Mountain Wheels: Heavy-hitting Range Rover Sport packs the British steel
Special to the Daily
2014 Range Rover Sport V8 Supercharged
MSRP: $79,100; as tested, $93,930
Powertrain: 510-HP supercharged 5.0-liter V8, eight-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures: 16 combined mpg (14 city, 19 highway)
Class war is indeed the name of the game when you start examining the costs — economic and social — of the very stylish, very imposing and joyously loud Range Rover Sport.
If an (as tested) nearly $94,000 SUV that growls like a ’70s Barracuda when you hammer it is your thing, then this maybe is your thing.
A little softer, smaller and sleeker in its general comportment than the full-blown Range Rover, and certainly more Evoque-inspired than the blockier, first generation Range Rover Sport, the new model can also be optionally outfitted with a 510-horsepower supercharged 5.0-liter V8. Which turns it into a luxury SUV with the kind of power we used to associate with the Dodge Viper, not a large SUV.
Consequently, the Sport speaks to a very odd demographic, sort of the Guy Ritchie/Daniel Craig menacing sophisticate type — or those who aspire to that sort of thing.
Your version doesn’t have to be quite that intense, mind you: A supercharged 3.0-liter V6 is another option, allowing the vehicle to attain up to 22 mpg on the highway (the V8 is capable of maybe 19 mpg at most, when driven in a less than enthusiastic style). Or, there are already two special editions, a 380-HP version of the V6 or an absolutely insane, race-oriented, 550-HP SVR version — the fastest thing Land Rover has ever produced.
And if you wait until this fall, Land Rover is at long last bringing its European diesel technology to the Range Rover Sport, among other models, with promises of up to 28 mpg.
Trust me: The regular supercharged V8 is the way you want to go, however, in keeping with that whole Jason Statham deal the Sport is aiming for. Cut off in traffic, or tailgated by someone in a Camry? Stand on the throttle, or tap the wheel-mounted paddles to drop a few gears (the Sport has a sophisticated eight-speed transmission, after all) and … blammo, the supercharged Sport sounds like it is possessed. And positively flies, like it’s been yanked by a steam-powered catapult off the deck of an aircraft carrier.
But it’s not all about pure thrust. This new Sport is absolutely striking, with an all-black roofline, massive vents on the hood and flanks and just a small touch of the flared rocker panel wings that always seemed a bit overstated on the old model. They still make the car look like it is more at home in a prominent valet spot than out clinging to a shale mining road, but all of that remarkably capable off-roading spirit is very much alive: an improved terrain response control system, air height control (giving it as much as 10.9 inches of clearance) and serious hill descent control powers.
In the higher-end Sport’s case, the addition of 21-inch alloy wheels, heavily inspired by the Transformers, does push the machine into some very tough territory.
It’s also a little stiffly set up, which may present a package a little too intense even for Range Rover buffs. Seating is extremely supportive and not slack at all, the polished hardwood surfaces rich and rigid and all of the controls just a bit of a long reach — the high-mounted pushbutton starter, the “I gotta lean way forward to do this” navigation screen. Soft and squishy? Maybe you’re more of a Tahoe kind of person.
All of this matters little, however. More aluminum has dropped the weight, but the supercharged variant still begins life at nearly 5,100 pounds, and svelte it is not.
You’ll instead prefer to focus on the little things that exist beyond the Sport’s brutality: the way the window ledges gently tilt inward, with the window controls perched on top, iconic Range Rover style; you’ll also like the Evoque-style full-cabin sunroof, the way the aerodynamic spoiler ever so slightly eases over the rear glass, plus the gigantic, pedestal-styled seating in the rear.
Of the multitude of audio offerings, you can go from an 825-watt, 19-speaker Meridian sound system all the way up to a 1,700 watt stereo option. As one does.
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