A relative newcomer to Land Rover’s history, the Range Rover Sport is the performance version of the off-road king. More than just a big engine, the Range Rover Sport has an entirely different body and underpinnings that are more suited to on-road performance than off-roading (though it’s still quite capable, thank you very much), and it’s about as close to a do-anything vehicle as Land Rover builds. Its only drawbacks are a thirsty supercharged V8 and a high MSRP, to be honest.
Land Rover addresses the first concern with the introduction of a diesel engine for 2016. The Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 now offers up the same punch of acceleration and impressive on-road handling, but with the relaxed cruising air, easy torque and pleasing fuel efficiency of a diesel engine. Sounds like a winning package, doesn’t it?
Shorter and lower than the Range Rover, the Range Rover Sport is hardly petite but nevertheless strikes a dynamic pose on the pavement. Although given an aggressive, narrow-faced treatment with standard LED headlamps, the Range Rover Sport keeps the traditional clamshell hood, two-bar grille and “floating” roof panel so it’s immediately recognizable. The vented hood is a hint that this is the performance version.
The interior has the same low-browed, horizontal look as the exterior, though glass area and headroom are both more generous than the styling suggests. The center stack is dramatically sloped, matching the front end, and it can be had wrapped in color-matched leather. Land Rover’s solid-feeling interior is enhanced by a small, thick-rimmed steering wheel and massive comfy chairs for all passengers. Satin chrome and aluminum accents fit the Range Rover Sport’s mood better than wood veneer. Land Rover offers nine different interior-decoration themes, to tailor this ride to your individual taste—even the color of the headliner can be changed. The dash is high-tech, with five or 12-inch TFT displays on the instrument panel and an eight-inch touch screen in the center stack. It’s not obvious that the dash is digital on first glance, thanks to subtle three-dimensional effects. A cool trick is the traffic sign recognition, which uses a camera behind the rearview mirror to read traffic signs and can display relevant information on the dash.
Land Rover’s usual assortment of amenities is on hand, from an extensive infotainment system to a choice of Meridian sound systems.
The new 3.0 liter turbodiesel V6 produces 254 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque. It is two tenths of a second slower in comparison to the standing-start launch capability of the gas version, which isn’t significantly noticeable. The Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 retains the high-speed stability and oceans of torque providing somewhat obscene acceleration even at extralegal speeds of the gas-powered version, though. The fuel-saving stop-start system works very smoothly and is noticeable, though to its credit, I didn’t notice the engine’s rumble until it stopped. The eight-speed automatic transmission features narrowly-spaced ratios, to make shifts almost imperceptible. It will tow up to 7700 pounds, as well.
As you’d expect, the Range Rover Sport is unperturbed by dirt roads—in fact, it kind of enjoys them. This is what this truck was made for; it gives up some off-road ability to the LR4 and Range Rover, but makes up for it with amazing road manners on smooth surfaces. The fully independent suspension uses responsive double wishbones up front and a multi-link rear, and aluminum components reduce unsprung weight. Adaptive air springs at all four corners give the Range Rover Sport about seven inches of up-down motion, and this vehicle will lower for easy ingress and raise for additional off-road clearance. Since it’s a Land Rover, it’ll still tackle some pretty fierce off-road challenges as well. An updated Terrain Response 2 system continues the tradition of enabling the Range Rover Sport to walk serenely through a variety of road conditions. It now has an “AUTO” mode that will select the best setting when necessary. On pavement, a sophisticated torque-vectoring system balances power delivery in hard turns, and makes the Range Rover Sport capable of harder cornering than you’d expect. Brembo brakes clamp massive rotors for serious stopping power. This is about as close as you can get to a do-anything vehicle.
On the road, driver aids like a lane departure warning system and traffic sign recognition cameras make life a bit easier.
Land Rover takes its durability seriously. The Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 has been tested in as many inhospitable environments as Land Rover could drag it to, including 14,000-foot summits and freezing cold Minnesota nights. Additionally, the fully aluminum structure has had about 800 pounds removed from it thanks to more efficient strengthening methods. The reduced weight results in improved performance.
Of course the Range Rover Sport’s other drawback still remains in place; it’s still an exceptionally expensive ride. Not that the $71,400 bottom line isn’t worth it, considering all of its other capabilities. A well-equipped Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 will top $85,000…and it still feels worth it.