‘It’s a case of an evolution on the outside and a revolution on the inside’
No one at Land Rover will go on record but one chassis engineer conceded privately that the steering is a little less sharp on turn-in and slightly more vague off-centre than had been targeted.
Under the bonnet the Sport gets a trio of new engines and retains an old favourite. The hero engine is destined to be the 3.0-litre sequential twin-turbo diesel, a 180kW and 600Nm unit Australia will also see in the Discovery 4.
The parallel sequential turbo system differs from twin in-line turbos in that for much of the time only a single turbocharger is employed. However, with the two turbos effectively eliminating lag, the diesel’s huge urge is on tap from near the bottom of the rev range through to peak power. However, if it is good off the line it is brilliant in the mid-range where the big car positively leaps at any opportunity to overtake.
The high-performance card in the engine deck is the all-new 375kW 5.0-litre supercharged which replaces the outgoing 4.2-litre unit bringing 29 per cent more power and 12 per cent more torque (625Nm) while reducing fuel consumption by 6.9 per cent and emissions by 7 per cent. As aggressive as it is, the supercharged eight is still a smooth unit.
As a pair with the naturally aspirated version of the engine (276kW and 510Nm) the V8s feature a couple of industry-first technologies with central sprayguided direct injection and torque-activated variable timing on all four camshafts.
All three of the new engines are coupled to a revised ZF sixspeed automatic. Rounding out the engine portfolio is the carryover 3.6-litre V8 diesel with an unchanged 200kW and 640Nm.
Depending on the trim level there is plenty of fruit in the Range Rover Sport. On the menu is climate control, bi-xenon lights, active cruise control, 20-inch rims, Bluetooth, five external cameras for panoramic surround views of the car, keyless entry, leather, satellite navigation and a nine-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system.
That’s just the luxury stuff. The functional off-road gear includes the dial-a-situation terrain response, hill descent control, air suspension and low-ratio gearbox all available at the twist of a knob or push of a button.
The off-roading-for-idiots programming of the terrain response means that with just a moderate amount of common sense there are precious few places where a Range Rover Sport will not take you in comfort and confidence.
During the launch drive in Scotland, albeit under the watchful eye of the Land Rover Experience team, the Sport – utilising the new 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel – tackled glutinous mud ruts, a bonnet-deep river crossing, seemingly impossible climbs and descents and rock crawls without a moment of concern.