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2014 Range Rover Sport is powerful and luxurious

In first drive, Land Rover proves to be 2.5 tons of agile, plush SUV

Last updated: February 14, 2014 11:00 AM

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The newest, most popular Land Rover—the Range Rover Sport— shares its platform, aluminum body, and powertrains with the flagship Range Rover. Yet, it uses this hardware and name for a slightly different mission. Where the “regular” Range Rover is a luxurious, stately, and serene (and expensive) SUV, the “Sport” aims to go up against such athletic SUVs as the BMW X5, Mercedes ML, and Porsche Cayenne. It’s somewhat styled like a larger-scale version of the entry-level Evoque, and at about $70,000, runs about $20,000 less than the top-dog Rover. 

Our midtrim Sport HSE includes the optional third-row seat and typical add-on packages that together bumped the $63,495 base price to $74,040.

First impressions: Unlike the cosseting Range Rover, the Sport is a taut, agile machine that tackles corners with gusto. While the ride isn’t plush, it is not uncomfortable but is steady and controlled with just a hint of stiffness.

The 340-hp, supercharged 3.0-liter V6, now found in nearly all Jaguar and Land Rover models, is mated to a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic. That powerhouse effortlessly pulls the 5,500-pound Sport up to speed. So far, we’ve been seeing about 17 mpg on the trip computer.

Handling is a definite improvement over the previous Sport, which was ungainly and much heavier. This new one brings quick reflexes and even-keel cornering. We’re talking strictly about on-pavement performance here. The V6 version doesn't come standard with low range, that's part of a $1,300 option package. And besides, the 20-inch summer tires seem too vulnerable for boulder climbing.

Those summer tires are our major beef. They’re just about useless on snow-covered roads. 

While the cabin is a dead ringer for the real Range Rover’s, it’s hard not to notice the more sculpted seats and the sport-oriented shifter. The cabin stays quiet, with only a distant whine from the supercharger.

The second-row seat is understandably less sumptuous and accommodating than that in the Range Rover; the Sport is 6 inches shorter. The folding third row is tiny, but so is the one in the BMW X5

Interior fit and finish is superb, with tasteful leather, wood, and chrome in all the right places. Controls take some getting used to, typical of other Land Rovers, and the touch screen may be a far reach for some. It also doesn’t help that some touch controls don’t react immediately. We also were dismayed that shutting off the engine also cuts off the radio. Most upscale competitors keep the tunes playing until you actually open the door and leave the car.

One high-end convenience is the height-adjustable suspension, which includes an access mode that lowers the car by 2 inches. Unfortunately, you have to remember to hit the switch every time you reach your destination and before you shut off the engine.

The Sport is an inviting blend of exclusivity, quick moves, and luxurious furnishings. But the tire choice is unfortunate at best, downright irresponsible at worst. And at this price, hearing the end of your favorite song shouldn’t be too much to ask, either.

Gabe Shenhar

   

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