I chauffeured two of my colleagues on a two-hour drive to West Branch, Michigan, piloting the Range Rover Sport and I could not have been happier. The interior is sumptuously luxurious but not so plush as to throw any sporting intentions out the window. The car's design -- both inside and out -- is tastefully restrained, clearly showing its premium Range Rover roots without being overly flashy. Yes, a faster processor for the infotainment system would be appreciated, but there were no "play with me" dials or touch pads and zero "look at me" trim bits. Also just right is the RR Sport's size -- it's neither too large nor unwieldy, and it isn't too small as to not feel reasonably substantial on any road surface. The 5.0-liter V-8 has a sonorous burble and sounds wicked under heavy throttle. Better yet, the V-8 is matched perfectly with the six-speed automatic, which is silky smooth and nearly imperceptible in its shifting. Best of all, the RR Sport comes with the prestige of the Range Rover name while still undercutting its V-8-powered competition from Porsche and BMW.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
This was the perfect morning to show off the awesomeness of Land Rover's unique windshield defroster: a thin sheet of frost covered all the RR Sport's windows, thanks to 30 degree temperatures, but within three minutes, the defroster-warmed windshield was clear with a little help from the windshield wipers and no effort of my own besides the pushing of a button.
This monstrous vehicle's ability to accelerate away from a stop astounds me every time. Someone could have told me this was the supercharged model, and I wouldn't have doubted it for a second. It takes 375 very well-bred (and thirsty!) horses to thrust this 5500-pound SUV down the road like a rocket.
The RR Sport can be deceiving in another good way, too: most onlookers surely assume this is the $20K-pricier full-flavor Range Rover. I'm not telling.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Exactly five years ago, we conducted a comparison test of five high-performance, premium SUVs, including the Range Rover Sport Supercharged, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, BMW X5 4.8i, and Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG. We named the BMW, then completely new, as the winner, but I was quoted in the story as saying that the Range Rover was "in many ways, the most satisfying vehicle here." Five long years later, after the Cayenne, the Grand Cherokee, and the M-class all have undergone wholesale redesigns and the X5 has been heavily face-lifted and received new powertrains, I'd have to say that I stand by my statement. The Range Rover Sport, which itself has received larger and more powerful engines but retains its archaic full-frame construction and consequent huge curb weight, simply hits the sweet spot in terms of what a mid-size luxury SUV should look like, sound like, and feel like. Yes, I know it's heavier and less agile than most of its competitors. I also know that most members of its intended audience simply don't care, and I know that, from behind the wheel, the Range Rover Sport just feels right. I credit the well-weighted and accurate steering, the fluid powertrain, and, most of all, the view from the driver's seat through the windshield and out of the huge side windows.
All that praise aside, one certainly hopes and expects that the next-generation Range Rover Sport will be a lot lighter, a lot more agile, and a lot more fuel efficient than this one.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Echoing Joe DeMatio's last sentiment, it would also be nice to see the 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine in the European Range Rover Sport make its way to the U.S. market. Surely with that engine's fuel economy would increase to at least the low-to-mid-20-mpg range, which would be a sizeable improvement over the current numbers. Not that there's anything wrong with either of the Range Rover Sport's current V-8 engines. The normally aspirated 5.0-liter unit in this example is a very able powerplant, as its 385 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque motivate the nearly three tons of Range Rover with no problem.
As with all Range Rovers, this vehicle has true off-road chops, even though the roughest terrain it will probably see is a dirt road or two-track. Still, I suppose it's nice to know that you can get yourself out of trouble if you take a wrong turn at a construction site - which probably won't ever happen because the view from driver's seat is almost unimpeded thanks to the high seating position and low beltline.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
A family friend recently came home with a brand-new Range Rover Sport after cross-shopping a BMW X5 and a Porsche Cayenne. The move was a bit surprising at first -- it is one of the oldest offerings in its segment -- but after driving this silver Sport for a night, I can easily see what drew her to it. It's design hasn't changed much over the past seven years, but the exterior still looks modern and handsome, while the interior is as posh and well-assembled as ever. I was pleasantly surprised by the driveline: the direct-injection 5.0-liter V-8, which was added to the Range Rover Sport lineup in 2009, pulls strongly, provides an incredible amount of power, and delivers a delectable exhaust note in the process. The Range Rover Sport isn't necessarily the latest and greatest, but despite its age, it is still quite good.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor