Motorway driving and crashing through cornfields may seem like chalk and cheese for some, but the boffins at Jaguar Land Rover have done it again.
With the new Range Rover Sport 2018, they’ve somehow blended a badass off-roader with a sleek, sophisticated sports exterior that wouldn’t look out of place in a professional footballer’s fleet.
As the name suggests, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport configurations are what set it apart from all other SUVs.
For starters, as a smaller Range Rover, it benefits from being 400kg lighter than its predecessor.
Of course, the aluminium body helps. What results is an imposing Range Rover that’s bigger than the Velar and looks meaner than others, but also offers the same luxury interior you might expect in a limousine.
So, what exactly has changed this time around? There’s the abovementioned weight change, and it’s not using the twin-rail chassis you’d see in a Land Rover Discovery.
In a bid to compete with the Porsche Cayenne, we have a smaller, lower and overall sportier design, that’s also offered in many different varieties for all tastes.
Said varieties refer to the performance, naturally – at the top end of the Range Rover Sport models, we have an Autobiography Dynamic 503BHP 5.0 litre model with a supercharged V8 petrol engine, and below that, the 288bhp 3.0 litre SDV6 turbodiesel.
For those who prefer comfort over speed, we have the 255BHP 3.0 litre TDV6 model. A 2.0 litre Ingenium four-cylinder model comes in the form of the HSE or HSE Dynamic too.
There are a couple of other eyebrow – or indeed hair – raising models too. For environmentally conscious motorists, Range Rover have developed a plug-in hybrid PHEV version, the P400e, which offers 400BHP and a combined fuel economy of 100mpg. Think that’s impressive? Wait until you lay eyes on the latest from Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations. This division claims to produce cars that “stand out” and the RR Sport SVR 2018 does just that. It’s packing 425BHP and a carbon fibre bonnet, and is even available in orange.
A seven-seater upgrade is available on all models, which is just one of many things that can push up the Range Rover Sport cost. That’s a lot to fork out when the range starts at £51,550, but we’ll get to that. For now, let’s focus on the most important issue: what’s it like to drive?
The Range Rover Sport height is just one of the contributing factors to its all-round versatility: when you step, or indeed pull yourself up, into the cabin, you are offered an incredible view of the road combined with a domineering road presence.
On the downside, this can be to the Sport’s detriment: being so high doesn’t quite fit with the “sporty” image it’s trying to convey.
While it can certainly reach some impressive speeds, its all-terrain tyres are also crying out to be taken off road. (19-inch alloy wheels come as standard, but with a list of upgrades as long as your arm, the 20-inch versions definitely provide a more comfortable ride.)
Steering takes a very relaxed approach – it’s not overly quick, and responds appropriately to the car’s weight, unlike competitors such as the BMW or Porsche.
That said, it does offer stability control when it thinks a rollover is likely, which can be a blessing but could also be considered one of the bigger Land Rover Range Rover Sport problems.
In the rain, said stability control can come across a little over-zealous, particularly in off-road conditions. If you want total autonomy over vehicle at these moments, you might want to turn this option off.
The eight-speed gearbox isn’t quite as responsive as the steering, so it’s best suited to cruising on A-roads when you’re in no hurry to change gears. There are paddles, but these look a little cheap, and they’re not as convenient to use as the pistol-grip gear selector.
Another big tick for the Sport is its comfort at high speeds. Thanks to a consistent set of controls, there’s no need to spend hours going through different driving modes to achieve optimum comfort.
Everything but the SVR model comes with the height-adjustable air suspension setup, which aids the handling enormously over uncomfortable or off-road terrains.
The entry-level versions do not offer as high tech a range of suspension modes as others, but these can be added as an optional extra.
Despite its size, the Sport is surprisingly quiet, even at high speeds. There’s a gentle murmur from the side mirrors which is to be expected in a car of this design, but generally it doesn’t affect the overall comfort of the drive.
Bigger wheels enhance the noise somewhat – while for aesthetics alone, it’s inadvisable to go with the dinky 19-inch wheels, equally, it’s worth knowing that the 21 and 22-inch versions are a little louder.
The V8 petrol engine is, unsurprisingly, the loudest, though this roar can be kept to a minimum when driven gently.
One could question why you’d want to drive something so powerful ‘gently’, and in that case, the roar is all part of the fun. For ultra-quiet, we’d suggest the hybrid, which brings us nicely into the running costs.
We’ll start with the good news first: if you want good fuel economy and a clear conscience, then opt for the hybrid.
Like many hybrid models, if you use it for city driving alone then it can be very cheap to run. In realistic terms, it probably runs around 20 miles on a full charge, and then afterwards achieves 25MPG on petrol alone.
As mentioned above, it professes to offer a combined MPG of 100, but this doubtless requires some very attentive driving. There are perks to owning this however, for example, you won’t be liable to pay the London Congestion Charge.
On the other end of the scale, at top speeds in the supercharged SVR, you might cringe when you see 1MPG on the monitor. Rest assured, this is only at its top speed of 164mp.
For all models, you’re looking anywhere between 21 and 38MPG. In terms of reliability, Range Rover does have something of a reputation when it comes to dodgy gearboxes or infotainment systems, but thankfully, the Sport seems to have largely eluded this.
Speaking of infotainment systems, there’s no danger of missing anything with the massive 12.3-inch digital screens in the Sport.
The RR Sport interfaces feature Ranger Rover’s signature InControl Touch Pro technology, which has improved vastly since the RR Sport days of yore, but still has some way to go if it’s to match the technological prowess of the BMW iDrive or the Audi MM.
For one, it does not mirror Apple or Android devices, and it can occasionally be prone to freezing.
The vast screen features everything you’d expect, including climate controls, drive settings and media menus, but it does rely perhaps a little too heavily on touchscreen.
There are some physical controls thrown in out of courtesy, which can be used to toggle the heated seats and off-road settings if you have the relevant upgrades.
There’s plenty to keep you comfortable on long journeys thanks to an incredibly supportive front seat, though taller drivers might not get as much from the headrest in the SVR.
There’s an electric steering column to mould the car just how you like it, and the pedals line up well for all heights.
Over in the back, there’s not tons of room in the legroom department, but headroom is more generous thanks to its high design.
If you’re opting for the seven-seater, be wary that the final two seats can barely accommodate anything larger than two children, so it might be best saving this for luggage space. Said space starts at a generous 446 litres to 556, or 1,686 with the seats folded down.
It’s clear that choice has been the key influencer in the design of the latest Range Rover Sport. With so many different engine sizes, and upgrades from suspension to wheels and seats, motorists truly can customise the Sport to their hearts’ content.
Of course, this comes at a price, and patience in some respects. You won’t find a hybrid Land Rover Range Rover for sale in the UK until 2019, but that’s a small price to pay for what could potentially save commuters a lot of money.
Its versatility sits the Sport neatly between the Velar and the Discovery, making it best for cruising on A-roads or winding leisurely around the country.
If you’re after a bit of fun and have a few spare thousand pounds to play with (better still with the upgrades), then give it a spin.
If nothing else, it promises to deliver the most comfortable and luxurious ride of your life.