A Range Rover that is truly sporty

 
Ryan Borroff
It’s the fastest, most agile SUV the manufacturer has ever built. We put it through its paces... in a jumbo jet

They’re known for coming up with imaginative off-road courses, but the Land Rover Experience guys have outdone themselves this time. It’s fantastically silly. I’m driving the new Range Rover Sport SDV6 model up an unfeasibly steep ramp and into the side of a 747. Quite what the Range Rover Sport has in common with a jumbo jet is anyone’s guess but Land Rover has turned the decommissioned aircraft into an unlikely off-road adventure playground. I can just about see the fingertips of the man from Land Rover who is calmly pointing left and right to keep me from toppling off the ramp and onto the runway.

Once inside the plane I turn right and drive through the aircraft fuselage. This is trickier as there’s barely any room at all and I’m anxious that if the car slides off the ramp then the car’s going to get stuck in the plane.

I then have to drive out of the plane and down a ramp so steep that when I inch the car onto it, I can’t see over the bonnet to the ramp or the ground. Driving out is a leap of faith. All I can see is a panorama of grey sky. I put the gearbox into low ratio and engage hill descent control, and as I go over the top, the car feels weightless momentarily before the descent system kicks in to save both of us, sending the vehicle creeping confidently down to safety. Even the most cynical of motoring hacks would concede this is an impressive display. Despite the fact this Range Rover model is unlikely to see much off-road action from most of its target customers, they should be impressed by its capabilities.

For a start, this second generation Range Rover Sport is way more attractive. It’s got a more streamlined profile, with a “faster” windscreen angle, slim, elegant LED headlamps, low sloping roof, rearward-sloping grille and sculpted corners. Where the last model was chunky and functional, this one is handsome and dapper.

As many owners of this car will spend a good amount of time crawling through city traffic, it’s worth noting that it’s pretty splendid inside too. Everything about the interior says luxury, from its comfortable seats to its sophisticated “less is more” approach to design, with switches and knobs kept to a minimum to give it slick, clean lines. It’s also got two seats that fold out of the boot floor, ideal should you have rashly sired five children, or offered to take your kid’s five-a-side team to an away match.

Looks and comfort aside, its performance on road is even more important than its off-road competence. This is the quickest and most dynamic Range Rover yet, something the previous model never was. Despite its Sport title, the last model was heavy and boxy, with boat-like handling. It sold well and was a favourite with footballers and their WAGs but it never lived up to its billing, hampered as it was by the underpinnings of the decidedly undynamic Discovery model it was built on.

Despite being bigger than its predecessor, this model is actually 420kg lighter, and it’s much better at going around corners. It has also better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions.

I drove both the monstrously quick 5.0-litre V8 supercharged petrol model and the more modestly-powered 292bhp SDV6 diesel. This will be the bigger seller in the UK, largely because it’s less likely to send you into the red every time you refuel it. When I piloted the SDV6 diesel through Brecon Beacon country lanes it was fast and agile, two words that would never have applied to an SUV a few years ago. Its 0-62mph of 7.2 seconds will be more than enough for most UK drivers: at last, a Range Rover Sport that lives up to its name.

THE FACTS:
RANGE ROVER SPORT

PRICE: £59,995
0-62MPH: 7.2 secs
TOP SPEED: 130mph
CO2 G/KM: 199g/km
MPG COMBINED: 37.7mpg

THE VERDICT:

DESIGN Four Stars
PERFORMANCE Four Stars
PRACTICALITY Four Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY Three Stars