The Range Rover Sport was launched in 2005 and Land Rover has sold 4,00,000 units till date. Evolved from Land Rover’s first concept vehicle, the Range Stormer (showcased in 2004), the first generation Range Rover Sport’s production has been stopped, as the second generation model is all set to go on sale in the next couple of months. Land Rover has announced pricing for the Sport in the UK, which starts at £59,995 for the base trim and goes up to £74,995 at the top end. The second gen Range Rover Sport is all new and shares only 25% parts with the Range Rover. It uses an all aluminium PLA platform, which results in a weight saving of 420 kgs over its predecessor (when powered by the same engine). Land Rover states the new Range Rover Sport is “the fastest, most agile, most responsive Land Rover ever”. The British company claims a 30% improvement in handling over the first gen model. The new RR Sport does a lap around the Nordschleife in 8:35 minutes, which is fast for a full sized SUV.
We had a chance to drive a Range Rover Sport prototype at Jaguar Land Rover’s Gaydon test track. The vehicle we drove used a gasoline unit, powered by a 5.0-litre Supercharged V8 engine, belting out 510 PS and 625 Nm. This engine is mated to a 8-speed automatic gearbox, with a stick shift instead of the rotary gear knob found on the Range Rover. The reduction in weight is immediately apparent, the Range Rover Sport feels more eager to throttle inputs. The engine sounds sporty (it has active exhaust system) and acceleration is brisk with 240 km/hr coming on the speedo without any fuss. 0 – 100 km/hr takes just 5.3 seconds, impressive. In Dynamic mode, the dials change to red color and the response from the motor is more immediate.
Land Rover has given the new Range Rover Sport Torque Vectoring and Active Roll Control, which works fabulously to ensure the vehicle stays planted around corners. The former system sends torque to the wheel with the most grip, thereby adjusting the balance of the car. You can actually feel the torque vectoring system working, preventing understeer with power being transferred from the inside wheel to the outside ones. We turned through corners at speeds in excess of 100 km/hr and the Rangie was thoroughly planted. The steering wheel weighs up well and is immediately different from the standard Range Rover, offering tremendous feedback. High speed stability is excellent too and you never feel you are doing 200 km/hr as the noise insulation is spot on.
The Range Rover Sport will stay true to Land Rover DNA and will offer off-road capabilities which the competition simply can’t match. While we didn’t take the vehicle off-road, we have no doubts how capable it is, since it gets the same off-road systems from the Range Rover. Other features include heads-up display, reverse traffic detection, traffic sign detection, wading sensors, InControl car app, 23 speaker Meridian system with 3D sound stage, etc. The feature list is quite long actually but we will reserve our judgement till we test these systems ourselves.
You sit slightly lower in the Range Rover Sport and the ride quality is slightly on the stiffer side (specially in Dynamic mode). Some bumps do tend to filter into the cabin but overall the ride comfort is still excellent and there is the sense of waft-ability which is associated with its elder sibling. Due to the weight reduction, Land Rover will for the first time offer a 4-cylinder motor in the Range Rover Sport (2.0-litre gasoline mill producing 240 BHP). This would go on sale by the end of the year and will weigh 500 kgs lesser than the first gen model. The mileage has improved due to the reduced girth and the 3.0-litre TDV6 equipped model will return 37 mpg (a 7 mpg improvement).
Land Rover has given the Range Rover Sport an option of 7-seats, which they call Secret Seats. The last row of seats are strictly for children and there is no way an adult can squeeze in. These seats are best used on short journeys. Interior quality and finish is top notch with the dashboard taking cues from the Range Rover. The Sport is being targeted as a tourer and thus interior comfort is paramount, the company delivers well in that regard. Our first impressions are extremely positive, the new Range Rover Sport is undeniably a significant leap over its predecessor. The Brits have certainly caused the Germans a reason to worry.
Faisal Ali Khan is the editor of MotorBeam.com, a website covering the automobile industry of India.