New Car Reviews

First Drive: 2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

It comes as no surprise the Sport shares its upgraded engines and transmission with the 2010 . The Range Rover and Range Rover Sport have always been very similar with the main difference being the slightly more rakish exterior on the Sport and more demure handling on the regular Range Rover. Now there are even bigger differences between the two Range Rovers.

Aging Gracefully
Though the appearance changes for all 2010 Land Rovers are pretty slight, the Range Rover Sport is perhaps the easiest to tell apart from its predecessor. The LED headlights are sure to impress valets and two-bar grille looks a bit tidier than the outgoing design. There are new front fenders, but they are hardly revolutionary in design. Out back new taillights and a redesigned bumped balance out the changes to the front. The wheel arches have been redesigned to improve aerodynamics and highlight the 19- and 20-inch wheels.

The Real Treat is Inside
Of course owners will spend a lot more time inside the range Rover Sport than admiring the outside, so it makes sense that the majority of the design upgrades are in the cabin. We’re thrilled that the Range Rover Sport now looks as upscale as its price suggests, with an abundance of soft-touch plastics, softer leather, and wood trim. Additionally, the entire infotainment system is much more intuitive and half of its buttons have been eliminated. Optional adjustable side bolsters help the front seats fit drivers of all sizes and the seats are more comfortable to boot.

More Tech Toys
Like the other 2010 Land Rovers, the Range Rover Sport has a lot of optional gadgets. The surround-view camera system is very helpful during off-road excursions, though Range Rover Sport owners would be wise to use it during parking maneuvers to keep those big wheels free of scuffs. High beam assist allows the vehicle to automatically switch between high and low beam headlights as traffic allows. The hard drive navigation system is much faster than the old system and iPod integration is very good.

A fancy, 5.0-inch TFT display is situated between the speedometer and tachometer, but currently it can only display basic information about the vehicle. We hope a software upgrade will allow information about what song is playing, or navigation directions, to be displayed in this location. It can be much less distracting to look down to the instrument cluster for navigation info rather than looking down and to the right at a nav screen. Such an arrangement could also allow navigation information to be displayed to a driver and infotainment information to be displayed to a passenger, or vice-versa.

Sport Meets Muscle
For 2010, all Land Rover models get the new, direct-injection, 5.0-liter V-8. Power is up by 75 hp, to 375 hp, and torque is at 375 lb-ft – both figures represent big upgrades over the aging 4.2-liter V-8, which sometimes struggled to move vehicles as big and heavy as the Land Rover. Supercharged models share the 5.0-liter block but also get an intercooled sixth-generation Eaton blower that pushes power to 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. The whole supercharger/intercooler assembly fits nicely in the valley of the engine, the revised air intake is more efficient, and supercharger whine has been reduced by more than 50%.

Both engines are mated to a ZF six-speed automatic transmission. The increase in power from the 5.0-liter engines allows the torque converter to lock up earlier, which increases fuel efficiency. An adaptive sport mode provides more aggressive shift points and “learns” an individual driver’s style to provide more appropriate responses to throttle inputs. Range Rover Sport Supercharged models go one step further and include a dynamic setting on the terrain response system. Twisting the dial to Dynamic Mode firms up the suspension and makes the throttle and shift maps even more aggressive.

On the Road
We sampled both HSE and Supercharged Range Rover Sports and found the Supercharged vehicles to be brutally fast and quite a handful to drive. The subtle differences in tuning between Range Rover and Range Rover Sport are very apparent through the steering wheel – we found the Sport to be very fatiguing, like an old SRT8, as it tramlined over less than ideal pavement. If you’ve been clamoring for a 5901 lb SUV with low profile tires and a sub-6.0 second 0-to-60-mph time, this may be the least of your concerns, but we quickly grew tired of it.

The HSE seemed more manageable on the road, though we spent most of our time with it on the freeway where we had to be vigilant of speed cameras. Since the normally aspirated engine is virtually as quick as the outgoing supercharged engine, this may be the best balance of speed and comfort in the Sport line.

Hypothetically, it Goes Off-Road, too
It seems unlikely the celebrity couple you see cruising around Hollywood in a Range Rover Sport will ever venture off-road, but customers in the Middle East are quite fond of playing in the desert with Land Rovers, and thus there is a new feature on the terrain response system to facilitate better launches in the sand. The sand mode now includes a launch control feature that allows just enough wheel slip to get the vehicles moving yet prevents it from digging down to bedrock. Sadly we weren’t able to find any sand outside of Edinburgh, Scotland to test the system.

We did manage to take the Sport down a few hours worth of trails and were quite impressed by its capabilities in the mud. The trails were not as challenging as what the LR4 conquered, but more than demonstrated the Sport’s capability, even with low profile tires and decidedly road-biased tread pattern. Suffice to say the Sport is willing and able to tackle far tougher terrain than its owner is likely to attempt.

When Can I Buy One?
Land Rover dealers should be getting shipments of Range Rover Sports any day now and have an official on-sale date of September 1. The Range Rover Sport HSE starts at $60,495 while Supercharged model stickers for $74,195 and includes the luxury and climate comfort packages. The $1000 extended leather package for Supercharged and HSE models equipped with the luxury package covers most of the surfaces you’ll be touching with leather and is probably worth the upgrade. Four distinct styles of 20-inch wheels are available as individual options and command $1000-2500 depending on the design.

Buying Guide
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12 City / 18 Hwy

Cargo (Std/Max):

NA / 74.2 cu. ft.