We’re often asked about our favorite car but the more cars you drive, the harder it is to answer that question. So most people have a dream garage, with maybe a sports car, SUV, sedan, etc. However, we recently got to drive perhaps the only car you’ll ever need: We traveled to Merry Olde England to drive the all-new 2014 Range Rover Sport.
Where the old Range Rover Sport was based on the LR4 platform, the new Sport is now closer to the flagship Range Rover, gaining an aluminum bodyshell, panels and suspension, losing about 800 lb in the process (V6 model), being 25% stiffer but having 75% different parts from the 2014 Range Rover.
So while it’s the fastest Land Rover ever built, and gains a third row of seats to meet demands for greater capacity, the new Range Rover Sport is the Swiss Army knife of automobiles. It can do absolutely anything.
The problem for Land Rover is how to demonstrate the massive ability of such a versatile vehicle in a few short hours. So we went on a relatively long distance tour into Wales enjoying great GT comfort, got sporty on the country roads, accelerated to 150mph on an airfield, did 0-100-0mph in 17sec, waded through a river, traversed thick muddy trenches, climbed slippery banks, and tackled an obstacle course inside a Jumbo Jet. Yes, you read that right, and can see the video right here.
Land Rover pulled out all the stops to get its message out. Driving up and down steep ramps, several storeys high, leaning over at ridiculous angles and showing tremendous wheel articulation, all while passing through the first class cabin of a 747 made the point emphatically.
So if you’re looking for a GT, sports car, off-roader, tow vehicle, family transport and speed demon with fantastic ability in every area, may we recommend the 2014 Range Rover Sport?
Originally conceived as an SUV with better road manner than the Range Rover, it’s easy to forget how good the Sport can be in difficult conditions. When the water is splashing onto the windows, you know the river is deep, yet the RRS can climb an almost vertical bank to extricate itself from the water using the same Pirelli M+S road tires we would later take to 150mph on an airport runway. All you need to do is select the correct setting on the Terrain Response 2 system and the suspension will raise, traction control will adjust, diffs lock; everything operates to ensure the driver emerges without drama.
We loved the first Sport model for its chunky fender flares and no-nonsense attitude, initially feeling this replacement was a little soft. However, in the flesh the new Range Rover Sport has real presence, but also a restraint and sophistication that perhaps the old car lacked.
There’s tremendous attention to detail that makes this Sport more intimate. It invites you to absorb the intricacies such as the side vents, puddle lights, logo between the doors, headlight surrounds, etc.
Inside, they’ve gone the other way, mimicking the Range Rover and reducing the number of switches and buttons. Most features are now centered on the nav screen, with the Terrain Response selector by the shift lever.
The shifter allows you to access the new eight-speed automatic transmission, which is a peach. It’s used by several other manufacturers and might be the best auto in the business. The shifts are crisp and instantaneous, it always seems to be in the correct gear, and you’ve got paddles if you’re feeling sporty.
Having been put on a strict aluminum diet, the 2014 Range Rover Sport feels almost agile for a 5100 lb SUV (V8 model). This is also thanks to its lightweight independent suspension components and advanced technology such as air aprings at each corner that help to keep the car level but also assist in providing up to 21" of wheel travel to cushion any blows or overcome virtually any obstacle.
When driving off-road, the electric, variable-ratio, speed-sensitive steering means you always have what you need. At high speed, it has weight and accuracy; while rock-crawling, it has quick responses but won’t kick-back in your hands.
The Terrain Response system has a Dynamic Mode for on-road behavior that gives a firmer ride with less body roll and sportier steering, making it feel less of an SUV and more like a GT. And when this is partnered with Dynamic Response active lean control, Dynamic Active Rear Locking Differential, plus Torque Vectoring by Braking, a blindfolded passenger would never know you were in a Range Rover. It drives more like a sports car, with its (optional) 155mph top speed, plus incredibly powerful braking thanks to six-piston Brembos up front.
All these systems operate seamlessly, helping you to hustle a very heavy car through some of the trickiest roads in Wales, with only free-ranging sheep to worry about. On these roads, the surface could be far from ideal, but the Adaptive Dynamics kept varying the damper rates to absorb all but the worst imperfections. The Torque Vectoring also helps considerably by applying power to the outside wheels to aid turn-in, with the e-diff ready to step in if you over-cook it.
So while this SUV drives better than most cars, it’s only tickling the surface of the iceberg underneath. The off-road ability is immense and Terrain Response 2 is there to help you. Leave it in auto and the car will calculate what’s best, but set it manually and it knows what to expect. The system works with another raft of assistance technologies that are again seamlessly integrated, with perhaps the Hill Descent control the only one you really notice as you plummet down a near-vertical cliff to your death. Except the system uses the gearing and brakes to ensure you float down on daisies to land in a blanket of feathers, or so it seemed…
Just like the Range Rover, the air intake draws from the hood shut lines, so the wading depth has been increased by 6" to an impressive 33.5" for the global-warming flood you may now be, or soon be, experiencing.
For people wanting to get into the new 2014 Range Rover Sport on a budget, the good news is that the SE model starts at $63495 and comes with the sweet 3.0L supercharged V6 found in the Jaguar XF, XJ and F-Type. Boasting 340hp, it’s superior to the naturally aspirated 5.0 V8 in the old Sport, sprinting to 60mph in 6.9sec (0.3sec quicker) and will be 27% more economical as well.
European drivers will enjoy diesel and even a diesel-hybrid model to save them more money at the pumps. There’s also a petrol-hybrid coming, which might reach the US one day.
People with larger families can also rejoice at the third-row seating that will provide temporary perches for little ones. It also folds flat at the touch of a button for convenience. The car is 7" longer in the wheelbase than before, increasing rear passenger space. Yet it’s shorter and 100 lb lighter than the Range Rover it’s based on.
Land Rover knows we like to individualize our cars, and with the Evoque’s comprehensive options list setting a new trend for the company, Sport customer also have thousands of combinations. These include 19 paint options, three roof colors, 11 interior color themes with more seats colors, four aluminum and three wood trims, 19-22" wheel options, black exterior trim and a Dynamic Pack on the top V8 models that brings color-matched exteriors and more interior options.
Whatever colors you choose, this is a handsome car with a lavish interior you can spend hours inside. The 14-way adjustable seats were always comfortable, especially when wrapped in the soft leather of our test car. The tactile trim rewards the fingers with wood and aluminum, while the eyes fall upon luxury not often seen fording a deep river. Yet with triple seals on the doors, no water gets in, which is just as well because you wouldn’t want to damage the 27 speakers in the top-flight Meridian audio system!
And if that wasn’t enough, the 2014 Range Rover Sport will tow up to 7700 lb and is available with Tow Assist and Trailer Stability Assist so even a rookie can get the job done.
We spent two days in a car we’d previously enjoyed, but found ourselves constantly amazed at the Range Rover Sport’s immense ability and flexibility. We couldn’t imagine a single scenario where this vehicle wouldn’t be up to the task, but were able to imagine a few uses we’d never previously considered…
Is this the only car you’d ever need? Of course not, but if you can only have one car in the garage, this might be the best one out there for every occasion because, while the Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5M might be as competent on-road, neither will live with the Range Rover Sport off it.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged
Layout front engine, all-wheel drive
Engine 4999.7cc V8 DOHC 32v, quad-cam Dual Independent Variable Cam Timing
Drivetrain ZF 8HP70 eight -speed automatic transmission, permanent 4WD with locking center diff, Terrain Response 2, locking rear diff (option)
Brakes six-piston Brembo calipers, 15" rotors f, 14.3" r
Suspension SLA suspension with twin lower links f, integral link suspension r, air springs f&r
Wheels & Tires 20x8.5", 255/50 R20
Power 510hp at 6000-6500rpm
Torque 461 lb-ft at 2500-5500rpm
0-60 mph 5sec
Top speed 140mph (155mph option)
Curb weight 5093 lb
Economy 14/16/19mpg [city/highway/combined]