Jaguar Land Rover is riding the crest of a wave of growing sales and burgeoning profitability worldwide. This golden period is driven primarily by its product pipeline and superb brand management. Things have never been this good for Land Rover, and we get behind the wheel of the latest Range Rover Sport, which reaffirms the company’s credentials as a maker of unimpeachable luxury off-roaders. Did I just give the game away? Perhaps, but let me tell you more.
Design & Engineering
Drama. That is the word Land Rover most closely associates the latest Range Rover Sport with. The drama that Land Rover alludes to is experienced both outside in terms of this SUV’s styling, and from behind the wheel.
If you were to examine the genesis of this product line, one finds that this is the second-generation Range Rover Sport. Based on the latest Range Rover, which we test drove in Morocco previously, the new Sport shares the same all-aluminium construction. The benefits which accrue are obvious; a substantially lower kerb weight pays dividends in both performance and fuel efficiency. Added to the mix are further improvements in the car’s dynamic systems, and the new Range Rover Sport successfully advances the promise of “more Range Rover, more Sport”.
But is this just fighting talk? Obviously not, for the engineering focus has never been stronger at Land Rover. Positioning the Range Rover Sport among the luxury SUV elite is a daunting ask, and the competition’s credentials aren’t to be scoffed at. Further, buyers at this price point are spoiled for choice and chaperoning a brand to appeal to the picky tastes of its exalted clientele is no mean feat either.
Styling the Range Rover Sport wasn’t simply a case of extending the well-proven Range Rover template, but a trickier exercise in conveying the dynamism of this distinct model line. Compared to its predecessor, the new Range Rover Sport has a longer wheelbase and a much-reduced rear overhang, which indeed improves the looks of the vehicle, giving it a proper SUV stance, while simultaneously doing away with the slightly cumbersome proportions of the original. There are simple lines on this car, complemented with intricate detailing on elements such as the headlamps, front grille, and side vents on the wings. As such, the coherent whole is still very much Range Rover, but to the casual eye it does seem a mix of Range Rover proportions and Evoque chutzpah.
One significant difference between the Sport and the bigger Range Rover is the rear tailgate; on the Sport, it is a single piece unit constructed of composite plastic, while on the full-size Range Rover, it is a two-piece unit made of aluminium.
The Range Rover Sport is available with the choice of four engines – two diesel and two petrol – but for the Indian market only one engine apiece in either diesel or petrol will be available. These include the familiar SDV6 diesel with 292 PS and 600 Nm and the 5.0-litre supercharged petrol, which has 510 PS and 625 Nm. Further, the diesel is available in three trim levels, which include S, SE and HSE, while the petrol variant comes only with the top-spec Autobiography trim. In case you’re already confused with the options, Land Rover offers the Dynamic pack as a cost option on the HSE and Autobiography. The Dynamic pack includes the latest Terrain Response System (TRS II), lockable centre differential, low range gearbox and torque vectoring on the rear axle, while also adding more exclusive upholstery and wheel-design options. By comparison the ‘regular’ Range Rover Sport makes do with the simpler version of Terrain Response, has no low range gearbox or torque vectoring, and uses a simpler Torsen centre differential. Air suspension and ride-height adjustment is standard however.
Distinguishing one trim variant from the other will require you to look at the finer details, such as the front bumper, skid plates, side vents, body skirting, wing mirrors and wheel designs, which are variously finished in gloss black, brushed metal, body coloured etc. There are nineteen options for exterior colour alone, plus three variable contrast roof colours, making for 60 exterior paint combinations.
Nineteen-inch rims are standard, although buyers can opt for wheels in 20”, 21” and 22” sizes as well.
Interiors & Comfort
Stepping inside the new Range Rover Sport requires you to haul yourself up over the sill. Yes, the air suspension does lower by 10 mm when you park, but if you’re anything less than five-and-a-half-feet tall, getting in requires some effort. Once you clamber aboard however, you’re greeted by sumptuous luxury. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the people who design the interiors of Jaguars and Land Rovers have a minimalist and classy aesthetic, which can polarise opinion. For some, it may be just too understated, although I personally love the look and feel of this SUV’s cabin. Every surface is swathed in leather, and the meticulous stitching indicates both pain and pride of workmanship. When you’re spending upwards of a crore of rupees on a car, you do begin to appreciate these finer details.
The driving position is lower when compared to the Range Rover, and the centre console and dashboard are angled back. But don’t think for a moment that you’re hemmed-in in a coupe-like environment; this remains for the most part a big, tall SUV with a commanding driving position.
The rear seat can seat three adults abreast with ease, and the cabin indeed is wide enough, but the centre passenger has the least premium piece of real estate to plonk his or her backside on. There are two additional jump seats at the rear as well, but these are best deployed for children only, and that too over short distances. By comparison, the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class has more seating room in the third row and a touch more luggage space left over thereafter. Amazingly, the Range Rover Sport feels more spacious than the gargantuan Audi Q7, but then I’m sure the panoramic sunroof makes a difference here.
One amazing feature of the new Range rover Sport is the full-length panoramic sunroof. This single feature really adds to the ambience within the cabin, and driving on an autumn day with blue skies in view is something the entire family can enjoy.
Customisation is key for a model like the Range Rover Sport, and indeed on the inside customers can opt for one of 23 different upholstery and carpet combinations, and seven different trim finishers in wood or aluminium.
Performance & Handling
Driving the Range Rover Sport requires no special skills or driver coaching. It is so easy to operate, even your granny could pilot one with ease. However, if you’re a rich fat cat who rarely drives, if at all, then read no further and buy yourself something else. Because, and I cannot emphasize this enough, the Range Rover Sport is a car to drive, not to be driven around in.
We drove the SDV6 diesel, which Land Rover claims will haul the 2.4 tonne Sport to 100 km/h in just 6.8 seconds. But it’s not this accelerative performance alone which qualifies my previous statement. It is the all-round performance of the Range Rover Sport which makes it special from behind the wheel. We executed some high speed lane changing manoeuvres, a few runs through the slalom course, and some particularly frenetic braking tests, but the Range Rover Sport was unfazed by it all. We took it off-road, as these pictures will attest, and even on standard road tyres, it performed admirably. No, if you don’t like to drive, and don’t want to experience what your Range Rover Sport can do, then don’t buy it.
Refinement inside the cabin belies the fact that there’s a 3.0-litre diesel under the bonnet, and there’s little or no noise or vibration to be had anywhere. Of course, how one holds up over the course of a few years on Indian roads is another question altogether, but the structural integrity and bonded and riveted construction ensure a high degree of peace and quiet inside the cabin. The Meridian audio system is superlative as well, and you really couldn’t ask for more.
Surround view cameras not much use once covered in slush.
Features abound in the Range Rover Sport, and you have interactive interior mood lighting, climate control which allows you to heat or cool the car when parked, dual view touchscreen for driver and front passenger (they can see different things on the same screen) and a rear-seat entertainment package, with two separate screens built into the front seat headrests.
The new Range Rover Sport may be 400 kilos or so lighter than its predecessor, but it is still no flyweight. The combination of its incredible bulk and the big diesel engine under the hood mean that mileage or fuel economy will be anything but exceptional. Land Rover themselves claim the Range Rover Sport SDV6 is capable of 12.7 km/l in the combined city and highway driving cycle, while the Supercharged petrol Sport is capable of achieving 7.2 km/l. No prizes for guessing which engine most customers will opt for. Stop-start technology is available as an option, and this should improve the city figure slightly.
Sophisticated electronics keep the Range Rover Sport steady even under emergency evasive manoeuvres.
There are no compromises on safety anywhere within the new Range Rover Sport’s make-up. This SUV is a hot-seller in some of the world’s most competitive and inflexible automotive markets, and so it meets the most stringent safety requirements on the planet. There are front, side, curtain and thorax airbags in the car, plus it has all the latest sophisticated electronic safety aids, including ESP. Of course, there’s no guarantee what will happen to the other party which comes in contact with a two-and-half tonne chunk of glass and metal.
When talking about cars like the Range Rover Sport, you inevitably deal in superlatives. Not that you want to. It’s just that everything that Land Rover has done with this car, it has invested in sowing those superlatives. Dynamically, both on and off-road, the Range Rover Sport displays jaw-dropping ability. The interiors are delectably finished, and while I’m not a fan of some of the three-colour interior options, you can’t fault the workmanship. Yes, the poor resolution touchscreen panel has dull imagery, but then this has been a constant gripe with JLR for some time now.
There’s also the question of ease of ingress and egress, considering how tall it is, which restricts its usability if your family has elderly members or small children. It is also undeniably thirsty, and so that is a consideration as well.
Finally there’s the price. The bargain basement Range Rover Sport SDV6 in S trim costs INR 1.1 crore, ex-showroom, going up to Rs 1.66 crore for the 5.0 SC Autobiography. Now that is A LOT of money.
Yes, it is undeniably lovely to drive, and is wonderfully built and impeccably finished. The challenge will lie in convincing customers that it really is twice as good as a Mercedes M-Class, or Audi Q7 or a BMW X5 for that matter, and that it is indeed better than the Porsche Cayenne even.
In that sense, the new Range Rover Sport will answer as many questions as it asks.
Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne