The rumble of the new 2014 Range Rover Sport is so powerful, it can make sheep move out of the way. That's a handy attribute if you're driving through the Welsh countryside, where sheep outnumber people three to one. It's also where I got my first chance to sit behind the wheel of this Rover. Even on the wrong side of the road, the 2014 Range Rover Sport feels right.
Redesigned from the frame up, Land Rover has turned its sportiest SUV into the preferred family-hauler for those who like to show they demand the very best in SUVs. The Range Rover Sport still has its iconic and stately looks. The sharp angles and blocky sections from the previous generation have been rounded out and correctly proportioned. The old design felt as if it were done with a meat cleaver, while its new look feels more elegant.
Overall, the Range Rover Sport is 2.5 inches longer than its predecessor, but the wheelbase has increased by 7 inches. The proportional changes give this Rover a much more aggressive and streamlined appeal. And don't underestimate the luxury SUV's brute off-road capabilities. Land Rover's reputation relies on all its vehicles being able to get to more remote locations than the Mars Rover. The Range Rover Sport will get you and up to your six of your closest friends nearly anywhere in this world.
Now it will do it even quicker. Under that beautifully sculpted clamshell hood is either a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 or a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8. (There's also a diesel model, but it's not coming to America.) Really, the V-6 with 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque is more than enough power to flog the Range Rover Sport through any countryside. Land Rover estimates its 0-60-mph time as 6.9 seconds, but the Sport feels faster than that.
The V-8 delivers 170 hp more fun, creating 510 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. It bites when you stomp on the accelerator, and, during one test, we reached 150 mph on a 5700-foot runway. The 0-60-mph time is 5.0 seconds according to Land Rover, and that's easily believable given the adrenaline pumping through my body. Perhaps the best part of this new SUV is its surprising off-the-line performance. Pull up next to any car at a stoplight, and when the light turns green you're likely to blow the competition's doors off.
The ZF eight-speed automatic transmission is incredibly smooth no matter how you attack the road, downshifting flawlessly when a little more power is needed and quickly finding overdrive on the highway. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel allow you to manually take over the shifting if that's your thing.
This SUV's new independent aluminum suspension with control arms at the front and multiple links in the rear brings other big improvements. Road inputs are gobbled up with little sound sneaking into the cabin. The platform also remains surprisingly stable through aggressive turns. The four-corner air suspension provides up to 21.5 inches of wheel articulation for off-roading, lifting the Range Rover Sport 1.4 inches for regular use and 2.6 inches for off-road use.
We negotiated some precarious off-road trails covered in red clay, mud, and 3-foot-deep streams. The Sport never hesitated or struggled. It's amazing how capable this new Range Rover really is, considering few owners will ever challenge it on anything rougher than the gravel road to the family's six-bedroom, six-bath "cabin" in the Hamptons.
The suspension and Brembo brakes provide the sport. The binders are firm but provide excellent braking whatever the top speed, even with the optional 22-inch wheels. The electric power steering was the one piece of new Range Rover Sport technology I found less than impressive. The steering did not have much snap back to center and felt looser than I would like. Of course, the Range Rover Sport includes a raft of technologies to make driving a little safer. There's adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and, in the near future, a sign-recognition camera will that read drivers the road signs.
A big story with the Range Rover Sport is how much weight it has lost. It's as if Jenny Craig designed this new SUV, which shed 800 pounds. From its all-aluminum unibody structure and use of high-strength steel components to lightweight suspension parts and body panels, the Range Rover Sport sets a new standard for weight reduction.
The Range Rover Sport even has an eco-friendly theme -- something you don't hear often when discussing 500-plus-hp SUVs. Up to 75 percent of its aluminum comes from recycled materials; there are recycled plastics (59 pounds), and, technically, leather is renewable. Leather is also a key feature to that beautiful interior. The 14-way-adjustable front seats are heated and cooled and just one massage session away from perfect. The riding position is very upright, making it extremely comfortable for long hauls. The second row can serve as two lounge chairs if you fold down the center portion, which becomes an armrest and cupholder. Thanks to the longer wheelbase, the Range Rover Sport provides an optional third row that can accommodate two kids for around-town trips. There's very little you can't get with the new Range Rover Sport, and very little more you should want.
As for the sheep in Wales, none was harmed in the making of this review. Yet, in America, too many people may see this SUV as just another lamb on the menu. Don't be fooled: Under that nicely painted aluminum skin is a wolf. And it's hungry.
| 2014 Range Rover Sport |
| BASE PRICE || $63,495 -$93,295 |
| VEHICLE LAYOUT || Front-engine, 4WD, 5-or 7-pass, 4-door SUV |
| ENGINES || 3.0L/340-hp/332-lb-ft supercharged V-6;5.0L/510-hp/461-lb-ft supercharged V-8 |
| TRANSMISSION || 8-speed automatic |
| CURB WEIGHT || 4800-5100 lb (mfr) |
| WHEELBASE || 115.1 in |
| LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT || 191.0 x 78.1 x 70.1 in |
| 0-60 MPH || 5.0-6.9 sec (mfr est) |
| EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON || 14-17/19-23 mpg |
| ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY || 198-241/147-177 kW-hrs/100 mi |
| CO2 EMISSIONS || 1.01-1.22 lb/mi |
| ON SALE IN U.S. || Currently |