10/04/05 — Range Rover Sport livens up the brand

View Archive

Range Rover Sport livens up the brand

Range Rover Sport (2006)

Land Rover has added a stylish high-performance model to take on competitors such as the BMW X5, Mercedes M-Class, Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg.

The goal with the new 2006 Range Rover Sport is to plug a hole in the British brand that has been known for decades as offering an unsurpassed combination of ultimate luxury and off-road toughness.

Range Rover Sport, 2006

Land Rover, part of Ford’s Premier Auto Group, hopes to add 15,000 sales a year with the Sport, which features a combination of horsepower and handling not offered in its other models while retaining the company’s vaunted off-road characteristics.

The Sport looks much like the flagship Range Rover, but in a smaller package and for about 20 grand less.

It’s aptly named.

It appears sporty and aggressive with a shorter wheelbase than any other Rover, a raked windshield and rear hatch, well-placed brightwork, a roofline that extends over the tailgate and great-looking 19-inch wheels.

The sporty nature continues inside with a wide sloping center stack. The traditional lavish use of Range Rover wood is limited to the edges of the console. The wood has been replaced with more sports-car-like polished metal accents. High-quality black leather fills the cockpit.

The center stack houses a DVD navigation system and a 14-speaker, 550-watt Harman Kardon audio system with a six-disc CD changer.

The interior is a luxury environment on a modern, high-tech scale.

There are things here that you may never have considered a necessity until you have them such as a cooler box housed in the center console. Take an extra Pepsi with you on your three-hour journey and it will be cold when you reach the half-way point.

A $2,500 rear-entertainment system isn’t the standard-issue rear DVD player found in half the minivans sold in America these days.

This one features screens in the back of both the front-seat headrests. And a six-disc DVD changer allows back-seat passengers to watch different movies at the same time.

Happy trails to you guys in back!

The real teeth in the “Sport” moniker comes from the engine options and the suspension setup.

The standard Sport comes with a 300-horsepower twin-cam 4.4-liter V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. The uplevel Sport gets a supercharged edition of the V-8 good for 390 horsepower.

The engine is derived from the Jaguar, and the supercharged version can be found in the XJR and Super V8 sedans.

The engines are asked to pull about 5,500 pounds. And they acquit themselves quite well with 0-to-60 times measured at 8.2 seconds for the 300-horsepower edition and 7.2 seconds for the supercharged edition.

We found our 300-horsepower Sport HSE test vehicle quick off the line and responsive in merging and passing situations. It has satisfying performance.

The downside is poor fuel mileage that could deplete even a well-heeled pocketbook with gas prices settling in at around $3 a gallon. Fuel mileage ratings have not been released, but figure in the 13-to-17-mile-per-gallon range.

We found the Range Rover Sport’s road-holding ability extraordinary considering the usual tippy feeling we’ve gotten from Land Rover products with their high center of gravity. This was due in part to the optional Dynamic Response system which stiffens the roll bars to hold the vehicle flat in hard cornering.

The system only intervenes when necessary, helping the Sport retain the very compliant on-road ride derived from an air suspension system that keeps the jarring effects of rough-road surfaces outside the passenger compartment. The Sport also has an automatic load-leveling system.

Off-roaders have the best stuff in the business at their disposal. Equipment includes an electronic transfer case and an electronic locking center differential.

But the most high-tech feature is Land Rover’s Terrain Response System, which can be set in five positions — on-road driving, grass/gravel/snow, sand, mud/ruts and rock crawl. This feature aids driving in all conditions by adjusting everything from throttle response, traction control and electronic stability control to varying off-road conditions.

Equipment that has become standard fare on high-end sport utilities these days such as hill decent control is in place.

Safety features abound. They include four-wheel antilock brakes, side-impact and head-curtain airbags, traction and stability controls and front and rear park distance control.

Interestingly, the Range Rover Sport is not built on the Range Rover platform, but on a shortened version of the LR3, introduced to rave reviews last year as the long-anticipated replacement for the Land Rover Discovery.

While we found the Range Rover Sport a very compelling vehicle for several reasons, not the least of which that it looks like a smaller version of the flagship Range Rover, it doesn’t offer much more than the LR3. And the LR3 comes in at a more attractive price for basically the same performance and amenities when outfitted with the 300-horsepower engine.

The Range Rover Sport starts at $57,415 including destination charge. But options will quickly send the sport into 60 grand territory. Our test vehicle with luxury package and rear seat entertainment package as well as a handful of other options carried a bottom line of $65,565.

The supercharged edition starts at $69,750 and can easily climb into the mid-70s, which is the starting point for the Range Rover.

But regardless of price, both the LR3 and the Sport offer the personification of style, luxury, performance and off-road capability. Pick your truck and you can’t miss.

The LR3 was named Motor Trend’s Sport Utility of the Year for 2005. And the new Sport has already won 4X4 Magazine’s “4X4 of the Year 2006” against 42 other trucks.

By Jim Meachen
Published in Car Reviews on October 4, 2005 3:14 PM