The permanent four-wheel-drive Range Rover Sport is Land Rover’s response. Based on the new Discovery chassis but with 140mm chopped out of the middle, the first thing to get your head around is that, despite the Range Rover badge, the Sport has almost nothing to do with its big brother; it may look similar but it’s an all-new machine that will sit between Discovery and Range Rover in the Land Rover line-up.
The 2012 model has brought various revisions, including a simplification of the range to just 255hp 3.0-litre SDV6 diesel or ‘our’ supercharged petrol V8. The diesel now gets the Jag-style rotary gear selector and the latest eight-speed gearbox, the petrol sticking with the familiar six-speeder and manly conventional shifter. Other additions include an expanded range of colours and trims, a nifty ‘Dual View’ infotainment screen and an irksome powered tailgate. This is one of those ‘convenience features’ that proves anything but when an argument over whether we wanted it open or closed turned ugly and resulted in one of the rams breaking off its mounting. The price for this beauty is starting from £74,595 to £80,000.
The Range Rover Sport has another ace up its sleeve; its new six-speed ZF autobox has the most impressive ‘Sport’ mode I’ve ever driven. There’s no hiding the bulk of the 2570kg Sport, especially under braking, but this ultra-clever six-speeder helps mask this with superbly judged downchanges, complete with an electronic ‘heel and toe’ engine blip along the way, giving you genuine engine braking into corners.
It’s a car that soothes and compliments in other words, and at a relaxed pace on the motorway can just about tickle 20mpg – it’s easy to see why some owners develop a certain sense of (ahem) impenetrable self confidence. This, near-ubiquity in certain postcodes and some cheaper fixtures and fittings beyond the (bit too) flashy Autobiography trimmings don’t do the Sport any favours. The Cayenne does it better, cabin-wise. But it remains a car of massively broad ability and, compared with the rivals, a deal more charisma. If you’re going to do the gas-guzzling SUV it’s good to know it still pays to buy British.