First taste! 2014 Range Rover Sport

Here’s an uncomfortable little factoid you SUV enthusiasts may already know – the first-gen Range Rover Sport was as much a proper Range Rover as RuPaul is an attractive black woman who looks good in lingerie.

It may have looked like a Range Rover, carried the badges that proclaimed it a Range Rover, but underneath, well, let’s just say there was a bulging cut lunch where one might have expected a smooth camel-toe.

It’s whispered now, but providing the platform for the original Sport was the T5 ladder chassis of the Discovery. Cleary ‘Discovery Sport’ was an oxymoron not even the marketing might of Land Rover could overcome, and thus the Rangie Sport was born.

Come 2013, the new Sport has no such origin issues.

Finally, Land Rover has a proper platform synergy, so naturally the Sport is built on the same advanced all-aluminium monocoque as the new Range Rover. So, as you’d expect, it’s what it should have been all along – a lower, stiffer, more dynamically focused Rangie.

If you want the succinct guide to this second-gen Range Rover Sport, just take the original, remove about three Kyle Sandilands of weight (420kg) and improve everything.

The kilo count comes down from 2420kg to around 2000kg, it’s way stiffer, and now goes around corners in a way that performance SUVs theoretically should not, yet somehow do. Two diesel and two petrol engines will be offered at launch.

The 3.0-litre twin-turbo-diesel V6 is available in 190kW and 215kW outputs, both with a useful 600Nm of twist. Starter petrol is the 3.0-litre supercharged V6, now appearing in Jaguar’s line-up, and here producing 250kW/450Nm.

The petrol you really want, though, if your career in hip-hop, or pro football, or, er, ‘waste-management’ allows, is the blown 5.0-litre making a rousing 500 old-fashioned horsepower (375kW) and hauling the Sport to 100km/h in a faintly ridiculous 5.3sec. A twin-turbo diesel V8 will be available early next year, as will a diesel V6 hybrid.

Our brief lucky-dip drive of a final-engineering prototype saw us in the base V6 TD, but there was little to feel short-changed about.

No, this model is not fitted with the full suite of chassis enhancements on the up-spec models. And its claimed 0-100km/h time is ‘only’ 7.6sec. Yet it still had ample urge to whip itself past 200km/h down the main straight of the test circuit while remaining unruffled and devoid of diesel clatter or excessive wind and road noise.

Without the active anti-roll feature of the trickier models, there is a noticeable heave of weight transfer when you first throw some lock at the nicely weighted and faithful-feeling steering.

But then the big girl simply settles on the outside rubber, squats slightly when the throttle is fed in, and scythes around corners in a way the taller riding, more softly suspended Range Rover cannot.

Of course, it can do ridiculous things off-road – it could navigate the dark side of the moon if your wealth and means can get it there – but the important thing, for urbane warriors, is the new Rangie Sport can now hustle with the SUV elite.

It also seats seven, and has a cabin so lovely you just want to rub up against it like an over-friendly beagle. Of course the heavy-hitting 5.0-litre supercharged model has that as well, but you can read all about it in July Wheels.


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