Supposedly, Harrogate is one of the happiest places to live in the country. I think that, as well as their place of residence, the overwhelming wealth of the residents could contribute significantly to their happiness. But go there, and whilst you queue up for an hour to get into Betty’s tea rooms you will probably see at least two dozen Range Rovers. And even beyond Harrogate, the Range Rover Sport has always been the status car of choice. I decided to find out why, and managed to get hold of an Autobiography Dynamic for a week.
Looks – 10/10
Walk round a Range Rover Sport, and you will get a sense of the presence it has. At the front, the signature LED daytime running lights are more squared, and frame the full-LED headlights nicely. The ‘dynamic’ aspects larger front air intakes and more aggressive bumpers. To the side the lines are clean, especially the sleek recess which runs front to back. Standard wheels are either 21 or 22-inch, both of which fill the arches nicely. At the back the rear bumper is sportier, incorporating a diffuser between the twin exhausts. The rear lights are also LED, and a roof spoiler completes the styling package. The black contrast roof is a nice touch, and there are some wonderful exterior colours to choose from. The beauty of the Range Rover Sport is that it looks just as much at home in the city as it does in a field, although I suspect the majority will spend most of their time in the former.
Step inside the Range Rover Sport and you find yourself in a cocoon of luxury, surrounded by materials from the far end of the periodic table. Being the Autobiography Dynamic, only the best of the best makes it into the cabin. The seats are fine leather, and available in a host of colour schemes. There are flashes of aluminium here and there, and several trim finishers to choose from: anything from the more traditional Zebrano veneer to the extended carbon fibre option. There are several large displays, being the instrument cluster, multimedia screen and centre console control panel. The steering wheel buttons are capacitive, and will vary depending on the infotainment being used. As they are dynamically illuminated, when not on they complement the minimalist interior. I still maintain that the Range Rover Sport was furnished nicer than my house, and I could spend a great deal of time in there.
Handling/Performance – 10/10
The 4.4-litre V8 engine featured in my test car is the biggest and most powerful diesel in the range. It produces 339PS and a monumental 740Nm of torque, which is sent to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic gearbox. And despite weighing 2,115kg it’s no slouch: going from 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and reaching a top speed of 140mph. In truth the 3.0-litre V6 diesel is probably a better all-rounder, with 306PS and 700Nm, and it’s a bit cheaper too. But what you get for the extra money is a delightfully smooth, effortless cruiser, with the faintest of V8 rumbles in the background. Like the Autobiography trim, this engine is a symbol of opulence. It goes about its day-to-day business with ease, wafting along on the motorway. But then, when it’s needed, it can get a shift on. And that’s why this is the Range Rover Sport.
The handling is surprisingly good for a car of this size. I think the electronic air suspension plays a significant part in this. On the motorway, you cruise along on four pillows of air, absorbing smaller bumps such that you would think the road had just been resurfaced. There are few cars on the market this comfortable, and that means that you stay fresh even on a long drive. But what about the ‘sport’ part? Well, you can’t pretend there isn’t a little bit of lean into the corners, and a touch of body roll at speed. But actually, all things considered I’d call the Range Rover Sport competent. The steering is sharp and direct, and with the large Brembo brakes you can have confidence knowing it stops as well as it goes. When you drive down a country lane a bit ‘enthusiastically’, you will be surprised at how fast you are actually going.
Economy – 8/10
Chances are that if you’re willing to pay the extra for the SDV8 diesel engine, you aren’t particularly concerned with running costs. But actually you may be somewhat surprised. You see with start/stop technology and a spot of clever engineering, the boffins at Land Rover have done their best with this V8 lump. Road tax is a set rate these days, and given that the Range Rover Sport is over £40,000, that set rate is £450 a year. First year rate, based on CO2 emissions of 219g/km, is £1,200. But in the context of a 6-figure price that’s hardly going to stop you buying one. Combined fuel consumption is 33.6mpg, and for a 2 tonne SUV with a big V8 engine you can’t really complain at that.
Practicality – 9/10
The Autobiography Dynamic comes with a whole host of standard equipment. At the centre of this is the InControl Touch Pro Duo. This is a brace of 10-inch touch screens; one in the centre of the dashboard, and one just below in the centre console. This is much improved over the old system, because you can have the satellite navigation or media displayed and still easily adjust the climate control or seat heating. Lane departure warning, cruise control with speed limiter and autonomous emergency braking are all standard driver aids, and the optional surround camera system makes parking a lot easier. In particular I like the side cameras which help you keep those optional 22-inch alloys away from the kerbs! All-round exterior LED headlights allow for excellent visibility. A gesture tailgate and keyless entry round off what is a comprehensive technological offering.
Fun – 8/10
The level of technology inside the Range Rover Sport gives you plenty to read up about. I only had the car for a week so I imagine there’s so much I didn’t find, but if I owned one I would enjoy finding all the cool features. The pre-conditioning fob is great. Press it when you get in the shower, and a separate motor heats up the cabin, seats and steering wheel so that it’s nice and toasty when you get in. The driving dynamics are great, and with a Meridian stereo as standard you can accompany any journey with some crisp tunes. There is something satisfying about parking it outside the local shops, or coming back to it after a hard day at work. When you buy a car like this you are making more than just a car purchase: it’s a lifestyle choice.
It’s all too easy to get used to driving around in a Range Rover Sport. By the end of the week, I would have been quite happy to keep it. The styling is very much down to you: with so many colours, option packs and wheels to choose from. The V8 was a delightful engine, but personally I’d rather spend the extra money on gadgets and goodies. Prices for the V8 Autobiography Dynamic start at £89,950. By the time my test car was specced up, it cost more than £108,000. At that price, you have an unbelievable amount of choice, but for quality and status you’d be hard pushed to knock the Range Rover Sport. For more information head to your local dealer or visit the Land Rover website. I can think of just one problem with the Sport… the new Range Rover Velar looks absolutely fantastic.
Total Score – 45/50