2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Has Ludicrous Power and Lavish Luxury
There’s a new Range Rover Sport in the royal British automotive family of Land Rover, so move over, Baby George! The all-new, second-generation Sport is the fastest Range Rover to date; it is lighter by 800 lbs., and you get a choice of engines that includes a – let’s just say it – ludicrously-powerful 510-horesepower supercharged version, plus more “Range Rover-ness” luxury and Star Wars-like technology--so say the Range Rover folks. And, here’s a pop quiz: what was the vehicle that Brit Baby George had his first ride in? A Range Rover! The new model has a starting MSRP of $63,495.
Available in dealers now, the 2014 Range Rover Sport competes with a small cadre of other high-end and high-powered utility models that includes the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5, Audi Q7, and Mercedes-Benz M- and G-Class. Chris Marchand, Jaguar Land Rover’s Executive V.P. of North American operations, says the Sport is now the top-selling vehicle in the Jaguar Land Rover portfolio and this luxury niche player is a “homerun and exceeding supply. It has a new design language and its breadth of capabilities has been expanded, along with other transformations that make it capable from a muddy field to the opera.” During out test drive of it in northern California’s trendy and upscale Menlo Park, we didn’t make the opera, but we did make it to a muddy field, as driving in the lands beyond is a land Rover ethic.
So, what is it? The Range Rover Sport is an upscale SUV that has two distinct characters: it is one part sports machine and is faster than the Porsche Boxster with a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.0 second; it is also a true off-road expert, with higher ground clearance and greater water-fording depth than the Jeep Wrangler. While built on the same chassis as the Range Rover, the Sport is comprised of 75 percent different parts. On the outside, the Sport has classic Range Rover proportions and styling, with a little bit of sculpting and polish. The winged headlamps cap a curved, wide grille and top whiskered air intakes. A low air dam includes integrated fog lights. Its aluminum body is 33 percent lighter, it rides on a chassis that has 25 percent greater body stiffness, with a 6 percent aerodynamic improvement, enhanced NVH (quietness) and 27 percent better fuel economy. It rides on mud and snow tires so its owners are ready when the paved road turns to dirt, mud, or ice.
Wide, long sides are accented with Range Rover’s signature vertical air intakes behind the front wheels. A longer wheelbase and longer overall length is balanced by a nearly 6-inch reduction in height. The rear taillamps are more compact and bisected by twin horizontal lines.
Stepping inside, the first thing you’ll likely notice is the cockpit-like environment that greets the driver, with seats that are lower and more cosseted, that Land Rover says allow you to sit “in the car, not on the car.” The luxury cabin is finely appointed and has been given an updated treatment with sharper angles, straighter lines and cleaner surfaces that have 50 percent fewer switches than the previous model. The center stack is higher to make it easier to reach controls and read gauges. Clear analog gauges and a 5-inch TFT (thin film transistor) display are easy to read, and a new 12.3-inch, high-resolution TFT virtual gauge display is available on up-level trims, which also include an 8-inch high-resolution infotainment touchscreen.
There are 11 interior color choices, four aluminum trim types and three wood trim options to choose from; seats are leather with specially selected stitching. The front seats are heated and cooled with 14-way power adjustments; rear seats can be ordered with heating/cooling and adjustments, as well. There’s a third-row set of two seats that aren’t quite jump-seats, but also aren’t meant for long-haul comfort. Land Rover calls the power-folding, third-row seats its “5 + 2 secret, or occasional seats.”
There are three options for stereo sound systems; all have great sound quality and up to 23 speakers. Standard is an 8-inch touchscreen and integrated audio controls in the steering wheel, as well as Bluetooth connectivity, voice controls and a USB input. Standard is a two-zone climate control system and optional four-zone system, as well as optional rear seat entertainment.
Technologies include a rear camera and extensive sensor systems with lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, rear back-up assist, flank guard (for avoiding side damage when maneuvering around pillars in a garage, for example) and adaptive cruise control. There’s also blind spot monitoring and an approach sensor for other cars that are closing in too fast.
The new Range Rover Sport comes with a choice of two powertrains: a new 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 delivers 340 horsepower and 450 lb.-ft. of torque and a 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 makes 510 horsepower and an enormous 625 lb.-ft. of torque. EPA fuel economy estimates for the V-6 are 17 mpg city/23mpg highway, while the V-8 is rated at 14/19 mpg city/highway.
Both engines are matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission with stop/start fuel saving technology and come with permanent four-wheel drive – the standard V-6 version has a single-speed transfer case; V-8 versions have a two-speed transfer case, with a terrain response system that automatically engages traction and performance capabilities based on conditions that include the following: Auto, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl.
We drove both V-6 and V-8 versions of the new Range Rover Sport on a road course of over 150 miles along California’s coastal highway and on the narrow and winding paved roads of the Santa Cruz Mountains to a mid-day stop at a challenging and lengthy off-road course on a ranch. We had driven this brand-new model when it came to the U.S. market in 2005 and were surprised by its dual-purpose prowess then. We were even more surprised at the capabilities of this all-new version that has upgraded every area of performance and, at the same time, has improved fuel economy. We were enamored by the great growl, swift acceleration, and road-handling qualities of the V-8, but thoroughly enjoyed the fast and “sporting,” but more quiet-mannered V-6.
Also impressive is the Sport’s stopping power, along with a cadre of top-flight safety technologies including standard ventilated front and rear brakes, with Brembo front calipers on the V8 model; also standard are ABS, emergency brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brakes lights, corner brake control, hill descent control, gradient release control, hill start assist, dynamic stability control, traction and roll stability control.
Stable handling comes from Land Rover’s front SLA suspension with twin lower links and air springs that combines with the rear integral link suspension with air springs to help Range Rover Sport be more off-road ready. Driving the Sport over the technical 4WD course, its approach, departure and breakover angles, as well its ground clearance and tight turning radius off-roading were laudable. Most notable is Land Rover’s extraordinary terrain response system that does the work of a team of experts with notable and swift reaction, truly allowing the driver to go along for a safe and competent ride.
The 2014 Range Rover Sport comes in four versions: SE (starting at $63,495) and HSE ($68,495) trim levels come with the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6; Supercharged and Autobiography models ($79.995 and $93,295) are powered by the supercharged V-8 engine.