I was talking to a salesman the other day. He told me serious off-roaders probably wouldn’t buy Range Rovers, or Discoveries, or even Toyota LandCruiser 200’s. He hinted these vehicles cost far too much bash about on rocks. A few hundred metres of gravel is about as much as most of them will ever be required to cope with. Of course the older and less valuable they are, the better off-road prospects they become. It’s sad but there it is. None the less, I am a newly converted SUV-lover by this drop-dead-gorgeous piece of deliciousness.
So why the worldwide fascination obsession with SUVs? Perhaps buyers really want to be in forests and on beaches but don’t actually want the inconvenience of getting there. Buying the car means you don’t have to get dirty if you don’t want to. Besides, there is nothing worse than sand up the clacker.
Despite my resistance, the more I drive them, the more I’m drawn into the SUV vortex. There is a commanding driving position from which you feel as though you own the road, and many drive as if they actually do. The space is huge, but the drawback has always been the fuel consumption. Not anymore.
The 2,398kg Range Rover Sport V8 diesel scored an impressive 10.5L/100k on a trip metre recording 3,300km. Think about that while you contemplate the 250kw with a mountainous 740Nm of torque.
Taking off from a set of lights is like being strapped to a mattress on a launching missile. The turbo takes a short moment to gather its thoughts before shooting the Range Rover forward with almost everything else being left tin its wake. More about the performance later.
The exterior of Range Rovers really hasn’t changed much for 40 years. It’s had subtle tweaks here, and stretches there, and the ubiquitous LED lights now carve out a distinctive front end. The rump is similarly adorned and the effect is stylish, and expensive. It’s classy without being gaudy.
It’s inside where you’ll truly feel like a queen. Range Rover manages casual elegance in a more relaxed way than the ludicrous Bentley Bentayga for example. The leather is soft and the optional electric seats are fully adjustable including headrests and side bolsters. One thing many of us have trouble with is getting a seat that properly fits longer legs. Instead of manually sliding the front section of the seat bottom forward like lesser brands might, Range Rover slides the entire seat bottom forward leaving the seatback as it was. Never have I sat in a driver’s seat that could be so precisely customised. Even the steering wheel and auto-dipping side mirrors can be saved in any of the 3 memories with the seat position. The auto-dipping mirrors give a better view of the gutters so parking doesn’t ruin those expensive alloys. Mind you, parking would do far less damage than a day on a mountain.
The cabin is a combination of a private jet and luxury yacht.
The exclusivity continues once you’re underway. It’s about now I normally mention the KW’s. But 250kw sounds puny for a 2 and a half tonne truck doesn’t it? It is, but it’s the stratospheric 740 Nm of torque that sends the Range Rover Sport through an intersection like a kid’s toy kicked across a polished marble floor.
Many have been fooled by the “sport” moniker. “It’s not a coupe,” they cry. Clearly it isn’t, but it just might be the world’s biggest hot hatch. The 4.4 V8 diesel goes from 0-100 in, wait for it, 6.9 seconds. Did you get the “diesel” bit?”
I just can’t get my head around it, and a careful driver will coax 7.6L/100km on the highway and only 10.8 around town. On a road trip, you’d get 1342km from the 105 litre tank. Not many people can drive 1342km on a tank of fuel, and fewer will feel as though they’re in a gentlemen’s club while doing it?
In town, you soon forget the no inconsiderable bulk of the V8 Sport. It sprints when you want it to, and coasts luxuriously at all other times. On the highway it is really something else. You lope along with the 8-Speed auto barely ticking over. At first you feel a little overwhelmed. Something this big has no right to feel like an uber-limo. The ride is sublime and the cabin is so quiet that at times the air conditioning is the loudest thing. A road trip is joyous.
If the mood takes you, you can simply turn the wheel and head into the wilderness, not that I did of course. I did however use my standard 4WD SUV test range. There is a bit of sand, loose dirt, deep ruts, gentle rises, and many humps. Many 4WD’s have failed this test miserably but the Range Rover was not troubled. There are terrain settings of course, but I left the selector in auto. There is an info screen where you can watch the diffs lock and unlock as the system decides the best combination of settings. It uses the clever electronics to apply brakes and moderate the throttle and to decide whether high or low range is right. Never have I driven such a competent off-roader on this course. As if all that wasn’t enough, a discrete chime tells you a message on the dash is suggesting you raise the ride height so sir doesn’t drag his underbits along the ground.
Should you wish, you may wade into a slightly ludicrous 850mm puddle and have the depth displayed on the screen where you were previously watching the wheels articulate on the humps. The sunroof has a huge opening so you might want to shut that first unless you want to more Captain Nemo than Captain America.
It works beautifully on automatic, but it would be fun to select the settings manually and see what happens. Sadly, it is doubtful that you’ll ever pass one of these on the Birdsville Track. It is more likely to be seen in leafy Toorak or ritzy Point Piper.
Once back on level ground the Range Rover will lower to normal height if you forget to do it yourself.
We’ve all been on road trips where we just want a bit of shoosh. You can put on head phones or, better still, you can ask your front seat passenger to. The DVD player will then display a video or TV show to while away the hours. The driver will want to keep an eye on the Satnav of course so Range Rover displays the video to the passenger, and driver info to the driver, on the same screen. You might think “so what, I’ve seen split screens before, MEH!” But, you’d be wrong. The DVD uses the whole screen and so does the driver info but each can only be seen from their respective positions. That’s dead posh innit? If you really want to do your head in, try moving from one side of the car to the other while focusing on the screen and watch it change halfway across. It’ll will keep the hangers on in the back seat occupied for ages.
Finally, I’ve found a car that is everything I didn’t know I wanted. Everything feels alive. The steering, the brakes, the engine, are precise instruments. Just for a hoot, we took it through the tight bends in the National Park. I expected the familiar SUV wallowing, but not a bit of it. It was as nimble as it had been in town and I loved it.
I snapped a couple of Iphone pics of a previous generation of RR Sport that was spied in JLR’s secret Western Sydney location, just off Parramatta Rd near Sydney Olympic Park. You can see how the body lifts off the chassis.
Claims made by manufacturers are usually strained to within an inch of their lives, but not here. It is nothing short of scandalous that the off-road capabilities will rarely be tested by its first owner. I haven’t even touched on the luxury audio system, quality carpets, super-efficient sound deadening and airbag suspension. The ride is brilliant on most surfaces including extreme off-roading, and only higher walled tyres could possibly make it any better.
The interior feels palatial yet modern. Importantly, it is luxuriously comfortable without being precious. Of course it is now far too posh to go mudding, not because it can’t but because you don’t want old schmutz on new Axminster.
There is so much more I could say, but it is a Ranger Rover so nothing more needs saying.
Would I buy one? Yes. The only barrier would be money but if you have to ask the price you can’t afford it right?
15.5MY Range Rover Sport 4.4 V8 Diesel SDV8 HSE
MAX POWER (KW)
MAX TORQUE (NM)
MAX SPEED (KPH)
FUEL ECON (L/100KM)
4,367cc V8 turbo diesel
250 @ 3,500rpm
740 @ 1,750-2,300rpm
Up to 3,500
8-Speed Automatic Transmission
Four Corner Air Suspension
250W Audio System with eight speakers.
Oxford perforated leather seats
Micro Mesh Aluminium Trim Finisher
Full Size Spare Wheel
Comfort Pack HSE (Premium Front And Rear Carpet Mats, Automatic headlamps with High Beam Assist, Auto Dimming Exterior Mirrors,
Customer Configurable Mood Lighting)
20” 5 Split Spoke – ‘Style 520’
Fuji White/ Ebony Seats, Ebony/Lunar, Cirrus
Meridian Signature Reference Sound System (1700W) with 23 Speakers – $13,600
Sliding Panoramic Roof – $4,200
Audio Visual Pack (Digital TV, Touch Screen and Dual View Technology) – $3,870
Wade sensing – $800
Heads Up Display – $2,300
Tow Hitch Receiver Aus – $950
Incontrol Apps – $690
PRICE AS TESTED
(Please note that ORC are dependent on which state is registered, driver history, age, etc.)