Land Rover Range Rover Sport SUV (2013 - ) review
The Range Rover Sport is a prestige 4x4 that's hardy, sporty and luxurious. It competes with the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X6
- Brilliant on the road
- Brilliant off-road
- Cheaper than the full-size Range Rover
- Reliability is a concern
- Expensive to buy and run
- Lacks its bigger brother's split rear tailgate
At a glance
At first glance the Sport is unmistakeably a Range Rover, despite not sharing a single body panel or piece of glass with the full-size version. It shares the same wheelbase, but it’s shorter, has a lower ride height and generally has a racier, more swept-back appearance. Design cues have been taken from the Evoque, too, especially the narrow headlamps and optional contrasting roof paintwork. It’s a design which is both desirable and functional, bringing better approach and departure angles. The looks get a little more aggressive as you progress up the range, with the SVR performance model having a variety of sporty-looking upgrades for the most outlandish, in-your-face appearance.
It’s fair to say that the interior of the Range Rover Sport has as much visual impact as the outside. Soft-touch leather covers the most prominent cabin surfaces, and they’re broken up with chromey metallic bits or interestingly textured panels, so there’s plenty for your eyes, and your fingertips, to feast on. It looks really stylish, it feels effortlessly posh, and there are also heaps of optional interior trims to choose from, from carbon trim to Alcantara. The steering wheel is smaller and thicker than in the non-Sport Rangey, while the seats are more sculpted. The only let-down is the infotainment unit. It does have some great features, like a display for wading that shows camera views around the car, but the graphics are dated, the menus aren’t logical enough and the system is rather slow to respond.
Granted, the Sport isn’t as roomy as a regular Range Rover due to its slinkier shape, but there’s enough room in the back for three adult passengers to sit comfortably. For a bit (well, quite a lot) more cash, you can also specify two more seats that fold up electrically from the boot floor. However, they’re very tight on space, so anyone bigger than a small child will struggle to get comfy, and getting in and out takes some major dexterity as well. Obviously, travelling seven-up will make your boot a lot smaller, but in five-seat mode, it’s absolutely massive. Unfortunately, the Sport doesn’t get the same handy split tailgate as the normal Rangey.
Ride and handling
The burning question is, does the Rangey Sport live up to the last bit of its name? Well, yes, sort of. It’s a very rewarding car to drive, with massive grip, impressive body control and sharp, responsive steering. But, while it changes direction very well indeed for such an enormous car, it’s not as agile or as precise as a Porsche Cayenne. Where it has the Porsche licked, though, is for ride comfort. With adaptive air suspension provided as standard, it glides smoothly and serenely over all sorts of bumps at all sorts of speeds. All-round refinement is just as impressive, so it’s absolutely brilliant at playing the luxury barge role. And, being a Range Rover, it’ll get you further into the wilderness than most other 4x4s. Thanks to the ingenious Terrain Response off-roading system, it can take snow, mud, rocks and sand, in its stride. The SVR version is very nearly as handy off-road; it’s only the lower front bumper that puts the slightest dent in its mud-plugging credentials. The SVR’s suspension is modified to give sharper handling, which it does, but it still isn’t quite as precise as the best performance SUVs. The SVR’s low-speed ride isn’t as smooth as that of the more humble versions’, either.
There’s a broad choice of engines available for the Range Rover Sport, all of them with enough power to haul this beast of a car around pretty quickly – no version takes longer than seven seconds to get from 0-62mph. A 302bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel forms the entry point, and there’s also a hybrid version which adds an electric motor to this engine to develop 335bhp. The other diesel choice is a 4.4-litre V8, also with 335bhp, and it’s an absolute monster. It pulls hard from absolutely anywhere on the rev range, even right up the top, which is rare for a diesel. If your pockets are deep enough, you can also have your Rangie Sport with a supercharged 5.0-litre petrol V8, with either 503bhp, or 542bhp in the SVR. We’ve tried the latter, and it’s fast enough to trouble many supercars in any situation. It also makes an appropriately nutty noise, with spits and crackles from the exhaust.
It’ll come as no surprise whatsoever that you won’t be able to run a Range Rover Sport on a shoestring. Granted, there’s the argument that, if you can afford to buy a car like this, then you can probably afford to run it. Fair enough, but there are degrees of affordability that mean you should choose carefully. Like we've already said, the petrols should be first off your list unless you’re super-rich – each returns an average of only 22.1mpg, and that’s if you behave. Which you probably won’t. The V8 diesel does much better with a figure of 32.5mpg, while the V6 diesel does 40.4mpg and the hybrid does 44.1mpg. However, with the hybrid costing so much more to buy than the V6, we reckon most buyers will be better off with the latter.
It’s no secret that, in the recent past, Land Rover’s reputation for reliability has been about as woeful as it’s possible to get. With such complex systems on board, faults have occurred with cringe-worthy regularity, and have proved very expensive to fix. You only need look at Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index for proof. These days, the brand’s reliability performance is said to have improved with models like the Range Rover and the Evoque. We’d love to believe that news, but we’re yet to see any cast-iron proof. Indeed, the only scrap of evidence we’ve seen was the warning light that appeared on the dashboard of one of our test cars, and that’s evidence to the contrary. Here’s hoping that ours was an isolated incident.
The Range Rover Sport comes stuffed with as much safety kit as you expect, with a vast collection of airbags and just about every electronic traction and stability aid you can think of. Even cleverer systems, such as traffic sign recognition, are also available. The Sport has not yet been tested by Euro NCAP, but the regular Range Rover has, and received a five-star rating, with a 91% score for adult occupant safety. We have no reason to believe that the Sport will fare any worse than that.
Whichever trim you plump for, you’ll get massive amounts of standard kit – as well you should at this price. Even entry-level HSE trim comes with luxuries like climate control, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, powered leather seats, electric windows, a touch-screen infotainment system incorporating Bluetooth, DAB, sat-nav, a reversing camera and eight speakers, as well as all-round parking sensors and a powered tailgate. HSE Dynamic trim adds a few upgrades to the performance and traction systems of your car, while Autobiography Dynamic trim adds a panoramic roof, adaptive cruise control and an even posher 19-speaker stereo. And obviously, there’s a vast array of optional extras available, which let you tailor your car exactly to your own taste.
Because you want a car for every occasion. There’s very rarely a situation you come across in the Sport where it will be anything short of excellent. From a dreary school run to a fun weekend drive to a motorway slog in terrible weather; the Sport does it all with impeccable ease. It's expensive, but worth it.