The Range Rover Sport, like its more expensive sibling, the Range Rover, has a sense of occasion about it that no other sport-utility vehicle comes close to matching. Yes, I know it’s ridiculously heavy, at close to three tons. Yes, I know that this supercharged version is sinfully inefficient. Yes, I know that it’s outrageously expensive. But when I slide into this brown-on-brown, opulent cabin, I forgive the Range Rover Sport all of its sins. I can’t think about those petty matters, because I’m too busy caressing the meticulously stitched piece of dark brown leather that stretches across the dashboard and the seats. I would love a club chair this well-upholstered in my living room. At this price point, the details are what matters, and the Range Rover Sport gets so many of them right. I even admired the outer corners of the front seat bottoms, which are done in a brown suede-like fabric that perfectly matches the adjacent brown leather. Hmmm, can I have a loveseat made out of that fabric to go with my club chair?
OK, I realize that I cannot drive around in my living room, but I can do so in a Range Rover Sport. From the driver’s seat, the sightlines in all directions are surprisingly good. The low side glass gives everyone a splendid view of the surrounding scenery, and the low front cowl and upright front seats give you that cliched command view of the road. Unlike so many other SUVs, though, the Range Rover Sport seems reasonably sized, especially when you’re climbing in and out of it. No stupid running boards here, because they’re not needed.
Aside from its fuel inefficiency, the new-last-year supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 and its six-speed automatic make for a quite compelling powertrain. And it’s appropriate that “Sport” is part of this vehicle’s name, because its steering, braking, and body control are remarkably good for such a heavy vehicle. It was developed partly on the Nuerburgring and that’s where Land Rover introduced it to the automotive media many years ago. Which brings us to the fact that the Range Rover Sport is getting pretty old. To which I say, so what? If you like it, and you can afford it, have at it.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I too cannot argue any of Joe’s points about the sinfully seductive Range Rover Sport. Range Rovers offer some of the nicest interiors in the automobile business: top-grade materials, ambiance, comfort, style — it’s all there.
My only complaint about the driving experience (besides the outdated touch screen) is that the transmission isn’t always smooth off the line during moderate acceleration, as if it wants to start in second gear, before roughly bumping down into first.
No matter. For those who can afford it, this (and any) Range Rover is clearly a worthwhile indulgence.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I completely agree with Joe DeMatio. There’s just something special about the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, which is pretty remarkable when you consider how much they share under the skin with the Land Rover LR4. The I-don’t-give-a-damn-about-aerodynamics design, the variety of rich interior materials, and the robust power delivery combine to make the Range Rover family of SUVs feel much better than the sum of their very impressive components.
The supercharged Range Rover Sport is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This vehicle looks (and is) incredibly heavy, boxy, and certainly has a large footprint. But behind the wheel it seems much smaller, lighter, and certainly a whole lot faster than you’d imagine by looking at the exterior. The fact that a Range Rover Sport still felt fast to me when the last car I drove was a Subaru WRX STI says a lot about the overall tuning of the Rover’s powertrain.
My only gripe lies with the rather archaic touch-screen infotainment unit. It takes me far too long to accomplish basic tasks like changing a radio frequency or moving from navigation to audio functions. I realize it’s a pretty minor complaint, but I guarantee owners will spend more time wrestling with this interface than indulging in the full range of the engine’s superb power band. Still, the fashion-crazed status-symbol set will likely tolerate this imperfection to have that undeniable curb appeal and presence that comes standard with every Range Rover. And I can’t fault them for that.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
As my colleagues have described in detail, the Range Rover Sport’s interior is comfortable, opulent, meticulously detailed, etcetera, etcetera. The quintessentially British mix of both comfort and luxury has been a Range Rover hallmark for decades, so it’s not surprising that the company has been able to execute it all to perfection.
The supercharged 510-hp V-8 doesn’t seem the least bit hampered by the Range Rover’s 5700-pound curb weight. I do have one complaint, however. At very low speeds (think a crowded parking lot) acceleration is extremely non-linear. You reach a point in the throttle travel where the vehicle stops creeping and practically lurches forward, as if the horses can no longer stand to feel so constrained. It takes a feather-light touch on the throttle to keep things moving along at a slow pace. This behavior off the line is fine for aggressive driving, but it might be a problem when driving in traffic.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
2011 Range Rover Sport
Base price (with destination): $75,395
Price as tested: $77,995
5.0-liter supercharged V-8 engine
6-speed automatic transmission w/CommandShift
Terrain Response System
All-terrain dynamic stability control (DSC)
Hill descent control (HDC)
Emergency brake assist
Rain- and speed-sensing wipers
Automatic Xenon headlights with headlight power washers
Park Distance Control
Keyless Passive Entry System with push-button start
Heated front and rear seats
Heated front windshield with heated washer jets
Dual-zone automatic climate control system
Leather-wrapped, power-adjustable steering wheel
Memory driver’s seat, steering wheel, mirrors
Power tilt and slide sunroof
Electrochromatic: Rearview mirror with integrated Homelink system
Center console cooler box
GPS Off-Road Enhanced Navigation system
5″ thin film transistor screen with enhanced vehicle information
240-watt 9 speaker Harman/Kardon audio system
CD player/satellite radio tuner
Personal telephone integration system w/ Bluetooth capability
Auxiliary audio jack/iPod connectivity/socket/USB port
20 x 9.5-inch wheels
Temporary spare wheel and tire
Options on this vehicle:
Anigre wood trim — $350
Premium LOGIC7 Audio Package — $1250
480 watts/13 Speakers/LOGIC7/HD radio
20-inch style 2 wheels — $1000
Key options not on vehicle:
Rear Seat Entertainment — $2500
Twin in-headrest screens
DVD and gaming console capability
Adaptive Cruise Control — $2000
Advanced Emergency Brake Assist
Vision Assist Pack — $1200
Active rear locking differential — $500
12 / 17 / 14 mpg
5.0L supercharged V-8
Horsepower: 510 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 461 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
Curb weight: 5709 lb
Wheels/tires: 20 x 9.5-inch aluminum alloy wheels
275/40YR20 summer performance tires