Upgraded engine makes Range Rover Sport a buff box | SummitDaily.com

Upgraded engine makes Range Rover Sport a buff box

Andy Stonehouse
Summit Daily Auto Writer
Special to the Daily 2011 Range Rover Sport Supercharged

A bank vault with rocket engines.

That was my old terminology (actually, I probably used a more pejorative term like “Dumpster”) to describe what I initially thought was the most insane mixture of competing automotive extremes, the Mercedes-Benz AMG G55.

In that instance, the blocky, military-styled G-class super-SUV was fitted, amazingly, with a 500-horsepower V8, allowing the square-shouldered machine to put itself into orbit. And maybe not corner so well at 110 mph, but sure go fast in a straight line.

Not to be outdone, Range Rover has upped the ante and plopped a 510-horsepower supercharged V8 into its new and highest-end variation of the Range Rover Sport. It’s the same growling and ridiculously powerful engine found in the XJR and XFR.

Those are low and sleek racing machines, designed to luxuriously pin you into corners and gracefully scoot along; the Range Rover Sport is a tall, elegant but rather large and off-road oriented machine, so there’s clearly some crazy juxtaposition going on here.

I would say, in retrospect, that Sport Supercharged is indeed much more crazy than the Mercedes-fully refined with buttery leather, a maddeningly comprehensive electronic off-road management package and a beautiful, hand-stitched interior, but capable of blowing away Mustangs at traffic lights.

It’s expensive (nearly $80,000, fully tricked out) and heinously gas guzzling (14.1 mpg during my travels, and an EPA sticker of an embarrassing 12 mpg city). But it is so tremendously awesome you cannot believe it.

As that 510-HP engine means never having to say you’re sorry, except during refueling runs. The power is absolutely relentless, backed with 461 lb. ft. of torque. It’ll hit 60 in 5.9 seconds and a top end of 140 mph; remember that the vehicle also weighs 5,700 pounds and you see all of those strange competing forces.

And that’s where Sport Supercharged’s litany of contradictions comes into place. Despite extra-wide tires on 20-inch rims (and rims which, despite the pretense of off-roading, stick far beyond the tire walls and were incredibly easy to scratch on curbs, not to mention rocks and trees), you wouldn’t want to spend too much time on a slalom course with the automobile, though you’d be surprised by the results.

In a straight line, fantastic, also fun on gentle curves, but very capable of overpowering itself in an instant, so restraint is required. A new Dynamic Driving setting on the Terrain Response control knob allows more intuitive shifting and acceleration for those who opt to drive rally-style, with the paddle shifters on the steering wheel also accessing immediate changes from the rock-solid six-speed automatic.

Beyond that, it’s still pretty much the world’s most capable and luxurious vehicle, with the exception of the upper branches of the Range Rover family and maybe the new Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

The Terrain Response system, pioneered by Land Rover but now appearing in a simplified version on even the new Ford Explorer, allows a wide range of on- and off-road settings to be dialed up. Mix this with the air suspension system, which can raise the chassis for safer off-road travel or lower the whole vehicle for sportier driving or easier access, and you have a fully-accredited rock crawler of absolutely peerless status.

Its outside looks are still all angles and stocky prowess, with protruding airflow skirts below the doors to keep things stable at 140; the Supercharged model adds a stunning new machine gun barrel grille, side vents and chrome-plated tailpipes. And the two-way tailgate is still the industry’s heaviest and hardest to open (no electric motor assist, oddly), though the inset glass panel lifts more easily for simple access.

Inside, Range Rover Sport is still about the nicest piece of acreage you’ll ever inhabit, with tall, sporty seating featuring perforated leather-seats positioned to allow you a Royal-worthy view of the road, even when exceeding posted limits-plus a beautiful dash and console, the oversized shift knob and automatic AC and audio controls.

My tester was upgraded with a 480-watt Logic7 harmon/kardon stereo system with 13 speakers, HD and satellite radio, plus real wood trim. Standard is a 5-inch touchscreen with full 4WD data (you can see the position of the wheels and suspension while gingerly crawling your way over Mosquito Pass in the summer) plus standard navigation mapping.

The total package? Tremendous, but difficult to fathom by mere mortals. For those looking for total power, total luxury and total versatility, one of the best.

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