Wheels

Test Driving Land Rover’s Range Rover Sport

It has a supercharged 550 horsepower gas V-8 model option.

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Growing up in Hunt Country, I enjoyed our region’s ineffable connections with Britain. My Britannic memories include the Cotswoldesque Brandywine Valley views, the equestrian and fox hunting events in nearby rural communities and the sightof numerous residents driving Jaguars, Land Rover vehicles and other iconic British sportcars. 

Little did I know that, later in life, my youthful memories would be amplified during frequent trips to various parts of England as an employee of a Delaware-based subsidiary of a British company. Seeing and riding in a variety of British cars was an enjoyable benefit during those trips. 

As such, I readily accepted an invitation to drive the newest Land Rover Range Rover HSE Sport model around Hunt Country. There are a number of variants of the Range Rover Sport. Mine had a 3.0-liter, 254-horsepower turbocharged V6 diesel engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Step up to the supercharged gas model, and you get a 5.0-liter V8 engine that makes 510 horsepower. Want even more power? Consider the supercharged 550 horsepower gas V-8 model. 

My first impression: elevated, stately, brutish, distinctive and beautifully crafted. The fit and finish is “tickety boo,” as my British friends would say. Once behind the wheel, there were more first impressions: an array of controls, luxury materials, comfortable seating, contemporary yet sporty. Much more SUV than my own SUV. 

The manufacturer ensures that all-terrain performance is instilled in every vehicle. Prototypes are tested on approximately 5,300 miles of the most demanding off-road routes—from the icy proving grounds of Sweden to Dubai’s desert sands. And climate chambers can create challenging wind conditions. 

Land Rover Range Rover Limited believes that only by pushing all systems to their limits can they achieve true excellence. That includes 112-mph crosswinds, freezing vehicles to -40 F and baking them to 120 F. Using its monsoon simulator, the company drenches vehicles with nearly 19,000 gallons of specially dyed water, checking for even the slightest leak, ensuring that each vehicle can enter and exit a body of water and stay dry inside the cabin. In addition, the cabin is exposed to a range of sound frequencies and vibrations to ensure that your Range Rover Sport sounds refined at every speed. 

Overall, I found the Range Rover Sport to be in a class by itself. Its competitors are the Mercedes-Benz GLE, Cadillac Escalade, Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne. 

The Range Rover Sport is kitted out for comfortable cruising and off-road adventure. Driver and front passenger seats are power adjustable and heated. There’s a dual-zone climate control system, a panoramic roof with a power sunblind and a solar reflective windshield and rear privacy glass. Additional features of my model included tow assistance, blind-spot monitoring, speed limiter and 360-degree parking aid. 

The vehicle’s electric air suspension system automatically switches between two ride heights when you select the off-road setting. Maximum ground clearance is increased by 2.6 inches above normal ride height at speeds under 31 mph. My model had All Terrain Progress Control to help me set and maintain a steady speed in “challenging conditions.” The system works seamlessly alongside other terrain systems. 

The turbocharged six-cylinder diesel engine surprised me, accelerating better and more quickly and quietly than I expected—zero to 60 miles per hour in 7.1 seconds. Top speed is 130 mph. That’s exceptional performance for such a large vehicle. 

Acceleration from zero to 60 mph for the four gasoline engine Sport models ranges from 6.9 seconds to 4.5 seconds (for the 550 horsepower supercharged V8 model). 

These speed ratings reflect the Range Rover’s weight-efficient, all-aluminum unibody, which is built to withstand the same off-road use as all Land Rover vehicles. And this structure is supported by an excellent front and rear suspension to provide the responsive and agile handling and ride quality that I experienced. 

Additional ride quality is delivered by the Range Rover’s Hill Descent control technology, which helps you control descent of difficult slopes by maintaining a constant speed and applying braking separately to each wheel. Hill Start Assist will prevent the vehicle from rolling backwards as you pull away on an incline. 

At the end of my week of driving the Range Rover Sport, I realized that I had no criticism of the vehicle—only praise of its extraordinary performance and comfort. It lived up to the iconic Land Rover reputation and heritage in every respect. 

The Range Rover exudes innovation and attention to detail. As you drive, it even displays actual roadside speed-limit signs in miniature above the vehicle’s speed. 

The Land Rover Range Rover I drove costs $73,645. The fuel economy rating is 24 mpg combined city/highway. It’s interesting to note that Land Rover is committed to enhancing the sustainability of its products. Its greener credentials stem from a comprehensive approach to reducing environmental impact throughout the life cycle of the vehicle, from development and manufacturing to customer use and end-of-life. 

A jolly good objective. 

The Hunt Spring 2018  Issue

This article was published in Wheels from the Spring 2018 issue.
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