up, our test car included almost $20,000 of extra spend that did do a lot to improve looks and functionality.
This is what Range Rover does well. Crack the big, slabby door to the driver’s seat (which, by the way, hangs so low it can catch on gutters), and you’re translated into a world of feel-good opulence.
Again, we’re slightly skewed here, as another item on our short optional extra list for this test car was the 14-way electric adjust seats. Big, comfortable and supportive, they include a function that crushes your torso in to stop it flopping around through a series of corners.
Looking around, just about everything apart from some door trim and the centre stack is covered in white leather. Rather than use switches, you can bask in the warm glow of an LED interior light just by touching it. It all feels very opulent.
It’s nice in the rear, too, and more so if there are just two passengers. The deep-set rear seats have a reclining back, and centre armrest drops down to reveal a pair of sculpted cup-holders, as well as a small lidded storage bin.
If you need to seat three adults, the Sport features a flat floor that makes it easy to slide across.
All doors have deep, lined pockets that can swallow a drink bottle, with cargo nets behind both front seats to help rear-seat occupants with their storage needs. There are air vents feeding into the back seat off the centre console, but no temperature adjustment.
A disappointment in some ways is the analogue instrument cluster framing the digital display that scrolls through the various trip computer functions. It doesn’t glow an angry red when bumped into sport setting via the gear-shift lever, and there’s no “sport” button either to add a sense of occasion when things get twisty.
Down the rear, the electric tailgate will open and close at the push of a button to reveal a big, deep space for luggage. However, the boot floor is a long way off ground level, and the Range Rover Sport’s coupe-like styling means the roofline slopes quite sharply and the tailgate doesn’t lift very high.
Taller owners will find themselves ducking under it.
This time around, too, owners can add a third row of seats for $3700. They weren’t fitted to our car, so we’ll leave them for another day.
Engine and transmission
The 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 engine under the Range Rover Sport’s clamshell bonnet is good for 190kW of power from 4000rpm, and a maximum of 600Nm of torque from 2000rpm – for some reason, we’re not told the upper limit of its spread.
If you want, there’s a 215kW version of this engine producing the same torque output that is used in the $113,600 SDV6.
That unusually high 2000rpm rev limit could result in a big low-down torque hole, but the jump to an eight-speed gearbox over the old model’s six-speeder goes a long way to disguising it.
Jump on the throttle at a set of traffic lights, and the diesel-engined Range Rover Sport leaps off the line like a much more powerful vehicle. Once rolling, the Sport contains a huge reserve of accelerating power thanks to a fast kickdown and that big 600Nm serve.
The engine is also the most economical in the Range Rover Sport line-up, officially returning a Toyota Camry-beating 7.3L/100km despite its 2115kg kerb weight. On test, the engine performed admirably despite some spirited driving to test the sport claim, returning an average of 8.4L/100km.
A bonus of the Range Rover Sport is its ability to lug up to 3500kg of horseflesh, caravan or motor yacht behind it.
Ride and handling
Weight is the enemy of performance, so for this version of the Range Rover shedding 420kg compared with the entry-level diesel it replaces, you’d expect a big improvement in how it rides and corners.
So it is. Despite staring down at the road from a great height, point the Sport at a string of corners and it carves them with almost sportscar-like dynamics.
There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors involved, with the SUV’s air suspension helping to keep things flat and rock steady, but it feels a whole lot better.
So is low-speed ride. Where the old Sport tended to shudder and jiggle over patchy road surfaces, the new one glides over them with very little intrusion to the cabin. Road roar – a problem on the non-sporty Range Rover – is extremely well hushed even on our optional 20-inch alloys.
The brakes, meanwhile, are somewhat feel-free and with a long pedal travel, but have no problems standing up to a bit of punishment.
The only let-down this time around to the sport-by-name nature of what this vehicle represents is the light electrically assisted steering, which lacks depth in its connection with the front wheels. Tipping the big SUV into a corner with enthusiasm is performed more by instinct than feel.
Safety and servicing
The Range Rover Sport, like many expensive vehicles, doesn’t carry an independent crash test score. However, you’re well looked after with driver and passenger airbags, side curtain airbags that extend into the boot space even if you don’t have third-row seats installed, and thorax airbags. Even the active front seat belts are linked to the vehicle's emergency braking functions.
The warranty covers three years or 100,000 kilometres, and even includes free roadside assistance for its duration.
For $25, some Land Rover service centres will come and pick up your vehicle for a service, while some will even loan you a bike. Seriously.
Those luxury SUV owners who once snickered at the Sport badge emblazoned on a big Range Rover derriere now have less to fuel their derision. The new Sport, even in base-model form, feels deserving of the badge while punting around the streets of Toorak or Balmain or wherever the gentrified like to congregate.
Besides, Range Rover Sport owners will always be able to humble rival SUV owners with one photo of their vehicle atop the Simpson Desert’s Big Red, crossing the Tanamai, or towing a mud-splattered horsebox into the water-drenched pony club grounds. Nothing else will come close.
BMW X5 xDrive40d (From $113,400 before on-roads).
Stonking 225kW of power and mid-field 600Nm from 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel, but great to drive even if the electric-assist steering lets the whole package down. Feels more of a technology showcase than the Rangie.
Porsche Cayenne Diesel (From $101,100 before on-roads).
Has the 180kW of power and the pull of the badge, but with only 550Nm not as torquey as the rest of the class. Still, drives like it should given the Porsche badge, making it the pick of the fuel-sipping performance SUVs here.
Mercedes-Benz ML350 CDI (From $101,400 before on-roads).
Classy cabin that exudes luxury feel and nice to drive off-road, although 190kW/630Nm 3.0-litre V6 somewhat outclassed by the smaller 2.2-litre twin-turbo pumping out 150kW and 550Nm. Not the prettiest SUV out there, though.
MAKE/MODEL: Range Rover Sport TDV6
ENGINE: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6
LAYOUT: Front engined, all-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION: 8-sp automatic, low-range transfer box
TOP SPEED: 210km/h
EMISSIONS: 194g/km CO2
WEIGHT: 2115kgSUSPENSION: 185mm adjustable air (f)/adjustable air (r)
STEERING: Electrically assisted rack and pinion
BRAKES: Ventilated disc (f)/ventilated disc (r)
PRICE: From $102,800 before on-roads
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