Unveiled at the New York Auto Show and just now hitting the streets, the 2014 Range Rover Sport completes a chapter of the Range Rover family's evolution. We saw a new design language introduced with the Evoque and all-new manufacturing and performance technology delivered in the Range Rover. Now, the Sport bridges the two by bringing the Evoque's striking lines to the Rover's unprecedented agility. We recently had the chance to join Land Rover on a drive in California to learn just how this middle sibling fits into the pack.
The Sport sits on an 800 pound lighter aluminum unibody frame like the Rover, has the family's charismatic high waistline and clamshell bonnet, but nods to the Evoque's sharper windshield angle and sloping roofline. Looking at the three vehicles side-by-side there's no question they belong together and are born from the British heritage of Land Rover. In just under two years Gerry McGovern and his design team have delivered on their promise to marry performance and luxury in a distinguished-yet-sporty, tailored-yet-aggressive series of vehicles that can drive from the middle of nowhere to the center of the universe without missing a beat.
We drove both available engines: a 340hp supercharged V6 and a 510hp supercharged V8. Needless to say, the V8 is fast—but surprisingly, so is the V6. The V8 is a beast and has been tuned to let you know it. A sound symposer that manipulates the air intake combined with a crafted exhaust results in a throaty, rumbly announcement that everyone best get out of the way. The V6 favors sustainability over presence and has a more dainty sound to it, but was still able to easily overtake the lollygaggers on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) with ease. Perhaps the true definer of the Sport's on-road prowess was navigating the twisting roads in the hills above the PCH, where the stiff suspension—complemented by the optional Dynamic terrain response setting—resulted in a feel that was much more sportscar-like than SUV.
Compared with the previous generation Sport, this one's cockpit is significantly more roomy. The driver sits further back and lower and the dash is tucked slightly closer to the nose of the car. The sense of roominess is also enhanced by the giant glass roof, which (unlike in the Evoque) opens to let the outdoors in. The center-stack is simplified by moving more buttons and dials to on-screen controls. The sat-nav, however is only a minor evolution; offering new eco and performance visualizations, but still suffering from slow responses to button presses and overly complicated menu flows.
To show what the Sport can do off-road, Land Rover's team of drivers spent three weeks modifying an old logging track that wound among beautiful old Redwoods. The modifications weren't to improve the road, but to make it more challenging. Bumps, ruts, rollers, steeps and giant spring-fed puddles were added. Off-road, the fact that the Sport and the Rover were developed at the same time is immediately apparent. The Sport is as capable as the Rover and some drivers we chatted with suggested it might be even more so.
Impressive statistics like a 21.5-inch wheel articulation and 33.5-inch wading depth certainly contribute to the vehicle's capability, but the true differentiator is the four-wheel drive system. The complicated simultaneous control of braking, throttle, steering and torque is simplified to a dial of settings for different terrain conditions. The new version—dubbed Terrain Response 2—offers Road, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl and, like the same system in the Rover, there's an Auto mode which will survey driving conditions down to the millisecond to rapidly adjust to the best settings for any terrain.
Despite being the middle sibling, the Range Rover Sport is the brand's best-selling vehicle in North America and with the 2014's enhancements to both design and performance, it's poised to be their best seller around the world. The V6 starts at $63,500 and the V8 starts at $80,000.
Images by Josh Rubin