Those with a desire to purchase an automobile that is, believe it or not, equally poised hauling along well above the speed limit between walls of redwood trees and careening up a loose, 60-degree gravel slope – well, we’ve found your car.
The new Range Rover Sport, a more lithesome
interpretation of the equally new standard Range Rover (Land Rover is the
parent company, Range Rover is its prestige label, in case you wondered), made
its North American debut a few weeks back in the hills above Silicon Valley and
… I must say I am quite impressed.
As many fellow car writers noted during our day
of unbelievably twisty and often one-lane roads through the Santa Cruz
Mountains just south of San Francisco, the new Sport does the Jeckyl and Hyde
thing like no other car.
It’s well-composed and offers handling that makes
it feel like a sports car, not a 4,700- to 5,000-pound-plus SUV (though more
extensive use of aluminum in the new unibody has dropped the vehicle’s weight a
claimed 800 pounds from the previous model).
Mostly, the Sport now feels (and looks, a bit)
like a full-size version of the curious and wonderful Evoque, the company’s
smaller, futuristically styled offering. The new, full-blown, top-of-the-line
Range Rover also shares that new space-age design ethos.
At the same time, the Sport is a poised and
speed-worthy cruising machine imbued with every ounce of the 65-year-old
company’s legendary off-road prowess. And there’s even more advanced off-road
and all-weather technology than before – including an air suspension system,
and an automatic terrain response system that can sense the range of insane
backcountry hill-climbing you’re doing and mix up the modes.
We started the trip with a freeway blast followed
by a scoot through the redwoods that seemed like it was straight out of “Return
of the Jedi,” twisting around blind corners and feeling the genuinely
After our highway galavanting, we were let loose
on a 1,000-acre property across the valley from Neil Young’s house to put the
Sport to the test. From near-vertical drops to off-camber rock crawling and a
few stream crossings in the middle, the Sport did everything without breaking a
sweat. And it actually got more ground clearance (11.2 inches) and a deeper
wading depth than a standard Jeep Wrangler, as well.
Admittedly the Sport is aimed at a considerably
different audience than the Jeep (you’re more likely to see them at a high-end
outlet mall than out on a trail, as you know they’ll never do any off-road work
in their entire lives). But the car is also a little less tony than the very
high-end Range Rover, with the Sport available in variations that start at
Engine choices have now been streamlined with the
greater Jag/Land Rover family and if you remember fuel economy being in the mid
teens on the old model, there are some more gas-friendly offerings now.
A supercharged 3.0-liter V6 makes 340 horsepower
and can propel the car to 60 in 6.9 seconds, getting 30 percent better mileage
in the process (17 MPG city, 23 highway). Or, go whole hog and opt for the
supercharged 5-liter V-8, which makes a stupid-fast 510 HP. That gets the car
to 60 in a Jaguar-like 5 seconds, with a top speed of 155 MPH, all with the same
giddy gurgle and crackling as the new F-Type Jaguar. And yet it is still a
giant SUV. Think about that.
Happily, some oversized Brembo brakes are there
to help keep the speed in check, plus massive 22-inch wheels as the largest
option. A standard eight-speed transmission is also part of the package.
Still, the vehicle (a V-6 model) I spent much of
the day in was indeed $79,000, though it had nearly all the bells and whistles
you can load as part of the vehicle’s four-model range. At the top of the food
chain, the V-8 Autobiography edition will set you back at least $93,295.
Interior details are indeed sterling in the new
vehicle, with slightly gaudy two-tone Batmobile-worthy leather as an option,
plus a scalp-frying full panoramic sunroof. It’s got a clean, airplane-inspired
cockpit – a la the Evoque – with a distinctive, angled shift lever, plus a
range of surface materials including three different wood veneers and four
different aluminum finishes.
The Sport is also designated as 5+2 seating,
meaning that a small, hideaway jump seat in the very back can be used for short
trips with small humans, when necessary.
Audio has also been taken to the edge of reality
with the option of a 1,700-watt, 23-speaker Meridian 3-D sound system, which
will make your sport sound louder (and better) than a rock ‘n’ roll theater.
New Range Rover Sport happy with double duty
by Andy Stonehouse :: posted in Reviews on October 22nd, 2013