Road test: Range Rover's new Sport takes luxury off-roading to a new level
The Autobiography Dynamic brings a fresh new take to the motoring genre
For a brand that created the whole luxury off-roading genre in 1970, Range Rover now competes with challengers from BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Maserati, Bentley and even Rolls-Royce. Yet there’s still something special about climbing into a Range Rover that the others can’t pin down, with its uniquely commanding driving position that’s evident even in this slightly lowered Sport version.
The Autobiography Dynamic model tested here sits at the upper end of the range, a little below the flagship SVR, although the Sport uses the same supercharged, five-litre V8 that develops 518 brake horsepower and gets you to 100 kilometres per hour in 5.3 seconds. Given the majority of Range Rover owners are mostly city-dwellers who may not venture off-road as often as they once did, that may be more important than its wading depth or approach and departure angles.
Fear not, though, it’s still a Range Rover, so its ability to off-road, with 850 millimetres of wading depth, is still paramount. That is aided by its Terrain Response System that allows you to select between mud, snow, sand, rocks and forestry trails, optimising the throttle response, diff settings, ride height and suspension firmness for each.
The Sport’s quicker and firmer steering was immediately noticeable and felt less ponderous than previous Range Rover’s, but the stiffer suspension, perhaps induced by the larger diameter wheels with low-profile tyres, resulted in a firmer ride.
Step inside and you can see what the Dh633,435 price of our test vehicle buys you, as you are greeted by copious amounts of perforated leather and ebony veneer highlighted by knurled polished aluminium touch points. Standard specifications include 22-inch alloy wheels, a full-size panoramic sliding roof, satnav, matrix LED headlamps, electrically folding mirrors, a 12-inch TFT virtual instrument panel, a heated steering wheel, electric seats and a premium sound system.
The big thing with this new version, though, is that whereas the previous generation was based on the steel hybrid monocoque chassis originally developed for the Discovery, this model uses a lightweight aluminum platform that will be shared with other models in the family. While it has grown in all areas and boasts a 178mm longer wheelbase, the Sport still looks lithe and nimble when parked next to the full-size Range Rover, thanks to a higher hipline that tricks the eye to make the Sport look smaller.
From behind the wheel, it’s a clear view ahead, sitting above the traffic, while the interior has been given a full make-over, with touchscreen controls taken from the Velar, as well as climate control switches and the gear selector for the eight-speed auto similar to those you’ll find in the flagship Jaguar models.
On the road, the Sport corners far better than you might think if you’re familiar with the earlier generations, as there’s still some body roll but it’s greatly reduced. Off-road, it is as capable as the full-size Range Rover in any situation. Like all Range Rovers, the body roll is more pronounced compared to its rivals, such as the Porsche Cayenne, but it’s difficult to compare them. While they are technically in the same class, the German and English approach to this sporty SUV segment is entirely different. The Porsche, like the Mercedes GLE and AMG versions, is better pinned to the road, but when it comes to articulation of suspension travel off-road, the Range Rover Sport will get you to places the German marque will struggle to find.
The familiar five-litre engine is a joy to punt around, delivering a neat rasp through the exhaust when you bury the foot, while the auto transmission is as smooth as you will find anywhere. It’s virtually seamless in economy mode, but when in sport, it’s ready to drop a cog or two for a quick overtaking blast before returning to cruise mode, happily ticking over at 2,500 revolutions per minute on the motorway.
Combining a supremely luxurious interior with a timeless look on the outside, the Range Rover Sport Autobiography brings a fresh answer to the newer players that have entered a segment it created nearly 50 years ago.
Updated: November 21, 2019 01:58 PM