Car reviews - Land Rover - Range Rover Sport - V8 Supercharged Autobiography Dynamic
Land Rover models
Range Rover Sport
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Smart suspension, stupendous powerplant, luxury cabin, sound system, stance and image
Room for improvement
Infotainment system still prone to glitches, armrests redundant, some options should be standard for the price
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18 Apr 2017
Price and equipment
THE penultimate $196,800 Range Rover Sport Autobiography Dynamic features list is lengthy, as would be expected given a pricetag that knocks on the door of $200,000 before you put it on the road.
Oxford-grade tricolour leather interior with lashings of woodgrain throughout, heated, cooled power-adjustable and massaging front seats, a chunky leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, a powered rear tailgate with gesture control to operate it with a kicked foot beneath the bumper, heated rear seats, a virtual instrument panel backed by a head-up display.
If the supercharged V8 soundtrack becomes tiresome – a circumstance tough to imagine – there’s a touchscreen-controlled Meridian digital radio equipped surround sound system pushing 825 watts through 19 speakers, including a sub-woofer.
Some of the following could warrant being standard given the lofty asking price – options fitted to the $215,035 as-tested vehicle included the sliding panoramic sunroof (add $4200), a $4000 Stealth Pack that upgrades the finish on the exterior mirrors, as well as putting gloss-black non-reflective surfaces in the headlights, 22-inch satin black five-spoke alloy wheels (another $3200) and quad-zone climate control ups the price by $3200.
The wading depth sensor system, blind spot warning and reverse traffic detection adds $2220, the overhead view camera set-up is an extra $1800, “privacy” tint for the windows and an insulated windscreen is an additional $1350, the tow bar receiver adds $950 and the InControl apps another $690.
The LED-lit cabin exudes upper-class carriage, with the Oxford leather trim in Espresso,Tan and Ivory – it’s not to all tastes but perhaps unsurprisingly it was some of the younger occupants who thought it worthy of the rest of the vehicle.
Seating in the front and rear is very comfortable – even the fifth seatbelt wearer wasn’t suffering despite the rear bench being cut mainly for two rumps.
The front seats have wide-ranging electric adjustment and keep occupants well-located, not to mention climate controlled.
Folding armrests have been bequeathed to the Sport from its Rangie ancestors but the expanded centre console (which offsets the small glovebox) makes them redundant, beyond the historical nod.
The driver’s information stream from the instruments and centre display is ample, with the virtual instruments featuring a digital speed display as well as needles on dials with speed increments highlighted to good effect.
The rear doors and windows are controlled by a one-touch child door and window lock button rear occupants in the test car are well catered for, with a large centre armrest with storage and cupholders, as well as seat heating and dual rear temperature zones.
Power-hungry devices up front are catered for with two USBs, as well as 12-volt outlets front and rear.
Boot space is substantial but not cavernous to the eye, but is listed at 784 litres, rising to a claimed 1652 litres when it’s just two aboard.
Engine and transmission
The heart of this matter is the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine, which offers considerable outputs, while not cranking out quite as much as it does when ensconced under the nose of the express SVR.
The bellowing variable-valve direct-injection bent-eight delivers 375kW between 6000 and 6500rpm, with a soundtrack that all but overshadows the thrust.
Earlier in the rev range – between 2500 and 5500rpm – the Sport gets access to 625Nm, which is more than ample for rapid forward progress in a more sedate and less gregarious manner.
Should the extrovert choose to alert those in earshot (a large number even in a rural area), there’s enough impetus to shove this 2.3-tonne SUV to 100km/h in 5.3 seconds and on to a governed 250km/h top speed.
That’s just 0.6 of a second slower than an ballistic SVR – which does make a more exquisite noise doing it – in a straight line drag.
The eight-speed auto remains one of the more intelligent, smooth and quick transmissions around and the gear-selector system employed on the off-roader is far more user-friendly than that employed by other ZF customers who use the same transmission.
It is augmented by silver paddle shifters on the steering wheel and manual mode is an exercise in orchestra-conducting.
The price is paid for musical interludes and the associated press-ahead driving that delivers such a good soundtrack – the 105 litre tank is drained at a claimed combined-cycle rate of 13.7 litres per 100km.
The city cycle is closer to what you’re likely to see on the trip computer, if the highway is not a regular sight through the front windscreen – especially when over-indulging in the right pedal or bouncing around off the beaten track.
Our time finished (regrettably) with the trip computer showing 14.6L/100km, at an average speed of 47km/h, a journey that included some off-roading of sorts and some stints on the highway that offset the melodious back-road interludes.
Ride and handling
Having tortured the tyres on an SVR recently it was no surprise that the vehicle with which it shares its engine (if not to the same level of tune) was still capable of embarrassing sportscars on a winding backroad.
Physics still applies eventually – it is 2300kg, nearly 1800mm tall, endowed with serious off-road capability and a 3500kg braked towing capacity – but it doesn’t mind turning into a corner at pace either.
Opting for the Dynamic mode within the adaptively-damped suspension tightens up the chassis appreciably, counteracting bodyroll and crucifying the Continentals as you fling it into bends with the well-weighted steering of 2.7 turns lock to lock.
Torque vectoring helps the driver get on the power earlier than you’d normally dare and fire it out of bends with gusto.
The eight-speed auto can be paddle shifted or left in the aggressive Sport mode, but the fun factor of part-throttle up-changes – and the accompanying wooffle and pop from the exhaust is a bonus.
The Terrain Response system’s Automatic mode works well in most driving, as well as the rougher stuff being designated on the dial for something approaching set-and-forget off-roading.
The push-button low-range selection rarely hesitated and the height adjustable suspension hitches up the underbody.
Land Rover’s own specifications claim the approach angle improves from 24.3 to 33 degrees, while clearance of just over 210mm – as well as obstacle clearance of a claimed 278mm – suggests enough room below to clamber over some nastier terrain without any concern.
The latest incarnation of the Terrain Response offers the driver an easy path to the correct set-up for the track ahead and it prompts for the selection of low range as required centre and rear diff locks are computer-controlled and the forward progress is simple to achieve.
Raising the belly to its highest point and pointing to toward a rutted track, the only concern came from the plastic bits hanging from the nose, which hopefully can be removed by tools and not only by force.
Holding it back was the optional 22-inch alloy wheels and 275/40 Continental Cross Contact rubber, a combination that doesn’t exactly scream mud-plugging rock-hopper, but the list of traversable terrain goes beyond the flooded polo grounds that would flummox much of its opposition.
Unfussed progress is easily achievable but when it’s a quarter million dollars worth beneath you – someone else’s pride and joy – then strafing the flanks with overgrown branches isn’t something in which to indulge at length.
Stories of Rangie Sport owners buying a second set of wheels (not from dealers, who charge for one rim what you can import a whole set for) and purloining Camel Cup off-road rubber to get their vehicles dirty are far from fiction a properly outfitted Sport can amble off-road with ease.
The exterior mirrors offer good vision and the surround-view cameras scattered around the vehicle offer an informative view of what’s going on in the immediate vicinity, as long as there’s no direct sunlight on the screen in the cabin.
Safety and servicing
The Range Rover Sport range has earned five ANCAP stars and, as well as front, side and curtain airbags, it has a long list of safety systems associated with the drivetrain.
The Autobiography Dynamic shares the SVR’s brakes – 380mm discs up front with Brembo red six-piston calipers and 365mm rotors at the rear – which are controlled by a multitude of stability, traction and trailer sway control systems.
Hill descent and ascent control, as well as the ability to cope with departures on slippery terrain, are also within the Terrain Response II electronic arsenal, with the clever suspension also contributing to the big SUV’s ability to avoid problems in the first place.
There’s also an electric park brake, the surround-view camera system, front and rear parking sensors, dusk-sensing xenon headlights with automatic high beam, auto-locking doors and rain-sensing wipers also on the safety features list.
Little infotainment screen freezes bring back memories of niggly issues that have plagued the breed – and much of the British car-making industry of old – for years, which is enough to make some still think twice about a Brit over the German breeds.
The warranty period does cover the vehicle for three years/100,000km and its service intervals are 12 months or 25,000km, but as yet no capped price servicing plan is in place.
A little more subtle – and not quite as swift – as the SVR hotrod, the Sport Autobiography Dynamic has more than a bit of old-world Range Rover charm, with clever technology to take its abilities to a high level, on or off the road.
Plush within and possessing performance well beyond where such a vehicle should play, the Sport is far from a pauper’s Range Rover – pricing aside. But should we ever be fortunate enough to consider shelling out a mortgage-sized chunk of change for a vehicle, we’d still be tempted to stretch a little further to the epitome of regal automotive arrogance, the Range Rover turbo-diesel V8. It would be a tough decision to make.
BMW X5 M, from $186,600 plus on-road costs
A genuine bitumen burner SUV from BMW, the X5 gets plenty of smarts in the drivetrain department – clever all-wheel drive with torque vectoring – not to mention a 423kW/750Nm twin-turbo V8 hooked up to the same eight-speed automatic. Just over a second quicker to 100km/h (4.2 seconds is the claim) with sharp handling (although the active steering would be a delete option if there was a choice) but where the Range Rover Sport leaves it behind is when the going gets rough.
Mercedes-Benz GLE63 S, from $190,615 plus on-road costs
While the mainstream GLEs are off-road capable, the beefiest of the breed – the 63 S – can’t be had with the off-road engineering package option offered on the non-AMG cars. The high-performance arm of Benz has managed to keep plenty of its signature tune from the twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8, which offers up 430kW and 760Nm drives via a seven-speed automatic to a Beemer-matching 100km/h sprint time.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo, from $237,800 plus on-road costs
It asks quite a bit more than the two Yanks and the Brit but the less-handsome German has plenty to offer – 382kW and 750Nm from the eight-speed auto/turbo V8 drivetrain, as well as being a little lighter and lower than the other three.
The Porsche is 0.3 of a second slower to 100km/h than the US-built Germans also mentioned here, but is quicker than the Brit it’s the only one to match the Rangie’s 3500kg braked towing capacity and despite the low-range transfer case disappearing, can still get mud in its arches.
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