First Drive: 2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

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 Jeep Grand Cherokee 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.

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