We don't imagine that very many luxury SUV buyers will ever take their 4-wheeled investment off-road. However, it's nice to know that should the occasion be deemed necessary, those fortunate enough to own the 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport will find they have what is arguably one of the most competent off-road vehicles in the world.
In the civilized world, where the vast majority of Range Rover Sport SUVs spend their time, this hefty luxury model can feel a bit overgrown and unruly. However, the Range Rover Sport shines brightest when comfortably cruising the highways, ambling through serene mountain passes and mushing through snow-covered passages that lead to ski resorts or winter cabins. Completely redesigned for 2014, the Range Rover Sport is now more luxurious, more powerful and more fuel efficient than the version it replaces yet manages to keep its starting price in the same ballpark.
What's New for 2014?
The Land Rover Range Rover Sport is all-new for 2014, with a lighter and stronger aluminum body, a new 8-speed automatic transmission and a new supercharged V6 engine offering.
What We Like
Elegant styling; impressive power and handling ability; first-rate luxury trappings; off-road prowess
What We Don't
Cavelike interior; big blind spot over driver's shoulder; finicky touchscreen for the navigation system; poor fuel economy on the V8
The Range Rover Sport offers a choice of two engines. The SE employs a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine, good for 340 horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque. Teamed with the standard AWD and 8-speed automatic, this choice returns an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimate of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. The Supercharged trim brings a more powerful 5.0-liter V8, good for 510 hp and 461 lb-ft. EPA estimates for this engine are 14 mpg city/19 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The Land Rover Range Rover Sport comes in four trims, each with their own optional upgrades: SE, HSE, Supercharged and Autobiography.
The base SE ($63,495) includes a supercharged V6 engine, an 8-speed automatic transmission, AWD with adjustable Terrain Response settings, air suspension, front and rear parking sensors, 14-way power front seats, power-folding and heated side mirrors with reverse tilt-down feature, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, a rearview camera, HID headlights, leather seating, dual-zone automatic temperature control, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a power rear lift gate, 19-inch alloy wheels, 8-speaker audio with touchscreen navigation, Bluetooth and USB/iPod support.
The HSE ($68,495) adds perforated leather seats, fog lights, 20-in alloy wheels, heated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, and chrome grille and fender vents.
The Supercharged ($79,995) brings a V8 engine, a more sophisticated Terrain Response 2 AWD system, Dynamic Response with lean control, Dynamic Active Rear Locking Differential and Adaptive Dynamics with variable damper control.
The top-of-the-line Autobiography ($93,295) brings a 19-speaker Meridian audio system, automatic high beams, adaptive HID headlights, heated and ventilated front seats, 21-in wheels, a 360-degree Surround View camera, a heated rear seat, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.
Many of the Autobiography's standard features can be found in options packages on the other trims. The 5+2 package adds a third-row seat, while the Climate Comfort and Visibility package adds fog lights, adaptive headlights, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel and heated windshield wipers. The Extra Duty package adds the Terrain Response 2 system. Blind spot monitoring, a Surround View camera, park assist, a soft door-closer and reverse traffic detection are part of the Vision and Convenience package. Individual options include adaptive cruise control, a panoramic sunroof and 20- and 21-in wheels.
Premium options offered include a 1,700-watt, 23-speaker Meridian audio system, climate-controlled rear seats, 4-zone automatic climate control, a head-up display and a rear-seat entertainment system.
The 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport comes standard with a full array of safety features, including front side and side curtain airbags, electronic traction and stability control and an adjustable speed limiter.
Neither the government nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the Range Rover Sport.
Behind the Wheel
We chose the Range Rover Sport HSE with the V6, as we wanted to see if there was really any disadvantage to going with less power to save money. To our surprise, we found the supercharged V6 engine more than capable, delivering excellent off-the-line starts and an abundance of passing power. The Range Rover Sport looks big and menacing, but it's amazingly agile and really quite enjoyable when the road begins to twist and turn.
Around town, the Range Rover Sport's size does present a problem, especially in areas where parking spaces are drawn for Prius-size cars. However, numerous electronic parking aids, including the Surround View camera, help alleviate some of the hassle.
Leave the confines of city life and the Range Rover Sport reveals its trump card: amazing off-road prowess. The Terrain Response AWD system is simply phenomenal. Be it muddy paths or unplowed back roads, our Range Rover Sport, even with its 20-in performance tires, simply pushed through it all with ease.
All was not sunshine and roses on this test drive, however. Land Rover's navigation system takes far too long to power up, its voice recognition abilities are sketchy at best, and we couldn't get our iPod to connect to the system via the USB hub. We also had a problem with the rather large B-pillar next to the driver's head (it creates a huge blind spot) and the odd placement of the upward facing power window switches that allowed rain to soak the panel every time we opened the window.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW X5 -- The X5 may be the only SUV with better handling, but it's not large inside, and its ride can be somewhat punishing with the bigger wheel and tire setup.
Porsche Cayenne -- The Cayenne offers more model choices, including a hybrid, and a lower base price. However, you can't get a third-row seat option, and the Cayenne can't follow the Range Rover Sport in the toughest off-road situations.
Audi Q7 -- Audi's Q7 feels a bit more carlike in the way it rides and handles, and it offers the option of a diesel engine.
Go with the HSE and the supercharged V6, then load it up with option packages. You'll save a ton of cash, get better fuel economy than with the V8 and still have a very enjoyable SUV to impress your friends and family.