Hoping to remain competitive without diluting the legacy of the brand, this summer Land Rover introduces two versions of the Range Rover Sport and adds a supercharged Range Rover, expanding the lineup from one model to four. And, for the first time in its 35-year history, every version of the uniquely British Range Rover comes with a British V-8 engine.
Granted, diversification can be taken to excess (Land Rover has no ultraperformance sports cars on the development schedule). However, the Range Rover Sport is designed exactly as its name implies--to be a smaller, more nimble, more involved driving companion.
The Range Rover Sport is derived from the same platform as the LR3, Motor Trend's SUV of the Year, and although six inches of wheelbase, the third-row seat, and a bit of glass and roofline have been carved off, the Sport is still a hefty middleweight of more than 5400 pounds. In fact, the larger, partially paneled-in aluminum Range Rover doesn't weigh much more, resulting in a solid feel with acceleration that now ranks as average.
Dimensions are similar to those of an X5, inside and out, yet the Sport appears considerably smaller and more agile than the X5. Drag coefficient is given as 0.37, and there's significant frontal area, so you'll get wind noise at speed (80-plus mph), and only the supercharged vehicle requires an artificial limiter.
As on the LR3, a 300-horsepower, 4.4-liter V-8 derived from the Jaguar AJ engine is standard, as is a ZF six-speed autobox. With wide gaps between the first three gears, the engine is able to take advantage of short gearing to get underway, and dual overdrives at the top allow for relaxed cruising. Gear changes are smooth and taut, often unnoticed unless you shift it yourself. Unlike the LR3's centrally mounted shifter, the Sport's is to the driver's side of the console and much handier.