Land Rover has a new-generation Range Rover Sport for 2015. The Sport is six inches shorter, 2.1-inches lower and about 100 pounds lighter than the full-size Range Rover on which it is based.
The 2015 model, however, has a seven-inch longer wheelbase for more interior room and ease of access for rear passengers, and still carries the distinctive DNA of the previous generation.
Range Rover Sport, with a modern, streamlined appearance, slim signature LED headlights, rearward sloping grille and sculpted corners, still carries the clamshell hood, floating roof, side fender vents, and bolder versions of the wheel arch, horizontal body lines and rocker molding.
Inside, Sport is luxurious, with premium materials and soft-touch surfaces, and genuine metal accents on the center console, door trim and dash end caps. An optional third-row seat increases the practical flexibility of the versatile interior. With four levels to choose among, prices range from $63,350 to $92,495 before options.
My tester was the Sport Supercharged, base price $79,995, with $10,352 in options. The basic SC model has lots of special standard equipment, befitting a Land Rover.
The engine was a 5.0-liter 510-horsepower supercharged V-8 with Intelligent Stop/Start, paired with a model standard eight-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
Also standard on my Sport were permanent four-wheel drive, four-wheel electronic traction control, active rear locking differential, and two-speed electronic transfer box with electronic center differential.
Nine interior color themes are offered, with additional choice of seat color, four aluminum interior finishes, two real wood veneers, three headliner colors, 16 exterior colors with three contrasting roof colors (Corris Gray, Santorini Black or Indus Silver), wheels from 19-22 inches, and Atlas Silver Dark Atlas or Gloss Black finish for exterior accents.
My Sport was Kaikoura Stone with Espresso, Almond, and Ivory interior trimmed with Satin Aluminum and Walnut veneer, and a Santorini Black contrast roof ($650 option). The sloping side fender vents were matched by twin vents on the hood. The signature two-bar theme was repeated in the fender vents, the front grille and the taillights. The side glass fit snuggly and the gloss black finish on the roof pillars highlighted the floating roof design.
Large outboard air intakes and the bold trapezoidal housing of the central front bumper and skid plate communicated the high performance and capability of my tester, with the trapezoidal shape repeated in the rear skid plate and large twin exhaust tips.
The taillights use LED technology and echo the headlights’ distinctive design, with both wrapping around the shoulders of the body in Range Rover’s signature tapering-blade design.
Inside, the controls were within arm’s reach, and the seats were sculpted, well-crafted, and comfortable, with enhanced padding in the front. Twin-needle stitching, carefully controlled from length and direction of stitch to size and shape of the needle, finished the leather seats and leather-wrapped surfaces. Color-themed interiors with multi-toned designs and a range of alloy wheels allow customers to personalize their Sport.
Sport features a Command Driving Position for an elevated and reassuring view of the vehicle’s surroundings, with a sporting, less-upright seating position. Along with attention to vehicle packaging and pillar design, CDP offered excellent all-around visibility.
Clear analog gauges and a five-inch TFT display are standard on the instrument panel, with a new 12.3-inch high-resolution TFT virtual gauge display available on high-specification models (mine, Dynamic Package). An eight-inch high-resolution touchscreen display on the center console showed infotainment and secondary functions.
Both screens have 3D displays with subtle chrome detailing, and adapt content and color scheme according to the driving situation. In Dynamic mode, for example, the 12.3-inch screen adopts a red color scheme, with the current gear position displayed between the primary dials.
Layout of the controls was simplified, with 50 percent fewer switches and a more-intuitive approach in the major controls. Twin five-way toggle switches on the steering wheel controlled some audio functions, adaptive cruise control, and other auxiliary functions; the climate controls were very simple; a rotary knob controlled Terrain Response 2; and a vertical gearshift knob was easy to reach. I find it somewhat confusing, however, that reverse gear is forward, drive gear is backward, and park is a button on top.
All Range Rover vehicles are designed and developed with attention to the amount of headroom needed due to head movement that occurs in off-road driving. The Sport has 39.5 inches of headroom in the front, 39.1 in the second row, 42.2 inches of legroom in the front and 37 inches in the second row.
The standard 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels were replaced by 21-inch Style 507 diamond-turned wheels with five triple spokes, included in the $2,750 Dynamic Package, also available for the top-of-the-line Autobiography model.
Oxford perforated-leather seating was upgraded with contrast piping; drilled stainless steel pedals were included, as were gloss-black mirror caps, grille finisher, hood and fender vents, tow-eye cover, fog lamp surrounds (front and rear), and tailgate plinth, red SPORT badging on the tailgate, red 20-inch brake calipers, TFT virtual instrument display, and performance enhancement – up to 155 mph. The Black Package removed all brightwork from the exterior.
A Front Climate and Visibility package for $2,530 upgraded the front seats from 14-way power adjustment with lumbar and adjustable bolsters to 16-way power adjustment with heat and air, and included a front cooler; heated rear seats, steering wheel, and windshield; adaptive Xenon headlights with auto high beam (standard Xenon headlights have LED signature and power washers, carried over); auto-dimming exterior mirrors (standard include power adjustable heated door mirrors with power fold, also carried over); blind-spot monitor with closing-vehicle sensing and reverse-traffic detection; and upgraded the 60/40 fold-flat rear seat with load-through.
Any review of a Range Rover has to include something about Land Rover’s history of tackling tough climates and road surfaces as it relates to the current vehicle. For 2015, Sport brings the next-generation of Terrain Response, Terrain Response 2. TR2 takes the technology to a new level, with an Auto setting to automatically select from five settings: General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl. TR2 also gives the driver advice, such as when to select a lower gear or raise the off-road ride height if necessary.
Suspension plays an important role off-road and includes enhanced electronic air suspension with automatic load leveling, multiple height modes (Access, Standard, Off-Road and Extended, with a total adjustable height range of about seven inches and ground clearance of 11.2 off-road), independent aluminum front and rear suspension, upgraded adaptive dynamics and dynamic response systems, dynamic program and torque vectoring by braking – producing reduced body roll and flatter, more-confident cornering.
Sport has 2.3-inches more ground clearance than the previous model, and the underfloor has a smooth surface, transitioning smoothly between suspension components for less damage or interference. Wading depth is 33.5-inches, increased by nearly six inches due to air intake stacks extending into the hood.
Braking is also important, especially off-road. Starting with power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes, four-channel, all-terrain antilock braking, electronic brake-force distribution and cornering brake control, continuing to all-terrain dynamic stability control, hill descent control, emergency brake assist, and finishing with roll stability control, active speed limiter, gradient release control and electronic park brake.
My Range Rover Sport had driver and front passenger seat memory, auto-dimming rearview mirror with gate/garage opener, interior mood lights, power liftgate, and a panoramic roof with power blind.
The infotainment system included GPS HDD navigation with off-road function and "say what you see" intuitive voice control, personal telephone with Bluetooth, Bluetooth audio streaming, satellite and HD radio.
An audio upgrade came in a Meridian Premium Audio package for $1,940 and included InControl Apps and 825-watt surround sound. InControl Apps connects a smartphone to the vehicle’s touchscreen via USB port, and allows use of a variety of smartphone apps.
Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist for $1,295 upgraded the standard cruise control. A Rover Tow Package with 5-plus-2 seating contained a receiver with electrics and armature for $650 and a RR Sport Protection Package added $537.
This generation RR Sport offers two choices in full-time intelligent 4WD systems. A two-speed transfer case system is available and standard on my supercharged V-8, with a low-range for even the most demanding off-road conditions. The standard 4WD system is 40 pounds lighter and features a single-speed transfer case with a Torsen differential.
My Range Rover Sport was quite capable of handling any off-road adventure and then some, but I drove on highways and didn’t get to fully enjoy the Land Rover experience – something I do enjoy. With $925 destination charges, the total delivered price of my tester was $91,272.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.