Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Written By nyit on Monday, April 4, 2011 | 4:16 AM

The Land Rover Range Rover Sport hulks quietly at the curb, looking like a bouncer next to the svelte performance cars parked near it. Land Rover's hot-rod SUV doesn't seem to have any idea what's in store for it, but it looks like it's confident it can take it.
Land Rovers are nothing if not confident, after all. The brand made its mark by becoming the motor vehicle of choice in places where there were no roads. In recent years, the luxury quotient has gone up dramatically, but Land Rovers have remained capable, unstoppable vehicles underneath the leather and satellite radio. The brand broke tradition slightly in 2005, when the Range Rover Sport debuted with a focus on on-road performance. The ante was upped for 2010, with new engines and improved chassis tuning. Has it succeeded? I'm about to find out, because Land Rover has agreed to let me take the Range Rover Sport for some hot laps around a real race track.

Though it looks out of place parked next to a Subaru WRX STi, Chevrolet Corvette and BMW 330i, the Range Rover Sport has clearly studied from the performance-vehicle style guide. The Range Rover's upright, beveled-block lines are beefed up for the Sport model with modest fender flares and a bit more character. Subtle lower-body cladding and big, low-profile wheels are also hints that the Range Rover Sport is not your average mud-busting sport-ute. LED headlamps are standard equipment.

Inside, it's all luxury, with a tall, elegant console wrapped in wood. Adaptive headlights turn with the front wheels to illuminate curves, and the available Surround Camera System offers a 360-degree view around the vehicle, to ease parking and tight-quarters maneuvering. Land Rover's good at keeping its passengers comfortable, too, and the Range Rover Sport doesn't disappoint. Four large, comfortably bolstered leather chairs provide support during high-speed cornering, and the Range Rover Sport feels bank-vault solid. A 480-watt Harman-kardon sound system and satellite radio are available. A five-inch information screen contains the available navigation system. Crank the engine, and the power under the hood offers a distant, slightly menacing burble.

Under the hood, there's a choice of V8 engines sourced from Jaguar. The naturally-aspirated 5.0 liter engine produces 375 horsepower, while the supercharged version throws down 510 horses. Both engines feature direct fuel injection and variable cam timing. An Eaton twin-vortex supercharger with dual intercoolers provides the urge in the blown Range Rover Sport, and Land Rover's claims of a 5.9-second 0-60 time might be somewhat conservative. When turned loose at the heels of a Corvette, this big beast didn't hesitate. The Range Rover Sport eats pavement in earnest, and the power delivery is strong and seamless. This SUV is honestly happy on the track. A six-speed automatic transmission handles shifting duties, and on supercharged models paddle shifters are available. Given some leash, the Range Rover Sport rockets out of every turn with a squat and a roar. Four-wheel drive is standard, naturally, and the fully automatic two-speed transfer case puts the power to the wheels without a hint of drama.

Still, this is a sport-utility vehicle, so running on the track is just foolhardy, right? Not at all. Land Rover's done its homework, and its suspension work, and the Range Rover Sport is downright phenomenal. Double wishbones at all four corners are aided by a terrain-adapting active suspension. In the turns it's just the least bit tippy, and the brakes heat up fast, but drag-racing from corner to corner is fun and there's the added bonus of doing it in a vehicle that is not shy about being a Large and Heavy Thing. Dynamic Stability Control and Roll Stability Control are also standard equipment. Standard on the supercharged model is Adaptive Cruise Control, whose radar system also controls an active-braking Collision Mitigation system. Though it's not likely that many Range Rover Sports will be leaving the pavement, the suspension allows ten-plus inches of wheel travel at each corner. Land Rover also includes its Terrain Response system, whose five modes adapt the active suspension, braking and throttle response to a variety of different road surfaces. The supercharged model also includes a sixth, Dynamic mode that tightens up the chassis for on-track performance. The Range Rover Sport will actually chase some sports sedans around the track, and it's confident while doing so.

The notion of a go-fast SUV isn't a new one, of course, but the Range Rover Sport is an entertaining example of how to do it right. Solid and secure, this high-speed heavyweight inspires confidence both on-pavement and off of it. Pricing for the Land Rover Range Rover Sport starts at $60,495. For the additional power and performance of the supercharged version the price of entry goes up to $75,395.

Specifications:
All specifications are for the 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged.
Length: 188.3 in.
Width: 85.0 in.
Height: 71.5 in.
Wheelbase: 108.0 in.
Curb weight: 5540 lb.
Towing capacity: 7716 lb.
Cargo space: 33.8 cu.ft. (seats up); 71.0 cu.ft. (seats folded)
Base price: $75,395
Price as tested:
Engine: 5.0 liter DOHC 32-valve V8
Drivetrain: six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
Horsepower: 375 @ 6500
Torque: 375 @ 3500
Fuel capacity: 23.3 gal.
Est. mileage: 12/17

By Chris Jackson - MyCarData

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