The Range Rover came to life in 1970, eager to show the world that is ladder chassis and coil springs made a good marriage that could result in brilliant off-roading children.
Now. over 40 years after its introduction,the car is only in its third generation, albeit with the next one set to arrive sometime next year.
But wait, the Range Rover Sport is not quite a Range Rover. It's actually more of a Discovery, even though the concept that prefigured it reminded of the original Range Rover's two-door layout.
Pretty confusing, isn't it? Let's make things clear then: back in 2004, Land Rover released a new Discovery (the third generation), as well as offering us the Range Stormer concept. The latter's production version arrived on year later, using the a shortened version of the Disco's chassis.
We tested the Range Rover Sport TDV6 belonging to the 2011 model year facelift, which has brought quite a few changes to the car, especially at the visual level.
A new generation of Range Rover vehicles is set to arrive sometime next year, so does the RRS still have what it takes to deserve the social status that made its pretty face famous? Can a Range Rover be sporty? We'll answer these questions and many others (such as
How can a Range Rover Sport be heavier than a "normal" Range Rover?
) in the following chapters.
The Range Rover Sport is quite... Sport, but not in the way it's name suggests. However, the car fully deserves this moniker, thanks to its response to two of our test drive's questions: the one asked by the adjacent chapter and the one that belongs to the open road's off-roading section.
The RRS has something posh about its presence. It's got a flashy character, throwing all its styling cues in your face, albeit without crossing any line - it's an Englishman after all.
Footballers noticed this from the first second a flash landed on its metal, but then again, so did everybody else. The adjustable air suspension of our test car even allows you to choose between a low rider, a normal and a rugged off-roader look, all hidden within the 10 cm (4 inches) of ride height.
The 2011 model year facelift is literally a facelift, bringing multiple changes to the front fascia. The most notable one are the LED front headlight, which have made some point fingers at the car, claiming that a true serious vehicle like a Range Rover, doesn't need contact lens. Shut up you, they're gorgeous.
The 20-inch rims of our test are another important part of the vehicle's visual speech. You could actually draw a pretty accurate, appealing sketch of the car just by penning the generous-sized wheels and the raked roof line. The short rear door also contributes to the dynamic look.
All in all, the Range Rover Sport has a special presence, with its look being one of its top assets.
Unless you lower the air suspension into the "access mode" position, entering the car instantly makes you realize that you're going into the high life, literally.
The seating position confirms this, with the seats being good at handling all your shapes. however, we would've expected a bit more from them, something that would make you feel you're floating.
The height advantage s, of course, not only psychological, as it also offers you great overall visibility. It's relatively easy to know where the extremities of the car are, but you really couldn't do without the rear view camera.
The cabin is an explosion of plush materials, with leather, in a perforated or normal (read extra-smooth) covering most of the surfaces. One nice touch that we really enjoyed were the rubber floor mats with metallic ornaments, which remind you of the car's ruggedness, at the same time contrasting with the luxurious interior.
Move to the rear, and you'll have to pay for those dynamic styling cues. Starting from the access through the short door, through the knee & head room and to relatively short backrest, everything is less than what you'd expect.
As for the cargo area, this is generous, but the access can be annoying. First of all, you have to push a button in order to open the entire tailgate and not just the rear window (since this is the most often situation, the button should've been reserved for the other one) and then because once you filled the space (pretty hard to do so, since it's so large) you'll feel that you're receiving a practical joke when trying to close the tailgate, due to the unexpected amount of force required by this operation.
We were going to start by telling you that the size of the car isn't quite perfect for city maneuvering and parking, but the multitude of soccer moms and... players would beg to differ.
And since neither of the aforementioned categories doesn't quite posses superior driving abilities, it must be the car that keeps them from crashing, which means that it's just fine for urban traveling.
The theater-like driving position, to which both the suspension and the seating position contribute, gives you a psychical comfort that compensates for the feeling you get when you enter a traffic jam, while the rear view camera is well-calibrated and well-positioned, since it's integrated into the tailgate spoiler.
The 3.0-liter diesel engine, together with the six-speed automatic gearbox might not be able to go past "decent" whatever you decide to do with the gas pedal, but the powerplant makes up for this by not asking for too much fuel in return (around 12.3 l/100 km or 19 mpg inside the city).
It doesn't matter if you're the type that washes the car once every few days or you like others to see that you've been off-roading during the weekend - you will get all the attention in this car, excepting, of course, when traveling through the city center, when you'll met many others like it.
The Integrated Body Frame chassis, inherited from the Discovery, isn't a friend of the tarmac, managing to scare the scales away (wouldn't you run if 2.7 tons/6,000 lbs were coming your way?) and it seems that the air suspension isn't doing anything to help the car corner. You'll just have to keep yourself from carrying too much speed into the bends.
However, this is somehow just a feeling of uncertainty, as, if you do go over the limit, you won't get the building-falling-over feeling of a ladder chassis, but a predictable handling.
As for the straight line performance, the 600 Nm of the 3.0-liter V6 don't just manage to bring decent acceleration - nothing more. However, you don't get the slight frustration from the Toyota Land Cruiser. The engine is very economical (considering what it has to move around), as a relxed drive brought the fuelc consumption as low as 7 liters per 100 km/ 33.6 mpg.
The stopping power is also OK, even though the TDV6 is the only version that doesn't use standard Brembo stopping power.
Even though most owners will never have mud in their axles, you can't deny that off-roading is a sport. We think this is what the last word in the vehicle's designation stands for.
Raise the suspension to the off-road mode, tell the Terrain response what you've got under you, switch to the low gear, if you have to, lock the rear diff (if you've ordered one) and you're on track to have the time of your life. This car powerslides through a river like it's on a wet skid pad.
Lower the suspension, bet back to the road, enter the city, and you've got yourself a muddy boulevard cruiser that perfectly contrasts with your suede shoes.