Dubai was one of only three locations worldwide for the simultaneous launch of the all-new, third-generation Range Rover Sport this week.
The new model has the job of taking on the Mercedes-Benz GLE, Audi Q7 and BMW X5 in the regional sale race.
In keeping with Jaguar Land Rover’s mandate to streamline its fleet down to two platforms, with hybrid and battery-powered vehicles adopting the electrified modular architecture (EMA), the Range Rover Sport now shares the MLA Flex base with the fifth-generation Range Rover.
What to expect in the new Range Rover Sport
There’s familiarity between the two as they were designed concurrently to simplify manufacturing, with similar dimensions, styling cues and a shrink-wrapped look.
The new modular architecture is 35 per cent stiffer despite the Sport being 20 millimetres longer, 20mm wider and almost 20mm taller than its predecessor, yet boasting a wind-cheating drag coefficient of 0.29.
New headlights claim to project up to 500 metres of light using digital LEDs and 1.3 million micro-mirrors inside each lens. The lights work in unison with the car’s navigation system and speed to predict curves ahead and bend around upcoming corners.
Speaking to The National, Land Rover’s external design manager, Robert Battams, says: “The grill and headlight assembly is elongated across the nose to give it a flush look with parking sensors, cameras and other ancillaries hidden from view.
“The trademark clamshell bonnet gap is half the size of the previous model, but it’s that gap that determines the line down the rest of the car, so it has to be absolutely perfect.
“A high window and hip line give it a flush look with taut panels similar to the new Range Rover with barely enough room for your fingernails between the glass and the doors. Just 6mm gives it that really snug appearance,” he says.
The traditional floating roof continues with black pillars supporting a body-coloured top that extends beyond the rear window, giving the profile an arrow-like look. High-gloss, black D-pillars blend into the glass to eliminate any sign of window rubbers for a smart, wrap-around look.
The biggest visual differentiator between the Sport and the Range Rover is across the tail. Horizontal LED lights, which appear almost OLED in definition, add intensity to the light’s colours and stretch to the full width. Along with a bumper-mounted number plate (that might take some getting used to for purists), it defines the Sport from the Range Rover’s signature black vertical strips.
The other big differentiator between the two is the single-piece tailgate on the Sport over the two-piece design of the Range Rover.
Behind the numbers: 0-100kph in 4.5 seconds
A Stormer package makes its debut on the Sport. This includes all-wheel steering, which reduces its turning circle to under 11 metres, as well as an electronic rear diff and antiroll dampers that reduce the pitch by dialling in up to 1,400 newton-metres of lateral torque, of which 900Nm can be deployed in 200 milliseconds.
A mix of electrified six-cylinder engines and the venerable V8 are available under the hood. A fully-electric Range Rover Sport leads Land Rover’s charge into electrification in 2024 as the first of its six-model EV push due by 2026.
The MLA Flex platform has been built to accommodate a floor full of batteries, so the hard work of configuring it for EV use, to run the BMW-sourced electric motors, has already been done.
For now, there’s the familiar I6 Ingenium three-litre, inline six-cylinder petrol motor. This comes with either a 48-volt, 400 horsepower mild-hybrid unit, or the P510e, 510hp, 700Nm Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) assisted by a 38-kilowatt-hour battery.
WLTP figures claim 740 kilometres of range, of which 125km can run on electricity and it should take an 80 per cent DC fast charge in 60 minutes.
Purists and SVR hopefuls can rejoice because the BMW-derived 4.4-litre, twin-turbo V8 remains, dishing out 530hp and cracking 100kph in 4.5 seconds.
Priced from Dh470,000, the Range Rover Sport features a 13.1-inch Pivi Pro display in what is a clean, uncluttered and minimalist interior.
The 22-way cooled and ventilated front seats are available either in leather or vegan Kvadrat that combines a wool blend with suede cloth made from recycled plastic bottles.
A 1430W Merredin audio system with 29 speakers, including two speakers in each head rest, is also available as an option.