Test Drive: Land Rover Range Rover Sport

A Great Highway Cruiser that Climbs Rocks, Too.

There are certain vehicles we get to drive that we?d love to just keep in our garage on a more permanent basis.? The Range Rover is a perfect example.? We do have a little disagreement on which model, however.? Barbara?s favorite is the top of the line Range Rover because she likes the luxurious appointments, elegant styling and substantial feel, while Bill prefers the Range Rover Sport which is smaller, more sporty and agile.

Sadly, we recently had to give back the 2011 Range Rover Sport test vehicle?the week was up and it was time to drive something else.? Over the years, we?ve both had numerous opportunities to drive Range Rovers off-road and found that they inspired near over-confidence because they are so capable in any kind of terrain.? We have experienced climbing giant rocks in the American desert, slogging through foot-deep mud on paths in the jungle and inching over large boulders.? More everyday driving challenges like snow, ice or sand seem mild in comparison but extreme or not, Land Rover handles them all with great confidence.

Certainly the driver needs to know how to handle off-road obstacles and conditions, but the neat thing about the Range Rover is how easily it adjusts to best handle each situation.? The guts of the Range Rover command system are conveniently located on the driver-side of the center console just to the rear of the transmission shifter.? A large brushed aluminum knob controls the sophisticated Terrain Response? system that allows the driver to select the appropriate setting for the different conditions.? Turning that one knob to one of the five settings tailors the vehicle chassis and powertrain setting to deliver the maximum performance for on or off road.

The Range Rover Sport comes in two upscale versions: the anything but basic Sport HSE and the Sport Supercharged which are priced at $60,495 and $75,395 respectively.? Load the Supercharged version up with the Autobiography, Climate Comfort, Luxury, Vision Assist packages and throw in adaptive speed control, the rear seat entertainment system and the price tops out at $90,000.

Both Sport models have an extensive list of standard comfort and convenience features befitting any of the luxury sedans.? They also have all the latest technology equipment like navigation, front and rear park distance control, Bluetooth and a cool interface for off-roading that shows Terrain Response settings including the gear, range and front wheel position.

s great as the Range Rover Sport can be off road, its on-road prowess is equally impressive, but for different reasons.? We enjoy driving the Sport around town because the precise steering and tight 38-foot turning radius.? We also like smooth responsive power and the strong brakes.? The sport is no lightweight, though, tipping the scale at 5,540 pounds and nearly 300 pounds more for the supercharged model.

An all-aluminum 375-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 engine powers the Sport HSE driving the full-time all-wheel drive through a six-speed automatic transmission.? This combination, smoothly and silently, accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds.? It won?t win many prizes for fuel economy with an EPA rating of 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway, but we actually averaged 16.9 mpg despite some foot-to-the-floor sprints to merge onto freeways.? The Supercharged version ups the horsepower to 510 and drops the 0 to 60 mph time to 5.9 seconds. ?The supercharger takes one mpg from the city and highway mileage numbers.? The two models have an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph and 140 mph respectively.

The weight, rock-solid body and luxury appointments combined with one of the quietest interiors in any kind of vehicle we have driven, giving the Sport almost a cocoon-like feel.? This safe feeling is further enhanced with all the latest safety and security equipment and driver aids including everything from Active Roll Mitigation, which stabilizes the ride, to Xenon automatic headlights that light up the countryside.? The other design feature we really appreciate is the excellent vision from the tall windows and small roof pillars. ?That can be further improved with the new Vision Assist Package ($1,200) which includes automatic high beam and adaptive HID headlights and a cleaver Surround View Camera that uses four cameras to display a 360-degree view right around the vehicle.

We?ve always been surprised by the large number of Range Rovers on the streets of Southern California and doubt that all those ?pretty people? we see behind the wheel are off roaders.? But we certainly understand the appeal of driving these great SUVs.? Range Rovers may be one of the top status symbols, but they are also one of our favorite SUVs to drive, just for the fun of it.? Plus who knows when you might want to ford a stream or climb a large boulder.

 

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