It's still the most accomplished all-round luxury SUV on the market despite a raft of exceptional rivals. Every bit at home in the grounds of Buckingham Palace or knee deep in a river.
In the world of luxury SUVs, there are few if any rivals that can bookend the gamut of on-and-off road capabilities as convincingly as the latest Range Rover Sport.
Whereas the full-fat Range Rover is more about absolute luxury and class-leading comfort, the smaller Range Rover Sport skews on the side of performance and handling while maintaining a decidedly premium feel.
This is the SDV6 HSE Dynamic and it represents the quintessential sports luxury model from stalwart British Manufacturer Land Rover. It’s also the only model from the marque that blends efficiency, style and all-round performance in equal measure for the first time.
Previously available only in full-strength 5.0-litre Supercharged versions, the Dynamic spec adds an additional layer of kit on top of the standard SDV6 HSE variant, including Terrain Response 2 (which in turn adds a dedicated Dynamic drive mode), torque vectoring, higher top speed (from 210 to 225km/h), red brake calipers, unique 21-inch alloy wheels, unique aluminium trim, stainless steel sports pedals and illuminated aluminium tread plates.
From the outside, it absolutely looks the business and is unmistakably Range Rover to the core. It even shares the same aluminium architecture as its big brother.
The extra gear also means a higher sticker price for your Rangie Sport – taking it from $130,100 for the SDV6 HSE to $138,000 for the HSE Dynamic, plus on-road costs.
At first glance it doesn’t really stand out, but our tester was also fitted with the optional $4000 Stealth pack, which adds a satin black accent to the mirror caps, Range Rover lettering on tailgate and bonnet, fog lamp bezels, front grille and tailgate finisher.
There's also side and front guard vent mesh and wheel nuts, and capped off with gloss black non-reflective surface on the headlamp surrounds.
While it might seem a lot to ask for a mild exterior enhancement, I couldn’t imagine taking this Yulong White paint job without it.
As expected from almost all the premium SUV players (with the exception of Lexus), there are pages and pages of options available should you have a tonne of spare cash lying about – or the company is footing the bill. But for those private buyers, there’s still plenty of standard kit on board.
Highlights include auto headlamps with high beam assist, auto dimming exterior mirrors, configurable mood lighting, oxford perforated leather upholstery, two-zone climate control, full-size spare wheel and rain sensing wipers.
It also adds the HSE Luxury pack, which adds a 12.3-inch digital instrument display, volumetric alarm and battery back-up sounder, first aid kit and 18/18 electrically powered seats with memory.
Audiophiles will find it hard to resist the optional Meridian sound system that packs 825W and 19 speakers. The unit belts out an exceptionally good note with superb clarity from the highs to the lows and well worth the $2900 asking price.
It also looks the part, with almost all the speaker grilles fabricated in lightweight metal, which presents a beautifully crafted highlight throughout the thoroughly sumptuous cabin.
The front buckets are sublime, like your favourite armchair at home because the bolster is both cushioned and supportive and the leather is as soft a Furla handbag from Bologna.
Range Rover’s signature ‘Command’ driving position is there too, so even though you have an unobstructed view of the road ahead, it stills feels as if you’re sitting well into the vehicle. Perfect for a Rangie Sport with 700Nm to play with.
Directly in front of the driver is a huge 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, which works in concert with the head-up display, though it’s not quite as configurable or as colourful as Audi’s ‘virtual cockpit’.
The cockpit is a sumptuous mix of beautifully-fashioned metalwork and twin-stitched leather – it’s hard to imagine how the look and feel of this cabin could be improved from a comfort perspective, at least.
It’s also the small things that point to the premium nature of the Range Rover Sport – like the fact that every single lever is damped, from the instrument stalks to the door openers. It’s first-class stuff all round with an ambience to rival more expensive offerings from other marques.
It’s a neat and tidy dash design too, which so far has stood the test of time due largely to the simplicity of the layout and the flush-mounted infotainment screen that controls almost all the functions. There’s also clearly marked shortcut buttons should you want to bypass the system’s swipe functionality and go straight to the source.
Cabin architecture and space is generally excellent, particularly up front, where the space between driver and front passenger feels like you’re separated by a metre or two. And in the second row, the two outer rear buckets are as sumptuous as the those up front, but the middle seat is far less so (it’s not really a proper seat).
On the plus side, the floor is virtually flat, so making ingress and egress a piece of cake even for grandparents.
There’s also a stack of space in the boot, along with a wide aperture that makes loading larger items like boxes a breeze. However, it’s a pity the second row seats don’t actually fold dead flat, making it more difficult to carry longer objects like surfboards and, or ladders and skis.
And it goes as it good as it looks. Under the bonnet the SDV6 boasts a 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo diesel with none-too-shabby 225kW and a considerably beefy 700Nm of torque from as little as 1500rpm. So despite tipping the scales at around 2200kg, the Rangie Sport still feels quick.
The official performance figures say it will sprint from 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds, but it’s in the midrange where this thing really starts to pull hard.
That said, while it might be a twin-turbo layout, there’s still a bit of lag if you punch it from a standing start, so best to ease the throttle on initial tip-in. Once underway though, the ZF eight-speed auto transmission shifts smoothly and rapidly.
It’s also wonderfully intuitive, instantly responding to the slightest throttle input from almost anywhere in the rev range.
The big Brembo brakes are very good and able to haul this big SUV up with a huge amount of confidence from any speed, thanks to wonderfully progressive and natural pedal feel.
Diesel clatter is also remarkably well suppressed. In fact, once the tachometer needle climbs above 1200rpm you could easily mistake it as a petrol-powered version, such is the combined product of noise insulation and overall refinement of the engine. There’s little if any vibration from this engine, even under load.
Whether you're tootling around the suburbs or cruising on the freeway, ride comfort on board the Range Rover Sport SDV6 HSE Dynamic is truly benchmark, even on these optional 22-inch alloy wheels.
Speed bumps and deep potholes are completely absorbed by the sophisticated adaptive dampers. More often than not I was expecting a big hit over a big bump, but was rewarded with a non-intrusive dull thud instead.
The Range Rover Sport has always been a competent handler, despite its heft. It’s even better with the Dynamic version that adds an arsenal of body control tech like adaptive dynamics, torque vectoring, and dynamic response. It means you can lean on it in the corners and body roll is well controlled for a vehicle of this height and weight.
That feeling is enhanced by the Rangie’s direct steering that’s also very nicely weighted. Mind, it’s not as direct as a Porsche Cayenne, but it’s actually more comfortable because of that fact, especially during longer stints behind the wheel.
It’s not the most fuel-efficient Range Rover Sport (that’s reserved for the SDV6 Hybrid – 6.3L/100km) but it’s not far behind either, when you consider it will consume as little as 7.0L/100km combined in the real world.
There are faster, better handling SUVs, but with its unmistakable regal looks, tough stance, superb comfort and solid performance, the Range Rover SDV6 HSE is a favourite of many, including mine. And that doesn’t take into account its benchmark off-road ability.
It’s one vehicle that I didn’t want to hand back.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Sam Venn.