Cars

Po­si­tioned be­tween the ur­ban cow­boy’s Evoque and the full-fat Range Rover, the Sport man­ages to achieve what no other SUV can—equally bril­liant per­for­mance on and off the road, writes Adam Hay-ni­cholls

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

The Range Rover Sport de­liv­ers equally bril­liant per­for­mance on and off the road

The stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure when test­ing a Range Rover is to dig out the Hunter wellies, dust off the wax jacket and head to some­where boggy. Which I have done. But on this oc­ca­sion, the 4x4 awaits me in New York City. It’s to this ur­ban jun­gle and oth­ers like it that so many of Bri­tain’s finest all­wheel-drive ex­ports are de­ployed, where the wildlife in­cludes restau­rant valets and yummy mum­mies. The life­style ideal, of course, is to have an SUV that can fight its way down Fifth Av­enue dur­ing the week and then head for the lakes and moun­tains on week­ends.

But any SUV can do that. The Range Rover Sport, par­tic­u­larly in the guise I’m test­ing, the five-litre V8, is overqual­i­fied in ev­ery depart­ment. It’s the au­to­mo­tive equiv­a­lent of a watch that’s wa­ter re­sis­tant to 200 me­tres— you’ll prob­a­bly never have to test its fea­tures to the full, but it’s nice to know you have the tools for any task.

The Sport is just as im­pe­ri­ous on the road as off. De­spite its sumo weight and su­per­model height, it cor­ners like a sports car. Then it’s able to turn off the high­way and, on the same tyres that had it glued to the tar­mac, cross a river and climb a moun­tain while ac­com­mo­dat­ing its pas­sen­gers in Aman-grade com­fort. The Range Rover mar­que has al­ways been a kind of leather-clad royal-hall­marked Swiss Army knife, but never has there been a model with such breadth of abil­ity and with­out a hint of com­pro­mise.

En­ter­ing Man­hat­tan via the Queens­boro Bridge, the el­e­vated seat­ing po­si­tion of the Sport gives a com­mand­ing scope of the traf­fic and a spec­tac­u­lar view down the East River. This is the in­ner-city ap­peal of hav­ing an SUV, and I lose count of how many Range Rovers are shar­ing the road with me. Most SUVS are a bit flash. They’d look out of place stuck in mud and sur­rounded by sheep. How­ever, the Range Rover, which shares its um­bil­i­cal cord with the util­i­tar­ian Land Rover, has farm cred and is about the only thing that will be ac­cepted with­out hes­i­ta­tion at both the lo­cal hunt and Cipriani.

The first-gen­er­a­tion Sport was a bit of a spoiler be­cause be­fore the landown­ers could put their de­posits down, the foot­ballers had swooped in. The Sport de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing all mouth and no trousers. A Range Rover that lacked sub­stance. And the plethora of Sports with mod­i­fied bumpers, com­i­cal al­loys and im­pen­e­tra­bly tinted win­dows

led some to the con­clu­sion that it was the ul­ti­mate drug dealer’s ride.

The new Sport is a heav­ily re­vised beast. It still ap­peals to the foot­ballers, but it’s more stream­lined and fem­i­nine. The same de­sign lan­guage flows through all three of the cur­rent mod­els, with both the Sport and the daddy Range Rover tak­ing cues from the dis­tinc­tive baby Evoque and scal­ing them up. The front end is im­pos­ing but more el­e­gant than the first-gen Sport. The slab sides are sim­i­lar to the full-sized model. The rear’s low roofline, high-set tail lights and pinched end are its de­sign flour­ish.

The in­te­rior is very well de­signed and airy. The dash­board is lux­u­ri­ously rugged, in­di­vid­ual and thor­oughly con­tem­po­rary. The panoramic roof makes you feel at one with your en­vi­ron­ment. There is oo­dles of space— in­clud­ing the op­tion for a third row of seats, mak­ing this a very real al­ter­na­tive to an MPV. Driv­ing along with a hand on the chunky steer­ing wheel, one el­bow on the win­dowsill and the other on a pil­lowy arm rest, you re­ally do feel like the king of the road.

New York in the sum­mer is a sti­fling place. Let’s get out of town. My des­ti­na­tion is Ver­mont, where hope­fully the Sport will cash in on its life­style cre­den­tials and I’ll look the bee’s knees when I pull a kayak and a golden re­triever from the back. It’s all about the props, you know. On the open road this car can re­ally go. It can body-slam 0-100km/h in 5.3 sec­onds and emits a throaty roar as it does so. The more fru­gal may wish to in­quire about one of the mod­els with the three-litre V6 en­gine. My su­per­charged five-litre V8, they say, will av­er­age 13.8 litres/100km. Should you re­ally want to go mad—if 503bhp isn’t al­ready pretty gosh darned lu­di­crous— there’s the SVR. Born of Soli­hull’s Spe­cial Ve­hi­cle Op­er­a­tions depart­ment, a kind of skunkworks led by a former F1 engi­neer, this HK$2.7 mil­lion mon­ster pumps out 542bhp—and boy will they hear you com­ing.

Then there’s the cor­ner­ing. A big, tall car like this is go­ing to lurch like an old drunk, right? Nope, dead flat. It’s ev­ery bit as chuck­able as a BMW 3-Se­ries. It seems to defy physics, but the tech sheet of­fers some ex­pla­na­tion. The out­go­ing Sport’s steel chas­sis has been re­placed with an all-alu­minium mono­coque and the re­sult is Hol­ly­wood-level weight loss—an Os­car-de­serv­ing 400kg. Beat that, Matthew Mcconaughey. So there’s less weight—and more tech. Com­put­er­con­trolled sus­pen­sion fights the body roll and wins. There’s also an ac­tive rear dif­fer­en­tial and torque vec­tor­ing, which dic­tates how much power is sent to each wheel and when, re­spond­ing to sen­sor read­ings taken 500 times a sec­ond. This is su­per­car stuff.

THEN THERE’S THE COR­NER­ING. A BIG, TALL CAR LIKE THIS IS GO­ING TO LURCH LIKE AN OLD DRUNK, RIGHT? NOPE, DEAD FLAT

Af­ter 500 kilo­me­tres and a cou­ple of cheeses­teaks, I reach Wood­stock and it’s time to go off-road. What makes the Sport so good on tar­mac is also what makes it stel­lar off it. The old chas­sis was bor­rowed from the Land Rover Dis­cov­ery, whereas the new model’s alu­minium chas­sis is to-the-manor-born Range Rover, a more so­phis­ti­cated bit of kit. And the genes have handed it Range Rover’s Ter­rain Re­sponse sys­tem as well. This analy­ses the ground you’re about to tra­verse and au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs the sus­pen­sion, gear­box, brakes, throt­tle and trac­tion con­trol to suit. There’s also a sys­tem that dis­con­nects the anti-roll bars to in­crease wheel ar­tic­u­la­tion so you can get across the kind of humps that could break a crossaxle. Air sus­pen­sion al­lows you to raise the ride height 65mm to clear ob­sta­cles, with the ex­tra ben­e­fit of a soft ride. You can also lower it, which is handy when your golden re­triever is be­ing lazy. An­other of the Sport’s party pieces, should you de­cide to go all Wal­ter Raleigh, is sonar. Trans­mit­ters and re­ceivers give the driver a Wad­ing Depth In­di­ca­tor. If you go too deep into a ford or the Ama­zon, it will beep at you. The car is ca­pa­ble of wad­ing in up to 85 cen­time­tres of the wet stuff.

So there you have it. A car that is equally at home in Mid­town, on the high­way and half­way up Mount Ever­est. Its tal­ents are vir­tu­ally bound­less. Few own­ers will reg­u­larly use it as a hot hatch or an ex­plo­ration ve­hi­cle; in­stead they’ll use it as a spa­cious and lux­u­ri­ous shut­tle, and it’s just as ca­pa­ble in this re­gard. Short of the Rolls-royce Ghost and a Gulf­stream G450, I haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced many ma­chines ca­pa­ble of cov­er­ing big dis­tances with such lit­tle fuss.

in­side story The wellde­signed in­te­rior is airy and the dash­board lux­u­ri­ously rugged

pack­age deal The same de­sign lan­guage flows through all three Range Rover mod­els in­side and out

full house A third row of seats can be added to boost car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity to seven

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