The Range Rover Sport isn’t a Range Rover with go-faster stickers. It is based on the Discovery 3 with 14 cm lopped off the wheelbase. It gets characteristic Range Rover styling: Floating roof, distinctive headlamps and clamshell bonnet. It is lower and shorter, which gives it sporty appeal, but still retains the signature RR throne-like driving position: You sit so high that truckies are at eye-level. The expansive glass area gives it excellent visibility (both for you out of the car and for bystanders into the car).
Inside, it’s less spacious, and when you adjust the front seats, the leather squeaks against the transmission tunnel. It is driver-focussed, with the central console canted towards you, and luxuriously appointed with a mix of alcantara and leather, glossy woods, shiny trim and intelligent use of colours. But it is also dated, with a cluttered central console with dozens of buttons.
The Sport gets RR’s acclaimed Terrain Response system, with five modes — normal, grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, sand, and rock crawling — with each setting altering ride height, damping, throttle response, traction and stability control. Hill descent control automatically works the brakes to maintain a set and safe speed down a steep incline. Height adjustable air suspension and a proper low range transfer box are also standard.
The TDV8 twin-turbo 3.6-litre V8 diesel is tuned differently from the Range Rover. It cranks out 272 PS of power and a whopping 640 Nm of torque; on the highway, just a whiff of throttle is enough to keep her powering ahead majestically. It is one of the quietest large diesels, with a particularly sporty exhaust note and a pleasing burble at low revs.
It uses a unique body-on-ladder-frame construction designed to offer the strength of a ladder chassis with the rigidity of a monocoque, which accounts for the hefty 2.65-tonne kerb weight (more than even the Range Rover). It gets full time four-wheel-drive with a 50-50 front/rear torque split. The only reason it won’t follow the Discovery 3 to the ends of the earth are the road-biased tyres.
Two-and-a-half tonne is a lot of weight, but top speed is 210 kmph; 0-100 kmph, despite wet tarmac, came up in 9.17 seconds. Not very quick by current benchmarks, but when you consider the size, mass and aerodynamic inefficiency, it’s very impressive. It generates huge momentum but its massive 360 mm ventilated disc brakes at all four corners bring it from 100 kmph to 0 in 49.01 metres and 3.7 seconds.
Fuel efficiency: It returned 5.72 kmpl in the city and 8.5 kmpl on the highway, an overall figure of 6.42 kmpl. The Sport is stiffly sprung and in the city you can feel the pitter-patter of broken tarmac. But build speed, and few cars feel as majestic as this; the air suspension also firms up nicely to deliver great stability and body control.
You are always aware of the sheer weight, but throw her around corners and the grip levels and absence of body roll are surprising. That is courtesy active anti-roll bars which use hydraulic motors that stiffen the bars depending on cornering loads. It all makes for a rewarding machine to drive fast, and a balance between on-and-off-road abilities.
What’s undeniable is that the Range Rover Sport has tremendous street presence. Its brutally aggressive styling says M-O-N-E-Y, and the very British character, charm and theatre that it brings to the table is a welcome and refreshing change.
The price: £ 46,995 (SE), £ 53,995 (HSE), £ 64,995 (supercharged HSE)