The 2014 Range Rover Sport is something of a paradox. On one hand, it’s an SUV, with all the inconveniences that implies. It has the generous ground clearance and the resulting inconveniently high step-in height that complicates entry for anyone wearing a skirt, under the age of about 10, or old enough to be having conversations about Social Security…or any combination of all or all of the above.
But then the Range Rover Sport has a ripsnorting 510-horsepower supercharged V-8 and we truly mean rip and snorting, with an exhaust that both rips and snorts, along with a crackle on the overrun, just blipping the throttle, that’s barely short of a Stingray’s. And then defies Mr. Newton’s rules of physics by going, according to Land Rover, from 0-60 mph in five seconds flat. Impressive for two-and-a-half tons. The speedometer must surely be malfunctioning.
The Range Rover Sport’s V-8 all-aluminum design, and has what Land Rover calls sixth-generation, twin vortex supercharger which Land Rover says “offers superior thermodynamic efficiency and extremely refined noise levels.” The engine also has high-pressure direct injection using a centrally mounted, multi-hole, spray-guided injection system. The engine makes the Range Rover Sport V8 also almost a second faster than its predecessor, whose five-liter V-8 produced only 375 horsepower. Credit also an 800 pound weight reduction, thanks to the 2014 Range Rover Sport’s new aluminum body structure.
And then there’s the matter of corners. While supercharged V-8’s ability to launch is rivaled only by an catapult-aided F-18, that same center of gravity that makes access so daunting presents challenges Land Rover’s best engineering addresses with torque vectoring on the rear axle, dynamic stability control and modulation of the full air suspension reduce to reduce lean. Our Autobiography trim level tester also includes “Adaptive Dynamics” which reads vehicle attitude and inputs 500 times per second to vary shock absorber setting over a continuous range of firmness settings. While agility isn’t a word that will describe the Range Rover Sport V8 Autobiography, it’s deceptively quickfooted, its suspension putting its 275/40R22 rubber to good use.
Despite the Range Rover Sport’s aptitude for on-road antics, which are remarkable as a Land Rover-produced vehicle should be. Well, we didn’t go offroading, at least this time, though we’ve driven a Range Rover Sport in the dirt at other times and found it will go far beyond what a rational person would believe it could. Range Rover Sport’s Terrain Response System includes five different settings that adjust throttle response, gear changes, vehicle ride height and the differentials to optimize traction and agility in varying surfaces, from pavement to sand to, in our case, snow.
The SUV side of the Range Rover Sport’s personality is matched by its rectangular exterior that’s relieved only by a slight slope of the roofline towards the rear, distinguishing it from the Range Rover, the one without the Sport, which in fact is a whole ‘nuther model. The front of the Range Rover Sport, however, is as blunt the bow of a River Avon punt, though with beveled edges that Land Rover claims have been honed with computational flow dynamics (CFD), with particular elements including near-flush A-pillars and a full bellypan to reduce drag. It’s a surprisingly slippery brick, with a 0.37 drag coefficient. By modern automobile standards, that’s, well, not modern.
The profile, though, is in large part what makes the Range Rover Sport recognizable as a member of the Land Rover/Range Rover family. For those adept at reading such, the string of LED accent lights around and through the headlight cluster have enough curves and curls that it surely means something in Arabic…which it might, considering that not a few Range Rover Sports will have the emirates as their destination. You know, just saying. Taillights, too, could be guilty of the same.
There is more leather in the Range Rover Autobiography we tested than a shoe store inside, stretched across every surface that didn’t need to be metallic or the instrument panel and multi-information screen. The i.p. is a full TFT video screen, but for all the technology that involves, the layout is conventional, with less reconfiguration ability than a Volvo S80’s. At the Range Rover Sport’s price point, we’d expect more digital pyrotechnics.
Ditto with the multi-information display at the top of the center stack. Operation of the touch screen’s elements are far easier than a BMW’s, but we’d direct Land Rover engineers to crib a few elements from Ford’s Sync system or the layout and navigation graphics of Hyundai/Kia.
The Range Rover Sport does have an entertaining system of tracking fuel use and economical fuel efficient driving, complete with best and worst trips—ours ranged from a worst of 9.8 mpg to a best of 22.4 mpg, a wide range no doubt affected by the single digit driving in a hilly test venue to highway speed cruising, though, and with it such at no time did we engage in any hypermiling antics.
Alas, there is no simple overall fuel mileage readout available, or if there is, we couldn’t find it. If we were the suspicious sort, we’d posit that’s information that Land Rover doesn’t want you to have. It’s bad enough that putting 22 gallons of premium into the Range Rover Sport’s fuel tank—it’s 27 gallons bottom to top, resulted in a fuel pump receipt totaling $82 at our local rate. Our swallowing hard was matched only by the Range Rover Sport’s gulping Exxon’s best.