James Bond star Daniel Craig drove it through New York for the launch, now James Baggott gets his chance behind the wheel of the new Range Rover Sport… in the equally glamorous Cotswolds.
What is it?
For years the Range Rover Sport has reigned supreme in the SUV market and now Land Rover is back at it again – with an all-new variety. The king is dead, long live the king! Lighter, faster and more capable than ever before, the new model is no longer based on the Discovery, but now takes its underpinnings from the full-fat Rangie. Design DNA has been taken from the incredibly popular Evoque and mixed with the luxurious surroundings from the daddy of the line-up – it’s a potent combination and we’re in no doubt it’ll be an absolute winner.
What’s under the bonnet?
A choice of diesel and petrol units, plus there’s a diesel hybrid on the way later this year. But forget those earth-hugging iceberg pleasers, what you really want under the bonnet is the petrol station-crushing supercharged 5.0-litre V8. Not only does it sound like a Spitfire, but it’ll catapult you towards the future at warp speeds. Stats? Well, the 510bhp lump hits 60mph in five seconds dead and on to a top speed of 155mph. OK, it emits 298g/km and returns 22.1mpg, but it’s so worth it. If you’re really into getting smelly hands at the black pumps, the SDV8 arrives later this year and will be worth waiting for. In the meantime, you can pick from the 3.0-litre V6 diesel in 258bhp and 292bhp guises – the more powerful of the two hits 60mph in 7.1 seconds.
Palatial. The new Sport is awash with fresh technology, from wade depth sensors to traffic sign recognition. A real innovation is the two extra seats in the boot – these are for occasional use only, but the electrically powered perches will come in handy with families. The front seats are adjustable 14 ways, are heated and cooled and so too are those in the middle row. There’s a powered tailgate, cooled centre console that you can fit a bottle of bubbly in and soft-close doors. The Meridian 1700W stereo is brilliant and buyers can choose from nine different wheel designs in sizes from 19 to 22-inch.
What’s it like to drive?
With 420kg shaved from the weight, heavily revised steering and all-new lightweight suspension, the car feels incredibly different to drive on the road to its predecessor. In 5.0-litre form it’s ludicrously quick on all road surfaces and can claim the title of the fastest ever Land Rover to be made. Flick it into Dynamic mode and it becomes a different car – the steering quickens, it corners harder and the throttle response sharpens. It’s worlds apart from the standard mode which is far more sedate. We tested the Sport on a variety of terrains and even though it’s about as likely to see the mud as a stiletto, it’s good to know it’s amazingly capable at tackling pretty much anything you’d want to throw at it. As all-rounders go, this Sport is without doubt one of the best.
What do the press think of it?
Auto Express said: ‘It’s massively impressive’, while Autocar felt ‘Land Rover is already preparing for a rush of buyers – and they’re right to do so.’ What Car? said: ‘If anything, the Sport makes the full-size Range Rover seem superfluous.’
What do we think of it?
Make no mistake – this is the new benchmark in the SUV market. Its capabilities really are truly astonishing. I’ve been racking my brain for faults and if I’m picky the plastic feel of the paddle shifters is a little cheap and the infotainment system looks a little old in terms of graphics and speed. But that’s about it. This is a car that would please sports car drivers as much as traditional SUV drivers. And the best bit? It’s considerably cheaper than the equally-brilliant Range Rover – so it’s a bargain too…