By Bruce Newton (via http://www.drive.com.au)
With a new diesel engine, this SUV reinforces a reputation for solid off-road performance.
- Stump-pulling power and improved economy from new diesel engine
- excellent off-road ability
- slick six-speed auto
- sumptuous interior with tactile switchgear
- extensive equipment list.
- Despite its name, a 2.5-tonne vehicle is not sporty
- reflective touch-scree
Price and equipment
The Range Rover Sport TDV6 is the cheapest member of the Sport range, although you’re still handing over more than $100,000 by the time it’s rolling from the dealership.
That pricing puts it in the same bracket as the Mercedes-Benz ML350 CDI and BMW X5 30d (although the X5 is being updated next week) but cheaper than BMW’s oddball X6 ‘-diesel “coupe” SUV.
The 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine is at the heart of the Sport’s makeover.
It comes with the latest version of ZF’s excellent six-speed automatic, a full-time 4WD system that includes low-range gearing for serious off-roading and height-adjustable electronic air suspension.
The exterior has been tickled with some faster-illuminating LEDs but the original’s likeable blockiness is essentially unaltered. The standard equipment list is extensive. Highlights include bi-xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, 19-inch alloy wheels, a Harman Kardon audio system, sat-nav, Bluetooth and plug-ins for iPods.
The Sport comes with all the expected active and passive safety equipment, including eight airbags, stability control and anti-lock brakes, but adds other electrical assistants that slow it downhill (hill descent control), keep it on track in corners (enhanced understeer control) and resist toppling over (roll stability control).
There is no NCAP independent crash test rating for the Sport. However, the Land Rover Discovery is based on the same architecture and it scored a somewhat disappointing four out of five stars in 2006.
Under the bonnet
The 3.0-litre, direct-injection turbo diesel V6 engine has a sequential turbocharger system. This means a variable-geometry primary turbo does most of the work, while a smaller fixed-geometry unit kicks in to provide extra mid- to top-end performance.
With 180kW and 600Nm, this engine delivers plenty of oomph. Despite the Sport’s 2.5-tonne kerb weight, there’s no shortage of response through the rev range.
Combining very well with the auto, it’s quiet, smooth and almost entirely free of lag or hesitation. It’s also economical considering how much weight it’s hauling. Range Rover claims 9.2 litres per 100 kilometres, down from the 12.7L/100km for the old 2.7-litre single-turbo engine. Our week of varied running returned an average of 10.6L/100km.
How it drives
The Sport is meant to be something of an enjoyable on-road drive. It’s the same sort of concept BMW espouses for the X5 and X6.
The reality is that the Sport does a decent job of fighting the laws of physics thanks to some fundamentally good suspension tuning and a family of electronic assistants.
But this is not a sports car; it’s not even a sporty car. It is well tied down for what is a serious and capable off-roader, resisting the wobbly body, pogoing and vague steering that afflicts most 4WD wagons.
Comfort and practicality
The combination of chunky controls, light and dark leathers and subtle woodgrains, metals and plastics of various hues would be too busy if it weren’t done with such cohesion and grace.
The big front seats are all-consuming, while there is comfortable space in all directions in the rear for two passengers. Three can be accommodated as long as they are friendly.
In this sumptuous interior, manual adjustment of the steering wheel is curiously downmarket.
More of an annoyance is the placement of the media screen, which is not angled to the advantage of the driver and can catch reflections. It can also be a long reach for the driver to some of the touch-screen controls.
Storage is a Range Rover given. You’ll find several places to put phones, cups and other paraphernalia.
Luggage space is large enough, going from 958 litres with the rear seats in place
to 2013 litres with them folded.
Overall verdict: Three and a half out of five stars
The Sport is a decent on-road drive while continuing the Range Rover tradition of strong capability off-road. The diesel engine is a beauty and the interior outstanding. But Sport? Don’t think so.
Nuts & Bolts
|Price||From $99,900 plus on-road and dealer costs|
|Engine Size/Type||3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel|