If you like Range Rovers, consider the Sport

John Gilbert

Range Rover Sport in Estoril Blue stood out against pre-windstorm leaves. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Range Rover Sport in Estoril Blue stood out against pre-windstorm leaves. Photo credit: John Gilbert

After opportunities to drive pretty much all products made by Range
Rover over the last 20 years, I admit I’ve been favorably impressed
with all of them. Some more than others, of course. But now I’ve got a
favorite — the Range Rover Sport SVR.

The Land Rover Discovery Sport, the Land Rover Discovery, the Land
Rover Range Rover, the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, the Land Rover
Range Rover Velar, and the Land Rover Range Rover Sport all work
together to make an exceptional stable of road-worthy SUV, and
off-road-worthy SUVs. Different engines, different capabilities and
different price ranges differentiate them from each other. The range
goes from $39,000 for the compact Discovery Sport to a whopping
$209,000 for the Land Rover Range Rover — which deserves both names.

The Range Rover Sport, however, stands tallest among the breed for
those who love charging off the road and also for those who enjoy
making their tracks where neighbors and other to-be-impressed viewers
can make them out in plain sight, on the road.

You can buy a Range Rover Sport for $67,000 if you select the
2.0-liter turbo four with its hybrid boost, or a bit more for the
3.0-liter turbo-diesel. or you could step up to either of a pair of
3.0-liter supercharged V6es. But the pick of the litter is one of the
two 5.0-liter V8 engines, with your choice of power tuning. The first
is a 518 horsepower, 461 foot-pound engine, which would be more than
satisfying, if only the monster version didn’t exist.

That’s the one that came in my stunning Estoril Blue Range Rover Sport
— the 5.0 supercharged V8, tuned by the corporate Special Vehicle Ops
to 575 horses and 516 foot-pounds of torque. That, plus the load of
unique equipment, take the $114,500 base price for the Range Rover
Sport, and lift it to $131,520. That’s a lot, but don’t dismiss it
until you evaluate what you’re getting.

Rear shows off four chrome-tipped exhaust pipes. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Rear shows off four chrome-tipped exhaust pipes. Photo credit: John Gilbert

The Special Vehicle Ops is a performance oriented group that performs
customizing on all things Jaguar or Range Rover. The two are jointly
owned by Tata Motors in India, which admires the two British companies
and has managed to extract the best from both. After sputtering, so to
speak, on their own after being cut adrift by Ford Motor Company, the
two were purchased by Tata, which gave Jaguar exactly what it needed,
an enormous outlay of engineering money so they could build engines up
to the standards promised by their beautiful sport cars and sedans. It
only made sense to allow Range Rover to use the precious engines,
instead of buying them from BMW, or Ford, or anyone else.

Special Vehicle Ops does a total custom job on the Range Rover Sport,
installing perforated leather on the seats, special suspensions,
aerodynamic tricks, until it rises above rivals to challenge the best
from BMW X5, Mercedes AMG GLE after they get the M treatment, and even
the Porsche Cayenne Turbo. An d then they install that magnificent
engine, with its  power raised from 518 to 575, and torque boosted
from 461 to 516.

Range Rover always has impressed the hardiest of off-roading experts
around the world, and if the nameplate came a bit late to the U.S., it
started gaining popularity after broadening its scope as the vehicle
of choice for the wealths Beverly Hills set. Many were sold to people
who only drove them to their country club function, or to the studio,
and never considered exercising that fabulous suspension.

Range Rover Sport contrasts with Hawk Ridge gold. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Range Rover Sport contrasts with Hawk Ridge gold. Photo credit: John Gilbert

People learned that Range Rovers could go anywhere, and their cult
following grew. Fast, strong, go-anywhere, and do it in comfort and
luxury. Electronic air suspension and all-terrain progressive control,
and all the contemporary safety concepts are packing into the Range
Rover Sport. So lane departure warning, emergency collision
notification, plus roll stability control and dynamic stability
control keep everybody safe and secure in their Range Rover cocoon.

As for sportiness, the Range Rover Sport looks the part, with that
stunning blue color set off by black-spoked 22-inch alloy wheels, and
the four rectangular exhaust tubes peeking out meaningfully at the
rear. This is a 5,500-pound vehicle, but it takes off with all that
thrust like a sports car. Its weight makes it lean a bit in cornering,
because it is purposely tall both for ground clearance and for
interior room. It leans, but it maintains its course and there’s never
a thought that it might be too softly sprung. Even if you’re gazing
from the passenger seats, up through the panbornic sunroof.

The engine is hooked up to an 8-speed automatic with steering wheel
paddles if you want to impart manual control. The feel of the steering
is a bit heavy for a luxury SUV, but that’s became Range Rover wants
to make sure you know you can drive it off-road, which is to say
through woods, up mountain sides, through gullies, and, if you so
choose, to scale mountain tops and any manner of wilderness.

There are six selectable modes for driving, most of them covered by
automatic, or the sportier dynamic. But you can specialize for rock
climbing, running through sand or mud, or for snow.

Amazingly, there aren’t many directions Range Rover can go to restyle
its vehicles, and that’s just fine. They all share the classy British
corners and curves with each other, so you might be tempted to select
a more inexpensive and more economical model and bank the rest, but
with the Range Rover Sport, you already have promised a lot, whether
from the little “SVR” badge on the tail, or the tight styling of the
way the headlights are wrapped into the fascia.

When the rain and wind brought down the leaves, they bowed down for the parked Range Rover Sport. Photo credit: John Gilbert
When the rain and wind brought down the leaves, they bowed down for the parked Range Rover Sport. Photo credit: John Gilbert

You can take off like a rocket in the Range Rover Sport, and you
probably will find the need to use that power and blast off. Besides,
when it’s warm enough, you will want to open your windows so you can
hear the meaningful exhaust note when you do hit it.

While the components under the Sport are overbuilt, the capabilities
are enhanced. So you can tow 7,716 pounds of trailer, and weighing
5,500 pounds itself, you can still battle through weeds and woods
until you find perpendicular facades for you to test the break-over
ratio and other clearance concerns.

As for other creature comforts, you also have the Meridian Signature
audio system that is as impressive as any sound system you can find. I
guess 1,700 Watts can do that to you.

You can also find one of those 5.0-liter Special Vehicle Ops V8s with
575 horsepower in the largest Land Rover Range Rover, and Jaguar uses
it in its F-Pace and F-Type SUVs. That’s right, while Jaguar still
makes fantastic and exotic sports cars and luxury sedans, it has also
been dabbling in SUVs and these two are gems.

And it’s only fair. If the state of the art in luxury SUVs is the
Range Rover and it gets to use the Jaguar-designed engines, it only
makes fair payback for Jaguar to borrow some off-roading expertise
from the masters of the art.