Mountain Wheels: Supercharged Range Rover Sport gets scary, fast
January 31, 2014
2014 Range Rover Sport V8 Supercharged
MSRP: $79,100; as tested, $85,490
Powertrain: 510-HP 5.0-liter supercharged V8 engine, eight-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures: 16 mpg combined: 14 city, 19 highway
The awkwardly awesome sensation of getting the not-insignificantly sized Range Rover Sport into a full oversteer skid on the dry pavement of an on-ramp — a pants-wetting moment, perhaps — does indeed expose some of the mad, juxtaposed qualities of this pedigreed British beast.
Handsome, imposing, brutally fast and considerably expensive, the newest-generation European on-and-off-road-ready rollerball does combine some unlikely attributes. Especially when equipped with the line-topping supercharged V-8, providing 510 horsepower to a still very upright, nearly 5,100-pound SUV.
More twisted than Two-Face? You betcha. As you really can do all that Land Rover-styled stuff in the Sport, even with all that hellfire under the hood: It has more clearance and can wade through deeper snow and water than a Jeep Wrangler, it can tackle unbelievably steep slopes and it can be set up to battle terrain from mud to sand with a twist of the elegant knob on the center console.
And I can tell you, beyond the pushed-to-the-limit screeching of tires, that the Range Rover Sport is also a surprisingly versatile on-road machine, with handling that's far more precise than one might expect from a luxurious galoot of this class. There's just that matter of physics and the oh-so-sad real limitations of the 20-inch tires, darn it.
RRS does a pretty good job of letting you forget what it shouldn't be able to do, wrapped as you are in one very large and deep cabin, resplendent in high-quality leather and a ridiculously wide range of choices in accent materials. (I got the micromesh aluminum variation, like some sort of 25th-century chain mail, draped through the cockpit.)
I had just plain old forgotten how big the Sport still is, and feels, especially when you plunk yourself down in the luxuriously sporty seats and it seems like a 12-foot reach to the top of the dash, or across the cabin to pull the passenger door closed.
If you value super-super-humungo, you're going to have to go for a domestic SUV; Sport did its best to play along when three passengers and I needed to haul a bicycle across town inside the cabin with us — but cramming two folks into the 60 part of the 60/40 rear seat and cramming the bike into the 27.7-cubic feet space (though it's a full 62 cubic feet, if you don't bring any passengers along) was not all that fun. I have not yet actually seen the tiny plus-two seats available as a far, third-row option, but Land Rover claims they're a real option.
And do you really need 510 horsepower? That's a judgment call, I know, but … would you bring a knife to a gunfight? Of course, you need 510 horsepower. Sure, you could make do with the 340-horsepower supercharged V6, an engine choice (with a 30 percent fuel efficiency increase over the older V-6) that enables you to technically purchase a new Sport for as little as $63,495, but … again, what's the fun in that?
The improved Terrain Response System 2 — now a recessible knob — also includes a new dynamic mode that automatically dials in all the hill-descent, gradient release and throttle responses you need for crazy off-road work. Or, it turns the instruments blood red and helps crank up your already overblown race-car aspirations, egged on by the fantastically vulgar crackle of exhaust.
And the Sport is stupid fast, scary fast. Floor it from a traveling pace and it offers instantaneous, nearly neck-snapping power, accompanied by a hellacious cacophony of muscle car-styled noise. Go a little deeper into the options with the Dynamic package and you can equip the Sport with Brembo brake calipers, 21- or 22-inch wheels and a deal with the devil that allows the vehicle to go up to 155 mph. For real.