Land Rover 101 - The Range of Rover

A. J. Mueller

Range Rover Sport Supercharged | Jaguar XFR muscle for the off-road.
By Eric Tingwall
Photos by A. J. Mueller

The optional supercharged V-8 in the face-lifted 2010 Range Rover Sport packs the same 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque as the track-star Jaguar XFR, yet it has all the presence of a mime. Aurally, that is. Ask for full thrust, and it executes a stunning show of power. With a Roots-type supercharger, direct injection, and variable intake- and exhaust-valve timing, the new 5.0-liter engine creates seamless, unending acceleration. However, the thrill of going fast in a straight line is novel only for so long.

We click the Terrain Response dial one notch counterclockwise to select dynamic mode - optimizing the engine, transmission, suspension, and traction behavior - before trying a quick turn. But the Rover's stability, composure, and eagerness to move fast in a bend are hardly exciting. Rather, the handling falls short of the expectations set by fantastic steer-ing, an impressive transmission, and go-fast power. BMW's X6 xDrive 50i - the vehicle that tainted all drivers' standards for SUVs - is two inches wider, five inches shorter in height, 270 pounds lighter, and immeasurably more agile than the supercharged Range Rover Sport.

But don't expect any apologies from Land Rover. At its core, the Sport is still an off-roader. Body-on-frame construction, a transfer case, and an optional $500 locking rear differential are more entitled to be here than the twenty-inch tires designed for pavement-bound SUVs. The four-corner air suspension is capable of increasing ground clearance more than two inches, to 8.9 inches. Half of the six Terrain Response system settings are specifically for off-road conditions.

The Sport's cabin is just about as posh as off-roading gets (aside from stepping up to the larger Range Rover, sans Sport). Two flanks of pristine, matte-finished walnut hugged the center console of our test vehicle, and a $1000 package added leather to the upper dash, door panels, and armrests. The stitching and perforations on the seats make for wonderful art, but the driver's chair stops sliding back a bit too soon for your six-foot, three-inch scribe. Slide into the rear, and it's easy to see why the front seats stop where they do. The narrow rear-door opening hints at tight headroom and even tighter legroom within.

The rear hatch is heavy to open and stiff to close. At $82,345, we expected the Sport to be equipped with a power liftgate, but Land Rover doesn't offer one. There's also no provision for cooled seats, but a refrigerator in the center console is standard on supercharged models and good for keeping four cans chilled. The optional five-camera, $800 surround-view system is useful for parking, although image quality is below par, and the physical controls for the infotainment display can be fussy, particularly when scanning through radio stations.

In a market that increasingly follows the BMW and Porsche examples of how to build an $80,000 SUV, Land Rover doesn't have a lot of competition in its niche of a niche. Still, that doesn't mean that the automaker doesn't have to meet all the expectations those vehicles have instilled. The updated Range Rover Sport is an admirable evolution of performance and prestige, but it falls short on technology and packaging.

On sale: Now
Price: $74,195/$82,345 (base/as tested)
Engine: 5.0L supercharged V-8, 510 hp, 461 lb-ft
Drive: 4-wheel

catch-me-if-u-can
Hugely informative piece, yet I consider it to be ultimately rubbish. First off, it does a wonderful job at annihilating any beliefs Land Rover is still alive or even kicking-. And, makes no mention of future product planning; I mean, where is any mention of its hugely anticipated LRX, to change perceptions all its designs need be oblong, rustic and technologically primitive-I'm-too-sleek-to-incorporate-any-new-technologies. Come on, this isn't a mustang. Where's the British in it? Innovation anyone. It's a slippery slope the article makes no mention of! But, that's just me, u know.

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