2012 Land Rover Range Rover Sport: New Car Review
Pros: Off-road capability; acceleration; dynamic design
Cons: Poor fuel economy; small interior passenger space
The Range Rover is one of the most famous luxury-SUV nameplates in the world. Originally released in 1970 in the U.K., the Range Rover wasn't officially sold in the United States until March 16, 1987. Within the past few years, Range Rover's parent corporation, Land Rover, has adopted the Range Rover nameplate to denote its luxury models.
Although once a stand-alone name, the original Range Rover has been joined by a smaller sibling, the Range Rover Sport, based on the Land Rover LR3, and most recently by the Range Rover Evoque, a small three- or five-door hatchback SUV. The Range Rover Sport is available in four models: the HSE, HSE LUX, Supercharged, and Autobiography.
Although the Land Rover company is respected for its world-class off-road luxury vehicles, it has had difficulty finding a permanent parent corporation. Land Rover has been owned by several larger automakers, including British Leyland, BMW and Ford. Currently Land Rover is owned by Indian automaker Tata.
Comfort and Utility
The Range Rover Sport's interior emphasizes its position as the most dynamic model in the Land Rover range. The interior has a cockpit feel complete with soft-touch finishes that reflect Land Rover's standards of quality and craftsmanship. Leather is used extensively throughout; narrow sections of lighter tones border rich, dark colors. A generous selection of fine wood finishes complements the leather as well.
Even with its road-focused performance styling, the Range Rover Sport is engineered for off-road travel. Both V8 engine choices have deep, die-cast oil pans to accommodate extreme tilt angles. The belt drives are waterproofed, as are the alternator, the air conditioning compressor, the power steering pump and the starter motor. This waterproofing allows drivers to ford deep water. Few drivers ever will, but should push come to shove, the Range Rover Sport isn't afraid to take on the rugged outdoors.
A five-inch driver information LCD screen within the instrument cluster is standard. It displays key information in a clean, simple and user-friendly manner. A hard-drive-based navigation system, part of the uplevel HSE and HSE LUX packages, provides fast route calculation.
When equipped with the available Vision Assist package, the Range Rover Sport is fitted with a surround camera system that includes five digital cameras. The images from the five screens are displayed on a touchscreen mounted in the center of the dashboard. The cameras are intended to assist drivers with parking, towing and off-road maneuvering. Drivers can even zoom in on any given camera image to assist with towing and close-quarter parking.
Performance & Fuel Economy
In the U.S., the Range Rover Sport is available with two engine options: the HSE, with a normally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 producing 375 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque, and a Supercharged model with-not surprisingly-a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 producing 510 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. The HSE will make a 0-to-60-mph run in 7.2 seconds. The Supercharged model will make the same run in 5.9 seconds. These 0-to-60-mph numbers would be quick in any vehicle. Considering that the Range Rover Sport weighs more than 6,000 pounds, those numbers are staggeringly quick. The Range Rover Sport is rated at 12 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway.
All Land Rover and Range Rover models include a traction system called Terrain Response that optimizes vehicle traction for virtually all driving, whether on or off the road. In the standard Range Rover Sport, there are five driver-selectable settings: General Driving; Grass/Gravel/Snow; Sand; Mud and Ruts and Rock Crawl. In the Supercharged model, Terrain Response also includes a Dynamic Mode, which tailors the vehicle's chassis and powertrain settings for a more sporting and responsive on-road driving experience.
Land Rover has included Dynamic Stability Control on all Range Rover Sport models. It's designed to help automatically slow the vehicle if the driver is taking a corner too fast. In extreme cases, the vehicle will automatically initialize braking to help reduce vehicle speed. This feature is complemented by the Roll Stability Control system, which intervenes with selective braking action on individual wheels if the onset of a rollover is detected.
An optional adaptive cruise control system is available on the Supercharged model and also includes Collision Mitigation by Braking. Working in conjunction with the Adaptive Cruise Control's radar, the Collision Mitigation by Braking system primes the vehicle's braking system and will even initiate braking if the system calculates a possible collision.
The Range Rover Sport's driving feels like an amalgamation between the Land Rover LR4 and the much larger Range Rover - and that's exactly what it is. With the underpinnings of the LR4 and the engine options of the Range Rover, the Range Rover Sport is smaller and more nimble than its relatives.
But that nimbleness doesn't come without drawbacks. The Range Rover Sport looks similar to the Range Rover, but the smaller package doesn't allow for much interior room. Land Rovers have always aimed for an airplane cockpit feel, as does the Range Rover Sport. But the Sport's designer has a gone a bit far. The door panels are excessively thick and drastically cut into passenger space.
If you're able to look past the very skinny passenger area, the Range Rover Sport can be highly pleasurable. The Range Rover Sport feels very tight and responsive in corners and, when optioned with the supercharged V8, it's astonishingly quick.
The Range Rover Sport accomplishes what no other vehicle on the road can, excepting the big Range Rover: it successfully combines a sporty feel, world-class luxury and unsurpassed off-road capability. For those who seek a go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle, the Range Rover Sport is the ultimate.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW X5 - Starting at around $47,000, the BMW X5 won't be as off-road capable as the Range Rover Sport, but considering that the vast majority of Land Rover owners never push their vehicles to the off-road limit, the X5 should have more than enough off-road capability for the average buyer.
Volvo XC90 - The base Volvo XC90 starts at $39,500. With a 240-hp inline 6-cylinder engine, the Volvo is far slower than the Range Rover Sport. Customers will be impressed, however, with the size and versatility of the XC90's interior compared with that of the Range Rover Sport.
Mercedes-Benz GL-Class - Starting at $61,570, the GL-Class, like the Volvo, is slower and more of a mom mobile than the Range Rover Sport. The GL interior is big and robust and can be optioned with a fuel-efficient and eco-friendly diesel engine.
The standard normally aspirated 375-hp 5.0-liter V8 should be enough for most customers. Although 510 hp seems like a must have on the test drive, in the long run it's probably overkill for most. How often will a driver really need more than 375 hp? We recommend buyers save the money at the dealership (and at the gas station) and stick to the HSE instead of the Supercharged model.