Everybody says the second-generation Range Rover sport is based on its Range Rover
big brother. That’s a bit of a lie. The new model was actually built on a riddle, which tells us that the one thing you need in order to gain experience is... experience.
The first Range Rover Sport
was kind of an experiment, but with this new one they had the opportunity to sit down and think the project through as a standalone model. They could no longer afford to throw a smoothed Range Rover body over a Discovery / LR4 platform and call it a day.
Now you’re going to look at the Range Rover Sport and Range Rover side by side and point out that they don’t seem all that different after all. Well, Land Rover claims that the Sport has no less than 75 percent unique parts.
Upon hearing such a declaration, we simply had to get our hands on a 2014 Range Rover Sport and see if it has its own character or is just doing an impersonation of its sibling.
Since this is the Range Rover Sport, the company could drop some of the conservative etiquette they were forced to wear when creating the Range Rover. We’ve seen how the Brits party when they get a free hand during our Range Rover Evoque test drive, but this time we’re talking about a head honcho model, so it wasn’t going to be simple. Just how we like it then.
The Range Rover Sport is a looker, there’s no doubt about it. And if we focus on the top of its family tree we’ll understand why. This second-generation model has the guts to wear the attitude of the 2004 Range Stormer concept in a way that the old Range Rover Sport, which actually “derived” from it, never did.
Sure, we can be mean and say that the car looks like the result of some quality time spent together by the new Range Rover and the Range Rover Evoque
. The big daddy Range Rover styling sits up front, while the rear is pretty close to that of the Evoque.
Nevertheless, when the end result is that handsome, nobody cares. Styling was always one of the main factors that won Range Rover Sport customers over. Thus, the carmaker used its best, tried and proven tricks here.
Compared to its predecessor, the Range Rover Sport is slightly shorter and just a tad narrower, but, more importantly, the SUV
has grown 2.44 inches (62 mm) in length. Despite the moderate elongation, the wheelbase was boosted by 6.26 inches (159 mm).
Since a lot of the customers ask tuners like Kahn
to slap 20+ inches rims on their Range Rovers, the company now brings this as an OEM option. You can order your Sport with wheels up to 22 inches in size. While it's true that this is an overkill, we have to admit that at least the factory setup means a better balance.
Following the same principle, many of the exterior elements, such as the grilles
, are no strangers to the notion of “bling”, but, again, we can't deny that result is a special appearance.
In the end, the Range Rover Sport manages to offer about the same imposing presence as the Range Rover, but with a considerably sleeker design.
Once seated inside the Range Rover Sport, you’ll notice a similar digitization process as that of the Range Rover. Nevertheless, while the change meant the latter has lost some of its charm, the redesign is a big step ahead when it comes to the Range Rover Sport. The cabin feels more than just the usual advance brought by a new generation.
Compared to the previous model’s interior, the new Range Rover Sport’s Evoque-borrowed accents, mainly found around the center console, bring some welcome fresh air. And since we’re in this area of the cabin, we’re inviting you to say hello to our little friend, the Jaguar F-Type
’s gear shifter.
While this may or may not be a problem for some, it's time to move on and tell you the visibility is pleasing. In addition, you can always turn to those enormous door mirrors
, which make the Range Rover Sport worthy of the “Chelsea Tractor” nickname.
Alas, not all the new details count as a bonus. For example, we may have complained about the lifeless all-digital dashboard instruments on the Range Rover, but the Range Rover Sport analogue dials
look a bit like average jewelry worn with an expensive dress.
The ergonomics are split between the nice new buttons on the center console and the parts that get a bit annoying - seat heating for example requires you to operate both the button on the console and the menu on the touchscreen. This reminds us of the Bentley Continental GT
, which had the same problem for setting the hydraulic suspension level.
What’s more, the Range Rover’s drawer-like front door storage spaces are gone and they've chosen to replace them with spaces coming with rather difficult access.
Let’s climb in the back now. Here we find an even greater change than up front. We’re talking about an impressive amount of new-found space and that’s just the beginning.
In the old Range Rover Sport, everything about traveling in the rear made you feel that you had opted for the cheaper model. The doors were too small, the backrest only covered half of your body and the knee room was pretty limited.
The 2014 Range Rover Sport’s wheelbase boost has left all these problems behind. What’s more, the ultra-wide central armrest follows the lines of that used up front, so you feel you’re treated with the same respect.
There’s a tiny secret here though, as they’ve chosen rear space over luggage capacity. Despite getting 6 cubic feet (170 liters) less than in the outgoing Range Rover Sport, we still have 28 cubic feet (790 liters) to use. We can’t complain, especially since you can order an optional third row of seats.
And if you’re wondering why the Range Rover Sport offers this and the Range Rover doesn’t, you should know two things. First of all, the Sport is more of a 5+2 than a full seven-seater. As for the second model, this may offer proper seating for seven in the upcoming Range Rover long wheelbase
The Range Rover Sport is a statement. The previous generation hid behind this status and was not exactly the kind of car you wanted to be in when the city got crowded. Fortunately, the new one doesn’t rest on these laurels and manages to face the challenges of urban driving in a decent manner.
During the morning rush hour, there are about one million things waiting to ruin your day, but the personality of the Range Rover Sport acts like protective clothing. Fancy protective clothing that is. The soft seats, the soundproofing, the wafting suspension, they’re all there to keep you in a relaxed state.
The feeling of security it offers compensates for its size - despite having to work a bit in order to navigate through the city at times, you’ll want to move your family around in this.
And when the traffic packaging dictates tightness, you can rely on the surround camera system, which provides a much better view than that offered by the models of Land Rover’s former owner, BMW. Thus, you only need to worry about finding the right parking spot, as placing the car inside it is not too difficult. You can always ask it to handle this by itself, as its automated parking system also takes care of perpendicular parking now.
The Range Rover Sport breaths elegance and it’s even eager to go past the desires of its driver in order to keep this true - take the horn for example: they’ve made it a tad difficult to operate, so that you’re not tempted to wake people up each time some other driver bothers you.
As for the shopping part of your life, you can always rely on the generous luggage compartment, but you don’t get the split tailgate of the Range Rover.
When you’re out there configuring a Range Rover Sport, by no means should you be shy with the tech options. We’ve rarely seen a car where these make as much of a difference as they do here.
The Range Rover Sport definitely has character, it’s impossible to mistake it for something else rather than a British luxury SUV. But this is about the only thing the standard and the expensive models have in common when it comes to what the driver gets to feel.
We’ve just completed a longer run on both A- and B-roads, with a simple conclusion: you have to opt for the adaptive drive. Without the variable dampers, the driving experience doesn’t having anything to do with a modern SUV. In this basic setup the body roll surrounds you all the time as if you were in an 80's offroader. And the otherwise nice, wafting suspension becomes a grumpy old lady that complains over more broken surfaces.
The story with the brakes isn’t much different either. With the passive dampers and entry-level stopping hardware, you get a mix of high dive and less-than-inspiring stopping force. You’ll have to step hard on the brake pedal and the following moments will turn into a pretty unpleasant event. It’s the wobbly suspension that seems to deserve more of the blame than the lack of Brembo brakes.
In this basic setup, you’ll only be able to get up to about 100 mph (160 km/h) or so without building up anxiety about what awaits behind a corner that follows.
Spec it properly though and you’ll get a full menu based on the aforementioned Range Rover Sport personality. Even the stiffer Supercharged version is no Porsche Cayenne
when it comes to handling, but the German loses the race when talking about providing coziness.
The Range Rover Sport gets extremely close to the Range Rover
when it comes to offering the feeling of a top luxury sedan with a high ground clearance. The rather disconnected driving experience provides some sort of go-anywhere mobile office experience.
We’ve been driving a bit above highway speeds for a bit now, but this is a deceiving creature, it makes you think you’re going slower than what that needle shows. Since it’s cheating, we’ll quit this game and start a new one, this time without tarmac.
Let’s face it, most people don’t buy a Range Rover Sport and then thrash it offroad. Muddy fenders don’t look too good during the morning school run. However, since we had no kids to take to class the following morning, we took a bit of a dive.
For most of the situations you’ll have the courage to get yourself in, the new aluminum chassis is superior to the steel body-on-frame construction of the previous Range Rover Sport in terms of feel.
The reduced weight and extra stiffness mean that the car keeps itself together in a more controllable way. It’s easier now to plow sideways through a muddy section, as you can feel where the car is going with more accuracy.
The Range Rover Sport has kept its rock-solid feel. It simply can’t be bothered by whatever terrain you place under its wheels. Unfortunately, these wheels are wrapped in Pirelli Scorpion Verde all-season SUV tires. While the name might sound cool, we weren’t exactly thrilled by the grip this rubber offered on loose surfaces.
Speaking about what’s under the car, the Range Rover Sport is fitted with the Terrain Response 2 system, which has made yet another step towards automatization. Yes, you can play the adventurer and select one of the modes, but the car can handle things on its own very well if you leave it in “Auto”. Again, you have to pay if you want the real deal. There's a classic, rear-biased AWD
system and an intelligent one. The latter uses a multi-plate clutch to split the power between the front and the rear axle. The default setting sits at 50:50, but each of the axles can get up to 100 percent of the torque. You'll recognize this by its two-speed transfer case – a low gear button inside the car.
The more powerful versions feature a special Dynamic mode for go-fast, on-road driving and this is one we’d advise you to select. You’ll instantly feel the difference, as the system not only controls the suspension, but also the powertrain and steering. This comes with quite a hardware package, including a locking rear diff to assist the standard central one, torque vectoring via braking, adaptive dampers and active stabilizer bars.
When it came to the muscle, there are two main impressions that remained in our memory. The first was a reminder of the 5.0-liter supercharger V8’s linear, effortless push. Offroading in this is as hilarious as ever, but you won’t be laughing too much at the pump.
By contrast, the 292 HP
3.0 SDV6 diesel delivers power like fireworks - not too much happens until the fuse burns, up to 2,000 rpm and then the thing starts pulling really well and sounds like a V8. Alas, when you’re tackling rough terrain, having the car surge on its own will due to the lag is the last thing you need.