When it came time to completely redevelop their best-selling product, Land Rover did something that few manufacturers dare. Get this: they actually asked existing Range Rover Sport customers what they’d want to see in a new model — just imagine the dismay of the engineers! The end result is a vehicle that, at its very core, is more Range Rover and more Sport than its predecessor. What that means: at first glimpse, you’ll notice a much stronger resemblance between the Sport model and the flagship Range Rover of this generation — inside and out. And while they share not a single body-panel in common, following this design principle directly resulted in the eradication of any feelings that you’re purchasing a “lesser” product when you opt for the Sport — which is an extremely important distinction to make, because purchasing a Sport doesn’t net you any less of a car than the flagship Range Rover, rather a vehicle designed for an entirely different purpose.
Unlike the outgoing models, under their sheet metal skins is where these fraternal twins share the greatest portion of their DNA. Previously, the Sport was constructed in the more traditional “truck” architecture with its steel body shell resting atop a steel Discovery/LR3 frame — the pros of which; versatility, ruggedness, and ease of repair — are far outweighed in this particular application by the cons of excessive weight and torsional weakness. Thus, the new Sport comes heavily based on the Range Rover’s all-aluminum unibody platform. The results of this? A weight savings of around a whopping 800bs over the outgoing model and a simultaneous twenty-five percent increase in chassis rigidity. The results of that? Increased fuel economy, astounding on-road agility, a tranquil fortress of a cabin, and the ability to withstand the off-road punishment that all Land Rover vehicles are capable of incurring. Suffice it to say it would appear that the brand’s large investment in aluminum R&D is paying some major dividends.
Available motivation for the 2014 Range Rover Sport can be found in the form of either a new, 3.0-liter supercharged V6, or Land Rover’s formidable 5.0-liter supercharged V8 — both come paired to the same 8-Speed ZF (they’ve designed gearboxes for BMW, Maserati, Mercedes, Lotus, Porsche, etc.) automatic transmission and will get you going significantly quicker than the power plants they replace. Opt for the direct-injected, compact all-aluminum 510hp supercharged V8 with Bosch engine management and you can hit 60 MPH in reportedly just under 5 seconds — which, at 0.9 seconds quicker than the previous model is fairly astonishing considering it had the same number of ponies under the hood. And the sound…oh, the sound! Be prepared to scare small children and the elderly! For the more reserved, the supercharged V6 (which is actually based on the same engine block as the V8 but lacks piston #7 and #8) has 35 less horsepower than the 5.0-liter, naturally-aspirated V8 it replaced; and it will get you to 60 MPH in a modest 6.9 seconds, which is 0.3 quicker than the brutish V8 was.
In the realm of powertrain discussion, transmissions are nearly always overshadowed by the engines that drive them; but I’d like to give a shout-out to the aforementioned 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox. During our test runs around the hills of San Mateo County, whether I was behind the wheel of a V8 model equipped with optional steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters or a V6 with the drive selector simply placed in manual mode, the crisp, near seamless on-demand upshifts and silky, precisely rev-matched downshifts absolutely made my driving experience. The combination of the broad powerbands characterized by both motors, coupled with being able to move rapidly through the gears in either direction, and balancing the car with engine braking while throwing it around tight, winding corners culminated in a driving experience that I’d frankly never experienced in an SUV.
Equally paramount to achieving the behind-the-wheel experience is the Sport’s double isolated, fully independent aluminum suspension and the electromechanical systems with which it integrates. Equipped with Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system, the 2014 Sport incorporates a fully adjustable air suspension, which boasts over ten inches of up/down travel in each corner and class-leading articulation, as well as an optional two-speed transfer case and locking rear differential. To put the breadth of this vehicle’s capability in perspective, it bests the Jeep Wrangler (arguably the most iconic off-road vehicle of all time) in both ground clearance and wading depth. The Terrain Response 2 system can now automatically analyze the topography and cycle through the five (general, grass/gravel/snow, sand, mud/ruts, and rock crawl) modes and adapt the engine, transmission, differentials, and vehicle stability programs to best suit the current conditions — having tested the system first-hand on a purpose-built off-road course, I can attest to its viability. Regardless of how “stuck” I thought I was, or how few wheels I had touching the ground, all I had to do was point the steering wheel straight while applying steady throttle input, and the Sport would simply manufacture traction when there was seemingly none. Additionally, V8 Supercharged models feature a ‘Dynamic Mode’ setting on the Terrain Response 2 dial, which configure the vehicle for maximized on-road agility.
One thing I’ve yet to touch upon is the Sport’s interior and exterior design. The vehicle is stunningly gorgeous inside and out, and the materials and finish are of the utmost quality and remain undeniably worthy of the Range Rover moniker. Inside the Sport you’ll find every safety and convenience feature known to man; Lane Departure Warning, Blind-spot Monitoring with Closing Vehicle Sensing, Reverse Traffic Detection, Surround Camera System, and it will even park itself with Electronic Park Assist. Best of all, the Sport now offers an optional 5+2 seating configuration, enabling you to demonstrate its bells and whistles to as many as six of your mates at a time… as well as an incentive for good behavior (it’s pretty tight back there).
The 2014 Sport will be reaching dealerships this fall with a starting price of $63,495 for a V6 unit. A V8 Supercharged iteration will set you back an extra $16,500 from the base V6 with the $93,295 Autobiography edition topping out the line.
Article by: Kevin Sohal
Filed Under: Golf & Automotive