The Range Rover Sport blends on-road performance dynamics with off-road capability, boasting a powerful V8 engine and an agile chassis. The Range Rover Sport seats five and is smaller than the flagship Range Rover but larger than the Range Rover Evoque.
The 2012 Range Rover Sport is distinguished by some minor exterior styling changes. Among them: minor grille and headlight trim changes, a subtle change to the badges, body-colored door handles replace black handles. Range Rover Sport was launched as a 2006 model and received a major facelift for 2010.
The 2012 model year brings upgraded technology. The 2012 Range Rover Sport gets a new electrical system, updated infotainment functions and other amenities. 2012 Range Rover Sport models comes standard with an upgraded 380-watt harman/kardon audio system with 14 speakers; an optional system delivers 825 watts through 17 speakers. The hard-drive navigation system that comes standard on all 2012 Range Rover Sport models features updated graphics for more user-friendly operation. And a new Say What You See voice activation feature for onboard and connected devices on 2012 models helps the user learn applicable voice commands by displaying a step-by-step format on the bigger, 7-inch touch-screen.
Compared with the big Range Rover, the Range Rover Sport is seven inches shorter overall, on a wheelbase that's five inches shorter. It's a little narrower as well and the roof is lower. Priced about $20,000 less, the Sport is less luxurious than the big one and slightly less roomy. It's also a bit sportier.
Range Rover Sport and Land Rover LR4 share platforms, drive systems, suspension, and powertrain. The Sport boasts more standard equipment, more upscale styling, and generally a more luxurious approach to the same mission: go anywhere, do anything, in any weather. The Sport rides on a 108-inch wheelbase, five inches shorter than that of the LR4.
The Range Rover Sport is powered by a 5.0-liter V8 made by Jaguar, a 32-valve engine that makes 375 horsepower and 375 foot-pounds of torque. We found it to be plenty during our test drive.
The Range Rover Sport Supercharged model features a supercharged version of the same engine that uses a twin vortex supercharger with dual intercoolers to deliver 510 horsepower and 461 foot-pounds of torque. That's a lot of power by anyone's dyno and out on the road it's magic, easily and instantly propelling you at any rate you wish.
All Range Rover Sports use a smooth and quick-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission, with Normal, Sport and Manual modes. Standard is full-time four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case that can be shifted on the fly. The low range will drive the vehicle through unimaginably rugged offroad conditions, employing the magical Terrain Response system to maintain optimum traction.
The Range Rover Sport competes in the crowded midsize luxury sport utility vehicle segment with the Acura MDX, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Audi Q7, BMW X5, Volvo XC90, Infiniti FX, Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Toureg, and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Its starting price, however, is the highest of this group, and arguably only the Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Porsche, and VW are priced comparably.
The Range Rover Sport gets a minor makeover for 2012. The front grille of the HSE is subtly altered in finish, and a six rectangular openings now lighten the previously solid panel at the bottom. The fender grilles are now outlined in gloss black, and the door handles are now body color. Range Rover Sport was launched as a 2006 model and received a major facelift for 2010.
The Supercharged model is distinguished by bright-finish mesh in the front and side grilles, and gloss black backplates for front and rear light clusters. The Autobiography has simplified front grilles, an open rectangle covered in mesh. Fender vents are simplified on the Autobiography as well.
Range Rover Sport HSE comes with 19-inch, 15-spoke wheels with an attractive turbine look. The Luxury package upgrades to 20-inch rims with a bold five-spoke pattern; Autobiography wheels are similar but boast a Diamond Turned finish. Supercharged comes with 20-inch, nine-spoke wheels enhanced by a Sparkle finish.
Range Rover Sport is visibly smaller than the Range Rover. The overhangs are slightly shorter. Short overhangs aid off-road capability by increasing the angle of obstacles the vehicle can climb or cross without nudging the front or rear bumpers. The Range Rover Sport wheelbase is 5 inches less than that of the Range Rover, which adds nimbleness to the handling but doesn't much affect the ride quality. The suspension on these Range Rovers is superb. Range Rover Sport is 7 inches less in overall length, which makes fitting in tight places a little easier, though the big Range Rover is easy to park and doesn't feel like a big truck, either.
The lines are iconic; everyone recognizes a Range Rover, like everyone recognizes a Porsche. It's basically a big box, but British designers have made it look sleek.
Range Rover Sport boasts a long list of standard equipment including pushbutton starting, a power tilt-and-telescope steering column, color driver information center between the main gauges, satellite navigation with voice recognition, ambient interior lighting with footwell and puddle lighting, and all of the usual power assists.
Heated front seats are optional. A power liftgate is available. The hatch window pops open separately, so smaller things can be loaded in the rear without lifting the entire gate.
The interior is beautifully made and tightly finished: sumptuous, comfortable, and quiet. The steering wheel is big and thick, having controls for audio, telephone and cruise control, and the seats are very supportive and comfortable for the long haul, with careful high bolstering. Handsome contrasting stitching in the leather is standard on all models.
The Autobiography model offers two luxury interior themes called Cannes and Valencia; and five sport themes called Estroril, Hockenenheim, Le Mans, Monaco, and Monza.
Many accessory functions are operated through a Thin Film Transistor touch screen, which has been expanded from five inches to seven for 2012. It can display audio information, phone book entries, and navigational direction symbols, augmenting the main navigation screen. The phone book function can store several thousand entries, up from 700 in the 2011 model. Traffic Message Channel provides updated traffic information.
The audio system includes a virtual CD changer, which allows you to upload the contents of 10 albums (in uncompressed, full-quality format) onto the hard disc drive. The virtual discs can then be played as CD albums. Portable Audio Connectivity allows streaming and control of audio files from an iPod, iPad, or USB-connect device. In addition, Bluetooth allows playing music from a compatible phone or device through the audio system.
Steering wheel stalks are revised for 2012 for easier use and higher quality appearance.
The Vision Assist option uses five cameras, two facing forward, one on either side of the truck facing down, and one at the rear to give a near-360-degree view of surroundings. Camera views can be selected from the main nav screen, and the view can be zoomed if necessary. This feature was developed to assist drivers in trailer hookups and trailer maneuvering, as well as for checking all-around clearances and terrain when driving off-road. It shows live high-resolution video as you go, which can be enormously entertaining when traversing streams, because if the water is clear, you can see the rocks under the water and steer around them. No other vehicle offers this feature.
For 2012, a new compact Smart Key fob is smaller than before yet retains all functions, including lock, unlock, tailgate release and panic alarm.
The Range Rover Sport's 375-hp 5.0-liter V8 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission will hurl the 5500-pound truck from 0 to 60 mph in only 7.2 seconds. More noticeable for daily driving is the incredibly strong acceleration performance available at highway speeds for passing, and it's wonderfully smooth.
Land Rover's engine is modified from the Jaguar design with a deeper oil pan to keep lubrication continuous when the vehicle is tilted steep angles, off road. To further prepare it for rugged duty, all of the electric motors, pulleys and bearings, plus the starter, alternator and air conditioning compressor, have been waterproofed. This enables the Sport to travel through water 27 inches deep.
The ZF 6-speed automatic transmission shifts very quickly and smoothly, up or down, with Normal, Sport and Manual modes. The Supercharged adds paddle shifters
Land Rover developed the Range Rover Sport air suspension and the optional adaptive damping shock absorbers on the famous Nordschleife, the northern loop of the Nurburgring circuit in Germany, and it shows through to the average driver on a twisty country road. SUVs of this height and heft are not supposed to handle this well in the curves, and with so little body roll. There are limits, of course; but they're higher than one has a right to expect. The 20-inch low-profile Michelin tires on our Sport undoubtedly helped. We think we'd prefer the taller sidewalls of the 19-inch wheels for all around use, however.
The Terrain Response system has five settings: Highway, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl. All you have to do is look out the windshield and select for the correct terrain, and the Range Rover Sport will drive accordingly, including setting the suspension height.
Our test drive included two days of driving off road in Colorado's San Juan Mountains over trails that exceeded 13,000 feet. The rock-crawling challenges we faced were very challenging yet there was nothing that caused our Sport to even pause, except maybe the dangers that we perceived when we climbed out to peer over the cliffs we might drop over if we made a big mistake. With guidance from Land Rover instructors riding shotgun, we saw first-hand the amazing things the Range Rover Sport was capable of, and how the Terrain Response system found traction in any situation, including climbing up steep bare rock covered with dust. Suffice it to say that you're unlikely to ever get stuck in the mud.
We used Hill Descent Control much of the time, and it worked flawlessly to keep us out of trouble on steep downhill rocky paths. Gradient Acceleration Control kicks in to keep the car from going too fast, when Hill Descent Control isn't set. And climbing up, we used Hill Start Assist, to keep from sliding back when we went from the brake pedal to the gas.
The Supercharged model uses the latest generation of Eaton supercharger, a twin vortex, with dual intercoolers. It also takes big Brembo brakes, with six-piston calipers in front. What this means is that it will accelerate from 0 to 60 in an eye-popping 5.9 seconds, and get back to a standstill in short space and without a groan.
The Range Rover Sport meets ULEV2 emissions requirements, and is rated to tow 7700 pounds. Trailer Stability Assist is an option that works like stability control; sensors detect oscillation in the trailer, and use throttle intervention and braking to get the trailer to stop weaving.
The Range Rover Sport costs less than a Range Rover and is slightly smaller, which makes it more nimble. It uses the same great V8 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission as the Range Rover. Cornering on the road is remarkable for a vehicle this size. Its offroad capability is unsurpassed, which means flexibility and safety in winter. The stitched leather seats are sporty and supportive, and the interior is classy and functional.
Sam Moses contributed to this report after his test drive of a Range Rover Sport in Colorado; with Jim McCraw reporting from Edinburgh, Scotland.