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Land Rover is preparing a hardcore flagship version of its next-generation Range Rover Sport, which will debut next year.

Speaking at the international launch of the fourth-generation Range Rover ‘Vogue’ in Morocco, Land Rover’s director of chassis engineering, David Waide, explained that the company is readying sportier offerings to capitalise on buyers willing to pay a premium for focused variants.

“It’s one of the areas which the business can expand,” said Waide. “You’ve seen this with Jaguar and its XKR-S edition. They’ve done very well with the R-S model … so there’s the ability to do those sorts of things with Land Rover product.”

The new Range Rover Sport has yet to be officially revealed but the images in this story from CarAdvice’s spy photographers show the vehicle testing in disguise.

Pressed whether the next Sport could test the waters for an R-S style range of flagships, the chassis chief was unequivocal: “I think it would be an opportunity for us, yes.”

Waide, however, cautions that a potential Range Rover Sport ‘R-S’ would not mimic the Porsche Cayenne GTS, which he believes is the sportiest SUV in the segment.

“If you compare [the XKR-S] with the Porsche equivalents it’s not as sporty; it’s as quick, it sounds fantastic, but it’s also more comfortable. It’s got a balance between GT product and ultimate sports car.”

Although prototypes of the next-generation Range Rover Sport have been spotted circling the Nurburgring, the chassis chief says he isn’t chasing SUV-benchmark lap times.

“We’re not interested in lap times per se. We’re looking much more at the Nurburgring to show that we can stand up to a very sporty driving style on road. For some customers who want some level of track use.

“They don’t buy that car thinking they can get the ultimate time around the Nurburgring for an SUV. What we are looking to do with the Range Rover Sport is provide a very sporty on-road experience, and it’s more about driver reward and interaction and involvement. It’s a car that you can really enjoy driving.”

The Sport is expected to benefit hugely from borrowing its all-aluminium monocoque architecture from the new Range Rover, replacing the Discovery 4-based, off-road-focused separate chassis of the outgoing car.

Waide believes the new chassis has allowed his engineers to make the Range Rover Sport feel completely different to the Range Rover, and “absolutely” competitive with the best-driving premium SUVs.

One fundamental change will be quicker steering response from the new, variable-ratio electro-hydraulic set-up.

The current Sport’s 2535kg kerb weight will fall substantially, in line with the Range Rover’s drop of up to 420kg depending on the model. If the Sport can also undercut its larger brother on the scales – although it is rumoured the new Sport will have a seven-seat option, which may negate the weight benefit – then the SUV should deliver even faster performance numbers.

The 375kW/625Nm Range Rover Supercharged takes 5.4 seconds to reach 100km/h, so the lighter Sport Supercharged should undercut that time by a few tenths to become the fastest-ever production Range Rover.

If a Sport ‘R-S’ accessed the same 404kW/680Nm from the Jaguar XKR-S, which uses a tuned-up version of the same supercharged V8 engine, then a sub-five-second sprint seems likely.

A $200K-plus price, in line with the ML63 AMG and Cayenne GTS, would help Land Rover amortise the colossal investment cost in the all-new all-aluminium monocoque platform.

 

Click to read CarAdvice’s 2013 Range Rover review.