The Land Rover Range Rover Sport is all-new for 2014. The 2014 Range Rover Sport aims to match Range Rover's flair with driving dynamics more suitable to a big premium sedan and trail-ability to shame many a four-wheel drive.
Both the new V6 and the V8 are supercharged and equipped with an 8-speed automatic and stop/start for fuel economy. (The V8 was available in last year's model; everything else is new for 2014.) The 2014 Range Rover Sport weighs 800 pounds less than last year's model, according to Land Rover, so performance and fuel economy with either engine are improved over its predecessor. However, even the big diet only brought weight to the 5,000-pound range, so don't expect stellar fuel economy.
Only two inches longer, the 2014 Range Rover Sport adds seven inches of wheelbase over the previous-generation. That yields an improved ride, more back seat room with easier entry, and an available token third-row pair of seats. It does a good job of disguising its size, nearly a foot longer than the original Range Rover. Relatively speaking, cargo area is on the small side, but the Rover's towing capacity is among the best.
Leather, real wood and aluminum set the stage, with upgrades available for all. Finishes and features parallel the Range Rover, while styling is more London loft than formal gentlemen's club. Four adults are comfortably accommodated. Plenty of gadgetry is available, including a surround-sound system that may leave you breathless, cameras all around, and the ability to get itself out of a parallel parking spot if you're worried about scuffing the paintwork.
Full air suspension keeps the Range Rover Sport well controlled, and a plethora of electronic chassis and driver aids let it devour a winding road at a brisk pace. Those same pieces allow a comfortable, confident ride off the pavement, with similar aids from on-board electronics to get through obstacles that will stop most challengers.
The V6 models have more power per pound than last year, and the 510-horsepower V8 generates prodigious thrust and an exhaust bark to go with it. For decades, Range Rovers were genteel keep-calm-and-carry-on vehicles. The all-new Range Rover Sport is the most driver-oriented Range Rover and the first to really deserve the Sport moniker.
Range Rover Sport gives another choice to luxury performance utility buyers, competing with BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Porsche Cayenne, perhaps even a well-optioned Volkswagen Touraeg or Infiniti FX50. Three-row shoppers pit Range Rover Sport against Audi's Q7, Mercedes' GL and the X5 option. The Sport won't quite run with the likes of X5 M, M63 AMG or Cayenne turbo but those cost more, and while the others offer a diesel or hybrid, stay tuned.
Range Rover Sport SE ($62,600); HSE ($67,600); Supercharged ($79,100); Autobiography ($92,400)
Now built on much the same platform as the Range Rover the Sport's family resemblance is obvious, but so are the sleeker lines and more aggressive demeanor.
Most of the classic Rover design cues made it to the Sport. The clamshell hood opening begins the character line that carries aft to the taillights and the broad expanse and low cowl provide a great forward view. Black pillars all around effect the floating roof, though this goes away on some contrast-color-roof paint pairings. Horizontal styling themes dominate the end, while the side window lines taper rearward much more than the big brother. And the short-nose, long-tail proportions aren't so pronounced as on the Range Rover.
Rather than side gills, Sports get angled vents to better impart the image of speed, while the protruding door sills and flared wheel arches mimic the hunkered down look of Auotbahn bruisers rather than off highway vehicles. Bumpers are nearly flush but available electronic aids will help prevent you scuffing them (not others). The Sport does not get the split tailgate/hatch arrangement of the Range Rover, and with the air suspension in normal ride height your correspondent's head found the protruding hatch latch every time he opened it; use caution if you're over six feet.
Bi-xenon headlamps, rear fog lights and LEDs all around give the Sport identity at night, while telltale clues about options are trim levels can be found in badge, mirror and brake caliper coloring, wheel sizes and styles and available equipment. All have dual exhausts, the V6 mildly flared tips and the V8s rolled tips. Don't let a Supercharged badge fool you, all Sports are supercharged.
Awash in leather, wood, lacquer or aluminum trim the cabin feels as luxurious as a Range Rover should, very similar to the big Rover just a bit cozier and not so light and airy. If you don't feel at least lightly spoiled here someone else should be driving. Soft-touch materials abound, the assembly looks like good hand-made stuff and there's no chrome to reflect glaring sun on safari, though a couple of the available high-gloss woods might.
Supportive front seats have plenty of adjustments to fit a wide variety of shapes and sizes in different grades of leather, piping and color combos, both with three-person memory. Non-Rover types will mistakenly hit a memory button because they are on the armrest where most window switches are while the windows are on the top of the door panel. In addition to the snowboard-wide center armrest, each front seat has a fold-down, infinitely adjustable inboard armrest. Autobiography headrests are sybaritic, pillow soft and winged so your head doesn't flop when you fall asleep.
Rear seats are bigger than the outgoing model though we wouldn't call it spacious. With a tall front passenger's knees at the glovebox the 6-foot associate couldn't fit easily behind him, like they did in a big Range Rover, but two tall and two average split diagonally fit fine, assuming everyone cooperates. Rear seats recline slightly, are nearly as comfortable as the thrones in front, and can be equipped with climate control.
Although the first-generation Sport was derived from the 7-seat LR4, this generation is the first to offer a third row. Wisely called 5+2 seating, anything else is too optimistic, the power folding seats are designed for kids, sub-teens in our estimation. There are model and tire limits on when you can order the third row, and it takes the space of the spare tire; a sealant system is offered in its place (and Land Rover is working on an outside spare-carrier). We don't recommend the third row. If you need three rows, we recommend the Land Rover LR4 or a larger SUV.
Most Range Rover Sports use analog gauges on which the gradations change color in sports driving mode. They're clear and functional, supplemented by bar-graph temperature and fuel. The display in between offers a host of trip, car and other information, run mostly through the steering wheel spoke thumb controls and sometimes the end of the stalk controls.
Top-line cars get a full-screen panel with analog gauge depictions. This offers more display options and information but the needles ratchet as revs or speed climb or fall rapidly rather than rotate fluidly; if you really watch instruments try this option before committing.
Button-count is down considerably, so in some cases you will go through more steps on the touch-screen. We'd call it improved, though we'd also call the touch-screen the least refined of the cabin components. The detailed information available on the screen is either impressive or overwhelming, for example, it can display which wheel is approaching its travel or traction limits.
The other component we're less than enthused with is the ZF/BMW-derived shifter. This joystick is push forward to go backward, pull back to go forward, press one button for park and another to activate the lever (it moves without it, just doesn't do anything), and manually downshift tapping forward like Mazda and BMW and racers do. We know how it works and why it works that way, but we all fumbled and cursed at it more than once, though this improves with familiarity. On V8 models, you can also use the paddles to semi-manually upshift and downshift.
Climate control, dual- or four-zone, worked as we wanted; ventilated front seats are worth a few degrees on their own. The big sunroof's shade is better than most but the car is still a greenhouse. With 380 watts we thought the standard sound system might have more impact, but the upgrade 19-speaker Meridian system was wonderful. Pop for the 3D surround-sound with rated 1.7-kilowatt amplification and the rear entertainment screens and your kids will not want to get out.
The cargo area is well-finished, lighted and covered, but smaller than before. It carries 28 cubic feet of luggage second-row seats up and 62 cubic feet seats folded, less than what's found in the 2013 BMW X5, Mercedes M-Class and GL-Class, Volkswagen Touareg, Audi Q7, as well as some of the smaller SUVs. Only the Infiniti FX and Porsche Cayenne have similar space.
A power hatch conceals the rear wiper under the spoiler. The load floor isn't level with the hatch opening but curves gently so heavy items aren't quite so much struggle. The Range Rover Sport carries a full-height spare tire under the rear floor and the flat full-size it replaces will fit in the well.
The Range Rover Sport combines the quiet, confidence-inspiring control and ride of the big Range Rover with more enthusiasm, higher grip and a sportier edge. It is one of the few vehicles that can handle outback trails and cruise interstates serenely.
Range Rover Sport went on a strict diet for 2014, shedding at least 10 percent of its weight by replacing the steel backbone with a stiffer aluminum structure. A solid base with less weight are primary advantages in automotive physics.
Now about the same weight as most competitors, the Range Rover Sport feels lithe and agile, following the ability of the German triumvirate (BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen) to make a big box feel lighter than it is. The weight is well distributed among the corners, and the default power split favors the rear axle to help it feel more like a rear-drive car. Air suspension soaks up huge dips with ease and keeps the patter from narrow-sidewall tires to a hushed minimum. It also raises the car for clearance off the highway and lowers it for less aero drag on the highway.
The Range Rover Sport can be equipped with more acronyms than an airplane, and plenty of them are aimed at making it change directions or corner better: Ultimate grip depends more on tires and balance than on electronic trickery. Well-equipped Sports will apply a brake and torque vector the rear differential to help it turn into corner quicker, shocks change their damping rates continuously, and active roll control limits body roll. For a big girl she gets down a winding road with considerable aplomb, and while the fully controlled V8 is quicker, I found the standard setup V6 a more involving drive, like I was driving the car rather than pointing the steering wheel and letting the car sort out the fastest way. And there was less system noise in the background since there were fewer actuators and electronically processed actions. The electronic chassis control does offer a better ride on rough side-to-side motion roads because the de-coupled antiroll bars give less head toss.
With Terrain Response, you can choose whatever drive mode you like or you can leave it in Auto and the system will pick the best setup for each driving situation as you encounter it. By employing a battery of sensors and 500 calculations per second, Auto tends to pick appropriately for anyone who doesn't make their living on test courses, and matches most of those.
Electric-assist steering is quiet and smooth on the Range Rover Sport. In the past, the sheer mass of rotating parts never made steering feel a Range Rover specialty, so this is the sportiest yet in that regard, save maybe the Evoque. With the longer wheelbase and big wheels (255/50R19 minimum tire size), the Sport isn't quite as maneuverable as before but the optional park assist system will not only steer you into a parallel or perpendicular spot, it will get you out of a parallel spot.
The supercharged V6 engine is rated at 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, with strong torque available early in the rev band. Although less powerful than the previous V8, the V6's power to weight ratio is better because of the diet. An 8-speed automatic transmission improves acceleration without hurting fuel economy, and automatic Stop/Start may help your urban fuel use, or at least please the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA ratings are now up to 17/23 mpg City/Highway, or 19 Combined miles per gallon. By trip computer we averaged 17.6 mpg on pavement and edged 20 mpg on the highway.
The supercharged V8 carries over with 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque and gets Stop/Start as well. Land Rover speaks of 0-60 mph acceleration in the 5-second range, which is not as quick as a Cayenne turbo, X5 M or ML63 AMG but darn fast by Range Rover standards. Range Rover Sport's V8 emits a subdued rumble at idle and small throttle applications, then switches to an authoritative bark when you get on it; most Sport owners should appreciate it but I did not enjoy being awakened from my Autobiography nap by such shenanigans and racket, as wind and road noise were all but absent at 75 mph. EPA numbers are irrelevant in 500-hp, 5000-pound utilities; if you want fuel economy get a diesel.
Sports with the V6 come with all-wheel drive; four-wheel drive with low-range gearing is optional on V6 and standard on V8. On 4WD you can change from high to low range at speeds of up to 37 mph, but it'll be an unlikely occasion that you want to be in low range at 37 mph.
Off-highway performance is worthy of the Range Rover name, sloppy mud or heavy snow is about the only thing the standard tires can't cope with. On dedicated winter tires the plows will be heading in before you do. If it floods, a properly driven Sport can handle standing water more than 2.5-feet deep.
We did not drive an active cruise control car in highway conditions, though we are pleased to report it did not false-alarm, interpreting a hairpin turn guardrail as impending collision as many other such systems have.
Every Sport is rated to tow 7700 pounds though you'll have to balance carefully as tongue-weight limits may be different than you're accustomed to.
The all-new 2014 Range Rover Sport combines that intangible panache Range Rover has had for years that competitors are still trying to crack with formidable on-road performance as defined by autobahn bruisers. It offers plenty of features, comfort and luxury. It offers on-road performance and off-highway capability.
G.R. Whale filed this report after his test drive of the Range Rover Sport in Northern California.