Since its creation in 1948 by Maurice Wilks, Land Rover is the only brand other than Jeep that has held on to its off-roading core values. There are also a very few brands out there that have kept up the “brand image” like the Land Rovers have despite facing all the financial up-hills.
The Range Rover has been Land Rover’s top dog for years and 2011 is no different. Since adding the Sport variant to the Range Rover lineup in 2000s, Land Rover has kept up the tradition of improving the Range every year. Our tester for the week was a Range Rover Sport Supercharged with a sticker price hovering around $80,000. Like the Escalade, Range Rover Sport is a master-piece when it comes to the exterior design and looks. That along with the rich heritage makes the Range Rover an automatic selection on the wealthy human being’s shopping list.
Starting from the front, the razor like grille sits perfectly between the impressive jewel like HID headlights. The fascia sits low to the ground but gives that perfect Sport look to the range. The sport body-kit like theme continues through the side on to the rear bumper. Even with so called lower looking rockers, the Range Rover Sport is still high enough for your off-road expeditions. The side vents on the fenders give great finishing touches to the front grille and the optional 20” Alloy wheels really set the SUV off. The rear window is sloping just like the original Rover and it gives this SUV a mean stance.
Stepping inside the Range Rover Sport brings that fresh smell of top of the line leather and wood. Almost everything you can touch is wrapped in leather and the aluminum accents really set the interior off. Our tester included a Harmon Kardon audio system that would be a perfect companion on those long off-roading trips. The driving position is perfect and provides a great view of the road. Even the rear passengers get that elevated stadium-style seating. Heated front and rear seats are optional but we were wondering why not cooling seats? Dual Zone automatic climate control system with re-circulation worked great in 90F Atlanta weather. We thought the dash was well laid-out and all the knob controls for the electronic gadgets clearly marked. However, like most automobile editors have noted, Range Rover Sport is not the best when it comes to the interior gizmos.
Well enough about the exterior design and interior of the Range Rover Sport. All the technology and history of the Range Rover is under the hood. Powered by a 5.0 liter supercharged V8, this truck can really move whether it is off or on road. This same engine is also found under the hood of the Jaguar XFR and produces 510hp and 461-lbft of torque. Considering the RR Sport weighs about 5500 pounds, the engineers have done a great job in massaging the engine to suit the needs. The engine is mated to a ZF six-speed transmission and this combination is one of the best available in the market today.
According to the folks over at Land Rover, the DampTronic valve tech system monitors and optimizes damper pressure about 500 times per second which is astonishing. What that delivers is an outstanding ride quality regardless of the driving conditions. We were able to test the RR on the freeways, city streets and some serious off-roading tracks and there wasn’t a single time the RR Sport disappointed us.
Every RR Sport comes standard with Land Rover’s Terrain Response system which is pretty much a dial with six settings: Regular Driving, Sand, Rock Crawl, Mud, Grass and Snow. Of course there are technologies working in the background but from a regular human’s perspective it is just that – a dial. There is also the Hill Discent Control System which pretty much allows you to go downhill without worrying about anything other than the steering wheel. We were able to go down a hill at about 60 degrees in rough muddy conditions and RR Sport didn’t hesitate for a second. It is an excellent option and worth a try if you are in the market for a tough SUV. And to get back up from that steep hill, RR Sport provides the Rock Crawl mode that works flawlessly. As we stated earlier that the RR Sport is not the best when it comes to the in-car gadgets but when it comes to the off-roading technologies, there is nothing out there that even comes close.
In the end we do have to come up with a conclusion for a week-long stay with this super off-roader. At near $80,000 sticker as tested, you are really looking at BMW X5M, Infiniti QX56 and Escalade as the competition. We think each of those Luxury SUVs offer something different. Range Rover Sport offers a status symbol, a great driving experience and ability to go anywhere any time. Unlike others we will not complain about the fuel economy because if you can spend this much cash gasoline should be least of your worries. We really think that the rich heritage which now has become a status symbol is worth spending $80K for!
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