Land Rover’s new-generation Range Rover Sport aims to have almost as much comfort and space as a Range Rover, together with the kind of performance and handling you’d be more likely to find in an executive saloon car. And it succeeds brilliantly.
On the surface the Range Rover Sport appeals for its chiseled good looks and the detailed workmanship of its wood and leather clad interior, together with the refined urge provided by some smooth and powerful engines. The most economical choice is a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel with 292bhp, but for more power you can go for one of the petrol V8s, either a 339bhp, 4.4-litre or a supercharged 5.0-litre with 510bhp. The supercharged engine is immense: flatten the accelerator pedal into the carpet, encouraging the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox to slur down a couple of ratios, and that big V8 punts the Range Rover Sport down the road like a sports car, all the while emitting a subdued but urgent burble.
It’s also a surprisingly capable machine on a twisty road, cornering with remarkably little body roll despite its tall build. It feels far more precise and cohesive in its responses than the previous generation Range Rover Sport or the current Discovery, thanks largely to a different type of construction. The older cars have a truck-type separate chassis, and you can feel the chassis and body arguing about how to react as the suspension moves in a corner. The new car is based on an aluminium monocoque, which means the structural members of the chassis are built into the body. As a result the Range Rover Sport’s handling takes on a new level of tautness and precision.
There’s a price to pay for all this, and it comes at the fuel pumps. Though the aluminium structure means the new Range Rover Sport is much lighter than the old car it’s still a hefty machine, weighing well over two tonnes – still much heavier than a BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne. You’re unlikely to see much more than 20mpg in the supercharged V8 version, though the diesel will get into the 30s.
But if the basic price of the Range Rover Sport doesn’t worry you then the fuel costs probably won’t trouble you much either. What you will get for your money is an extraordinarily capable machine, which can cope with everything a family could need it to do, can leave most performance cars for dead in a straight line, and worry more than a few of them along a twisty road. It’s truly a car that can do anything.