Soccer fields. League pitches. Footy ovals. Private school car parks.
These are just some of the places you’ll see littered with Range Rovers. You could argue that the Velar has taken over as the upmarket, fashion-conscious choice, but still you’ll spot plenty of Sport models in these situations.
Such success did not occur overnight. This generation of Range Rover Sport is now seven years into its life. It’s not exactly the same car, however. Unashamedly, it received a facelift a couple of years ago to keep it looking tight and sharp.
Since then, it has also gotten a little more expensive to entertain. The current price has crept up another $5000 compared to 2018, when the new and improved model first made its debut in Australia.
So, aging bones, a bit of a makeover, and a little more cost. Does the mature 2020 Range Rover Sport SDV6 HSE Dynamic still cut it in today’s luxury marketplace?
When standing outside and admiring it, definitely so. There’s something about the cars designed by Jaguar Land Rover's design director, Gerry McGovern, that I find hard to convey with words since they’re so expressive. They don’t do well in renders either, I believe. You have to see them in the flesh to get a true sense of proportion, and thus style.
However, let’s give it a go, as this ageing design is worth the recap.
Crudely put, it follows the traits of a reverse mullet. The front is big, powerful and bold, with a low-hanging front skirt and a sort of bottom-heavy overall appearance. The facelift brought with it new, slimline Matrix LED headlights, which not only function awesomely, but also look like they were meant to be from the get-go. Future-proof design or sheer luck? We'll never know.
The back is quite high-set relatively – trimmed short with small tail-lights, and detailing evidently finished by delicate hand.
These two different themes are linked via simplistic, non-intrusive lines and a slightly raked roof line. It’s clever, aging beautifully, and to my eyes much prettier than the German alternatives that look a little same-same or even so-so.
Personally, if you haven’t already gathered, I think it's stunning. Even more so when finished in Indus silver with the Dynamic option as seen here, featuring painted lower skirts and dark-chrome accenting.
It stands up well during the carpark test. Walking away from it, you can’t help but turn around to see whether you’ve parked in a spot with sympathetic lighting that’s accentuating its elegance. Based on first-hand experience, you won’t be the only person rubbernecking, either.
Inside is no different. JLR has made leaps and bounds with regard to interior tech. The Touch Pro Duo, twin-screen infotainment system feels right given the circa-$140,000 entry price. Crisp and clear, despite being a little unresponsive at times, it’s a modern-feeling attempt on what a sophisticated human machine interface looks like.
There are some smart shortcuts and switches that double-up with regard to their purpose. For example, pressing in the temperature control knobs flicks them over to operate seat heating. Tapping the fan icon changes the temperature control knob once again to something else, in this case, fan speed.
This retained sense of tactility has created a system that forces quick familiarisation, despite it looking largely overwhelming at first. You'll find the nature of its operation similar to other Land Rover products. It's just dialled up to the nines in the case of the Range Rover Sport.
For example, the Terrain Response system only becomes available when the switch is physically pressed, and raised from the centre console. You can’t turn it on via the screen. This feels high-tech in a way, establishing a strong link between your physical actions elsewhere to what’s being activated on the screen.
Zooming out from the infotainment system unveils a wider cabin ambience that’s in line with the luxury realm. The HSE Dynamic model features an extended Windsor (AKA nappa) leather pack as standard, which includes seats with 16-way electric adjustability.
This test car’s ivory trim may not be for all, but it’s a no-cost decision to opt for black. Despite nice materials, there are other trinkets to be found, too. The rear outboard seats are heated, ambient lighting jazzes things up at night, as do illuminated scuff panels.
You’ll have no issue storing your gear, as there’s a plethora of cubbies, storage pockets and bins to fill. A cool feature that took me days to find was the sliding James bond-esque cupholder. Initially, it doesn’t look even remotely movable. However, with a subtle push, it hides away nicely to reveal a huge flocked pit containing a 12-volt outlet.
This example also features a chilled storage compartment under the armrest that’ll easily fit a couple of sandwiches alongside an apple or two. For $840, it seems like an easy box to tick if you’re ferrying kids around a lot.
In a nutshell, others in the segment don’t leave it for dead in terms of luxury and perceived quality. If anything, the latter seems to be a strong point of the Range Rover Sport compared to other high-end alternatives.
The second row isn’t huge. I found knee room to be average with a taller driver, but head room aplenty, even with the optional opening glass roof.
Amenities are well catered for, though, especially with this test car’s optional rear-seat entertainment pack. If your kids are keen to pay back the $5250 it costs for the indulgence when they’re of working age, then I’d say fire away.
Complementing the dual 8.0-inch screens out back are twin USB plus HDMI ports, as well as a 12-volt outlet, which are all great in providing entertainment as well as keeping things charged.
The optional third row is where it gets a little trivial for the Range Rover. Raising the two seats from their slumber is easy, and there are plenty of conveniently located switches in which to do so, as the mechanisms are electronic.
You’ll find a set of switches as you open the tailgate, on the driver’s side of the car, as well as underneath the second-row seatback, which is a bit of a masterstroke in terms of ergonomics.
However, accessing the third row is where it begins to fall down. Once you firmly press the second-row seat forward on its sliders, you initially think the path to the back is part of a comedy act. It’s not. It’s borderline unusable for most people. Climbing in is hard, and those with bigger feet will find absolutely nowhere to place them when trying to do so.
If you finally make it back there, you'll find that the seat squab is tilted in a way that makes it easy to talk to your knees. It’s uncomfortable and suited to younger, smaller passengers only.
It’s a shame, as if it were a little more conducive to life as a seven-seater, it would stack up better against other luxury alternatives such as the Audi Q7 or BMW X5. Even the less affluent Discovery Sport has better access to the third row, probably due to less expensive seat padding and other things not getting in the way.
That aside, I’d recommend conducting thorough scrutiny if extra pews are a must for you. It’s also worth mentioning that you lose the spare wheel if you tread down this path.
On the topic of young ones, another important part of your responsibilities as a parent is their safety. The Range Rover Sport does not have an official ANCAP safety rating. In lieu of that, it is equipped with most basic modern safety systems as standard, including high-speed emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring.
However, equally important features such as a 360-degree parking camera, rear traffic monitor and clear-exit monitor are not standard. They make up part of the Driver Assist pack for $4048. This should not be optional – all Australian cars deserve to have this equipment at a minimum, and there’s no excuse otherwise.
Helping brush aside JLR’s ever-present equipment niggles is the usual story of a great powertrain.
As this is the HSE Dynamic model, the entry V6 oiler is the 225kW option with a big 700Nm. It’s a strong, brawny powertrain, but it does take a little time to flex its muscles. It isn’t as responsive under the foot as some German V6 diesels are, or were.
The Range Rover’s oiler comes across a little laggy, with the lower end of its narrow powerband feeling a little elastic in ways. Regardless, it’s supremely quiet, relatively wobble-free, and therefore luxurious in how it goes about its day.
Inside, there’s no vibration. You can just about hear a strange, smooth hum when up it for rent, but that’s as far as the engine goes in interrupting cabin ambience.
This torque monster is a great match for the ever-better ZF eight-speed automatic. In saying that, I’ve never had a bad experience with anything paired to this transmission, which says a lot about its attributes.
Its calibration is intuitive, it doesn’t have moments of confusion anywhere near that of a dual-clutch unit, and sudden inputs are not met with hesitation or lurching. I find the ZF 8HP70 a far superior unit to the transverse ZF 9HP48 as found in other JLR product, as a side note.
Within the segment, this powertrain is bit of a standout. Audi’s Q7 50 TDI produces 600Nm, a whole 100Nm less. You’ll notice the difference if you’re taking advantage of towing ratings, with the Range Rover Sport rated to 3.5 tonnes. It’s the same story with BMW, as its six-cylinder diesel only puts out 620Nm.
On test, the Range Rover returned a square figure of 10.0 litres of diesel used per 100km travelled. This result is 2.2 litres over the official combined claim of 7.8 litres per 100km.
Overall, its heart still stacks up against alternative, luxury choices. It might even be a sweet spot for some, who are looking to lug things around as well as complete the school drop-off in comfort and style.
Ride and handling are further complementary to the driveline. The air suspension system found underneath higher-end JLR products is fantastic, and bestows solid on-road dynamics to any car that's fortunate enough to be equipped with it.
It plods along so seamlessly on regular terrain, making light work of dappled roads. Out of the cars equipped with JLR’s air suspension system, the Sport’s calibration is by far the most taut. That means it can get a little jarring on really tatty tarmac, but it’s tolerable. There's a sense of firmness that enables you to throw it around a bit. You could almost say it inspires you to hustle it along your favourite country road, where the speed limits are a bit higher.
This set-up, and feel, facilitates such behaviour. As a consequence, its resulting levels of comparable dynamism are quite high. It feels sportier than an Audi Q7. Whether that translates to it being faster by a clock is immaterial here, as these are road-based SUVs, not time-attack, record-setting hypercars.
The Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic continues to hold its own against newer, improved competitors. There are some slight concerns with the third row, but not everyone wants that in their luxury SUV.
Broader expectations are still catered for well. It has excellent visual appeal, a wonderful high-tech interior that’ll dazzle first-timers, as well as a hearty engine and excellent on-road manners.
Then there’s the price. At $186,409 as tested before on-roads, it's not cheap. But the basics of this package are here at the entry price of $146,231 before on-roads. You’ll get most of the stuff that makes this car great at that price, apart from the armrest cooler.
That’s only $840, though, so please tick that box. Just try not to get too carried away with the other choices on offer. If you don’t, you’ll have a solid luxury SUV that you’ll love and have no regrets choosing over other alternatives.