As the default choice for soccer mums, businessmen and even rappers, Land Rover prides itself on delivering a stylish car that's capable both on and off the road.
With an MY15 refresh due in Australia later in the year, we hopped behind the wheel of a somewhat rare model nestled in the Range Rover Sport range. The recently launched supercharged V6 engine range gives the Range Rover Sport added depth and an option for people wanting something other than a diesel, or fuel-thirsty V8.
From the outside, the supercharged V6 Range Rover Sport still looks the goods. Brushed aluminium highlights at the front sit alongside LED daytime running lights, while the bonnet features ‘supercharged’ labelled air vents.
The rear looks just as good with a new one-piece tailgate and LED tail-lights.
The interior is where the Ranger Rover Sport makes an even greater impact. Split into three main sections, each central interior cluster manages an aspect of the Range Rover.
The top section is reserved for the high-resolution eight-inch colour touchscreen that controls audio, vehicle settings and satellite navigation. Cast your eyes down to find heating/cooling controls. Finally, below that sits the gear selector and four-wheel-drive controls.
Land Rover’s infotainment system is easy to use and groups key functions – such as navigation, climate control and settings – on a home screen flanked by shortcut buttons. The system can be optioned with additional toys such as digital television and even a split-screen feature that allows the driver to see one screen, while the passenger watches something else.
Voice recognition is standard and works very well. Voice commands allow you to control aspects of the telephone, satellite navigation and radio. While it’s not as finely tuned as the voice recognition available from the likes of BMW or Mercedes-Benz, it does do well, even in noisier situations.
Interior leg and headroom is impressive up front and even those six-feet tall and above are accommodated for in the rear – though we did find that we had to tuck our feet under the driver’s seat to feel right at home. The rear bench is comfortable, however, the centre seat is noticeably firm.
The normal five-seat configuration can be expanded to seven seats as part of a $3700 option package (this includes power for all seats). We haven’t tested a Range Rover Sport in seven-seat configuration, so can’t comment on available space.
Cargo capacity is among the best in class. Offering 784 litres with the rear seats up, this volume increases to a staggering 1652L when the second row is folded flat. It’s larger than the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz ML.
We did notice a couple of minor rattles within the passenger door as sound system volume is increased. But, this aside, the cabin is generally all class and features high quality materials, along with excellent fit and finish – certainly feeling as premium as the car's $122,700 starting price.
Until recently, the only petrol engine worth sticking under the bonnet of a Range Rover Sport was a supercharged V8. Now, with the latest Range Rover Sport shedding up to 420kg and tipping the scales at an acceptable 2144kg (in this trim), Land Rover has taken to placing its silky smooth 3.0-litre supercharged V6 between the strut tops.
It’s the same engine used in some Jaguar models (such as the F-Type), but with less of a performance edge. Producing 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque, the supercharged V6 engine moves the Range Rover Sport from 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds. The petrol V6 also doesn’t come at a sacrifice to braked towing capacity, with the entire range rated at 3500kg.
The spritely V6 is much more susceptible to spikes in fuel use, given the Range Rover Sport’s reduced, but not insignificant kerb weight. The official combined cycle fuel consumption is listed at 10.3 litres per 100km, but over our week with the car, which included a considerable chunk of city driving, it sat around the 13.0L/100km mark.
Where the petrol V6 loses favour in terms of fuel consumption, it wins fans by making for an engaging drive. Putting the 'Sport' in Range Rover Sport, the linear and responsive supercharged V6 is matched to an eight-speed automatic gearbox that makes full use of the supercharger’s omnipresent nature.
Our test vehicle featured an optional off-road package (a $3680 option) that includes a two-speed transfer box, active locking rear differential and Adaptive Dynamics — Land Rover’s adjustable magnetorheological damper system that can almost instantly adjust the damping rate to match driving conditions.
On the open road, prods of the throttle send the Range Rover Sport hurtling toward the speed limit with impressive pace. This pace is matched by excellent feedback through the chassis and electric power assisted steering. Adaptive Dynamics also helps keep the car flat during cornering.
The SCV6 sits on standard 20-inch wheels with 255mm-wide, 55-profile tyres. Our test car, however, was fitted with smaller 19-inch wheels with 235mm-wide, 60-profile rubber, which is available as a no cost option on HSE models. Riding well on the smaller rims, things can can get a bit rough when you step up to the optional 21- or 22-inch wheels.
While the ride on the 19s is a strong suit, the grip limits of the Pirelli Scorpion Verde tyres wrapped around them, is less fantastic. We found they didn’t offer the levels of grip required to confidently drive the Range Rover Sport in a spirited manner and would squeal and push the front-end wide far too easily. They also proved very noisy at highway speeds.
Another issue was the tyres' road-oriented tread pattern that meant the tyres quickly filled with mud during light off-road driving. Anybody considering more serious four-wheel driving should consider wider tyres with a chunkier tread pattern.
Helping off-road ability, Land Rover employs its Terrain Response technology to help drivers select an appropriate four-wheel-drive mode. The system can also operate in a fully automatic setting that will vary between its five modes while on the fly.
We engaged the 'Mud Ruts' profile, which raises the suspension to its highest setting — increasing ground clearance from 213mm to 278mm in a matter of moments — and changes the display on the screen to show suspension articulation, individual wheel slip levels and the amount of centre-differential lock.
We also selected the hill-descent control, which further engages the vehicle’s low-range gearbox for steady descents. The rate of descent can also be controlled using the cruise control buttons on the steering wheel, which is handy when parts of the hill level out and extra speed is safe and appropriate.
Even with challenging grip levels, our Range Rover Sport excelled. It’s a strange feeling sitting in supreme luxury, while outside the cabin elements are muddy and treacherous — a testament to Land Rover’s off-road heritage.
In terms of four-wheel-driving specifications, the Range Rover Sport is no lightweight. An 850mm wading depth is complemented by 33.0- and 31.0-degree approach and departure angles. There’s also an active rear differential that can vary the degree of lock-up, almost instantly, depending on the conditions.
There’s no denying the Range Rover Sport is more than capable both on and off road. The supercharged V6 variant is an excellent choice for the diesel-averse crowd. But, with the SDV6 turbocharged V6 diesel engine available for just $700 more, if your budget can stretch, we'd recommend going with the oiler.
The SDV6 produces similar amounts of power to the supercharged V6 — 215kW vs 250kW — but trounces the petrol for torque — 600Nm vs 450Nm. Acceleration times are identical too with the diesel claiming a petrol-matching 7.2 seconds.
The Range Rover Sport V6 HSE is still a solid package that makes for an entertaining and rewarding drive. But with its added fuel and torque benefits, for us, the SDV6 HSE is the sweet spot in the Range Rover Sport line-up.
Click on the Photos tab to see more images of the Range Rover Sport by Tom Fraser and Stefan Maric.