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The Top Gear car review:Land Rover Range Rover Sport
For:Proper pace, goeverywhere ability, ace cruiser
Against:Not cheap, will struggle to shake the 'Premier League' image
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What we say:
A superb sporting seven-seater. No other SUV has such a range of ability
What is it?
The performance-focused version of Land Rover’s all-new posh SUV, available for the first time with the option of seven seats. The Sport uses the same aluminium construction as the full-fat Range Rover, meaning it’s far lighter than its predecessor: around 400kg model-for-model, in fact. Though predictably ballistic on road, the Sport can do the business off tarmac as well: it’ll wade through 85cm of water, and boasts far greater axle articulation and wheel travel than the Audi Q7.
There are two diesel options – the potent 292bhp SDV6 and an interesting new diesel hybrid – alongside a deranged 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8 that makes 510bhp and will propel the RRS to 60mph in five seconds flat. Too slow for you? Enter the SVR, whose 550bhp output cuts this to just 4.5 seconds. All engines use an eight-speed auto.
For a huge, heavy seven-seat SUV, the composure with which the RRS goes down a twisty road is nothing short of baffling. In the old Sport, you always felt you were fighting the car’s sheer mass, but not now. In dynamic mode, there’s not a whisper of roll nor suggestion of understeer. In the SVR, it’s nothing short of extraordinary. There’s lots of clever stuff here: subtle braking of the inside wheel, centre and rear differentials, and an adaptive dynamic system that monitors and responds to its sensor readings 500 times per second. But the cleverest bit of all is that you don’t feel all the cleverness doing its stuff, only relentless traction and a frenzied desire to deposit all its power on the road. Take it easy, however, and the Sport proves to be a fabulous long-distance loper, quiet and refined even at autobahn speeds.
On the inside
The Sport’s cabin feels very nearly as plush and bespoke as that of the Range Rover itself, with masses of lovely leather and all the gadgetry you could realistically require. It’s a massive step on from the first Sport. The only slight disappointment is the nav and infotainment systems, which aren’t quite so advanced as the latest from BMW and Audi. Land Rover needs to up its game here.
Though there’s masses of space on board, the optional third-row of seats remain strictly for ‘occasional’ use (and, perhaps sensibly, unavailable on that ultra-rapid SVR). That the rooflining is shaped to scrape out a fraction extra headroom is telling – the Discovery remains Land Rover’s MPV.
Despite the Sport’s impressive diet strategy, this is still a big, bluff SUV, so don’t expect Prius-rivalling fuel economy. The V8 officially returns 22.1mpg, but you’ll be lucky to drag it out of the mid-teens. The diesels are far more frugal (the hybrid claims 44mpg, unheard of in Range Rover circles) but you can still expect 20s rather than 30s if you drive enthusiastically.