Range top­per

It was a short but very sweet time be­hind the wheel of Range Rover’s new Sport

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

IT TAKES only 10 min­utes to get an im­pres­sive taste of the all-new Range Rover Sport

That’s per­fect, be­cause we only have 10 min­utes of drive time dur­ing the fact-packed preview of the sporty SUV at Land Rover’s Gay­don test track in the Bri­tish Mid­lands.

The Sport has just been cut away from the mid-level Dis­cov­ery and twinned with the all-new Range Rover, a move that has cre­ated non­iden­ti­cal twins at the top of the Land Rover fam­ily tree.

The lux­ury Range Rover is al­ready up and run­ning in Aus­tralia and the Sport comes in Novem­ber, with pric­ing still to be re­vealed but with im­pres­sive lux­ury and driv­ing equip­ment as stan­dard.

Apart from the switch to an all-al­loy body, the Sport be­comes the first Range Rover with a seven-seater cabin— thanks to a third row of ‘‘ se­cret seat­ing’’ in­tended for young­sters— and other in­no­va­tions run from a laser­driven head-up in­stru­ment dis­play to a torque-vec­tor­ing trans­mis­sion sys­tem to im­prove the on-road dy­nam­ics.

If there is one thing that points to the trans­for­ma­tion of the Sport, it’s the gear lever in the cen­tre con­sole. The lux­ury RR has a ro­tary con­trol that en­sures it’s al­ways a full au­to­matic but the Sport is a car that is in­tended to be driven. That also in­cludes front seats that are set 20 mil­lime­tres lower, with a con­sole raised by 9mm, to give a more driver­fo­cused cabin.

It’s eas­ier to com­pare the Sport with the Range Rover than the pre­vi­ous Dis­cov­ery­based model, be­cause it re­flects a new ap­proach to the top end at Land Rover.

‘‘ We’re about tak­ing quan­tum leaps for­ward with ev­ery new model we do,’’ says Range Rover ve­hi­cle line di­rec­tor Nick Rogers. ‘‘ Range Rover Sport has helped us trans­form our busi­ness. It’s new peo­ple. They are 80-85 per cent con­quest cus­tomers.’’

The Sport is part of Land Rover’s 65th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion and is about as far re­moved from the Bri­tish of­froad orig­i­nal as is pos­si­ble.

‘‘ It’s Land Rover’s take on the dy­namic SUV. It’s a sports tourer. The key as­pect is lon­grange com­fort,’’ Rogers says.

The un­veil­ing of the Sport is a ‘‘ soft’’ launch that is big on facts and fig­ures but short on driv­ing. Cars­guide will have a full driv­ing re­view later in the year, most likely from the of­froad tracks and wind­ing coun­try roads of Wales, be­fore the first de­liv­er­ies— and the all-im­por­tant pric­ing news— in the fi­nal quar­ter. ‘‘ Pric­ing will be re­vealed in June, and it’s on sale in Novem­ber,’’ says LandRover Aus­tralia brand man­ager Tim Krieger.

The new Sport is still pitched against theBMWX5, Porsche Cayenne and Mercedes-Benz ML, but also picks up ex­tra points from its twin-brother role with the Range Rover.

That means a choice of en­gines from a four-cylin­der al­most iden­ti­cal to the EcoBoost mo­tor in the Ford Fal­con through to a su­per­charged V8, a weight loss of more than 400kg (500kg with the baby four), ac­tive an­tiroll sus­pen­sion, eight-speed ZF auto gear­box and true off-road cred, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to wade through wa­ter up to 850mm deep.

But the Sport turns sharply away from the Range Rover in one way.

‘‘ It re­ally is re­fo­cused to em­pha­sise its dy­namic abil­ity. It’s lower than the Range Rover, it’s more ag­ile with im­proved ride com­fort,’’ says

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