What is it?
Why would I buy it?
Presence, luxury trappings and off-road capability
Why would I avoid it?
Not a 7-seater, seats don't have massage option
What is it?
It is the updated version of the iconic Range Rover Sport. This mid-cycle facelift of the fourth generation Range Rover was showcased at the 2017 Los Angeles Motor Show and was recently launched in India. The 2018 MY update brings in a few changes to the exterior and many feature upgrades to the huge but well-proportioned SUV.
Let's get straight to the changes then; the highlights among them are a revised bonnet, a tweaked bumper up front, Atlas mesh grille (drawing cues from the Velar) and redesigned headlamps with ‘Pixel LED’ adaptive beams and LED DRLs. All of these make the SUV look sharper and add to its appeal. The rear section features chunkier bumpers with integrated exhausts and striking new tail lamps. Sure, the car still is all about presence and the new massive 21-inch alloy wheels make sure there is no dearth of this at all.
How is it on the inside?
The cabin of this SUV continues to be a spacious and splendid place to be in. Instead of the wooden veneers, like on its elder sibling, this one uses beige soft materials on the dash and trims. The metal finish is smooth and the knobs get a nice rubber sheath. The steering wheel houses a host of control functions with volume control even adjustable by circular touch. However, the most interesting bit is on the centre console - Land Rover's new 'Touch Pro Duo' infotainment system with two 10-inch touch screens replacing almost all buttons for accessing all the comfort functions. Indeed, they make the cabin less cluttered, show more information, add to the convenience and look spectacular.
In terms of fit and finish, there is hardly anything to find fault at. The front leather seats are power adjustable and get heating options. However, they lack a massage function. Very comfortable and very spacious nonetheless! The second row of seats are comfy too, with the fifth seat deploying as an armrest and providing storage as well.
Now, on to the comfort and luxury features. This HSE trim comes loaded with panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting, four-zone climate control with ionisation for cleaner air flow and loads of power sockets. There's a choice of Meridien music systems and apart from eight airbags, there are more safety features added too. Here, the adaptive cruise control with ‘Queue Assist’ is certainly worth a mention. When activated, it helped the SUV mimic the car in front perfectly. Our SUV rolled forward with this car ahead and even slowed down when the other car reduced its speed.
Besides that, park assist and automatic parking also come as standard. Furthermore, for added convenience, the electronically powered tail gate opens with the swipe of a foot underneath, to a large boot that will carry all the possible luggage required. This isn't a twin-opening boot-lid like other Land Rovers, but it closes at the touch of a button.
How does it drive?
The Range Rover Sport is available in four engine options including the supercharged V6 and V8s and even a turbo-diesel V8. But what we have here is the one powered by a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 mill producing 255bhp and 600Nm of torque. This unit is quiet at idling and the engine note is clear only post the 2,000rpm. It sounds good and doesn't get harsh even post the 4,000rpm mark. Yet it doesn't really have that 'sporty' note to it. One can tell the NVH levels are astounding both at idle and when driving.
Despite being the least powerful in the engine line-up this one has a good pulling power even from the low revs. The refined engine has loads of torque in the low and mid-range, where we ended up driving most of the time. It's quite usable in the city traffic and doesn't really keep one wanting for more power. The eight-speed gearbox plays an important role here in quick and smooth gear shifts to let the SUV gather up speed. It's only during kick-down when a slight jerk can be felt, however, the transmission shows its responsiveness without any lag.
The Range Rover Sport does lend good visibility, particularly over the hood, making it easy to drive or manoeuvre. It has a light and responsive steering, which weighs up nicely at high speeds. It helps taking long fast corners tidily, but what still doesn't inspire you to attack corners is the sheer size and weight of the SUV. Well, the body roll isn’t too pronounced but one can feel the heft. Plus it rides on air springs, which by the way gives one the option of increasing/decreasing the ride height. The ride quality is sorted, though it feels a little firm to go with the SUV's 'sporty' avatar. Nonetheless, the suspension is absorbent at high speeds and doesn't thud too much over battered roads. The commendable straight-line stability is well complemented by the brakes that have a good bite and progression, bringing the huge vehicle to halt sure-footedly.
What's more, this vehicle for all its sporty SUV posturing, is still the same superbly capable off-roader as before. I'm not comparing it with the typical mud-plugging vehicles, but the Range Rover Sport has all the equipment required by a car of this stature and size. The jacked up height in the off-road mode, its great wheel articulation and 21-inch tyres make sure it manages the undulations and unseen obstacles with ease. The other modes like mud ruts, grass gravel snow and sand program only add assurance to its gradient tackling ability. It surely lives up to its Land Rover DNA.
Should I buy one?
So there you have it. The Range Rover Sport in this engine-spec is easy to live within the city and makes one feel completely home even out on the highways. It looks good, offers practical and modern equipment in a comfortable and luxurious cabin, and is also quiet and refined for a diesel SUV. Still if we had to nit-pick, well, there is no option of a seven-seater version. It could have made it more practical to travel with more friends or pets. But then let’s consider this. If one can shell out Rs 1.57 crore for this, he/she probably might easily have another car accompanying at all times with an entourage of few more people? Isn’t it? Including body-guards may be! So the owners might not really need occupants in the third row of seats complaining about compromised space then!
Where does it fit in?
In a price sensitive market like ours, the Range Rover Sport falls in the on-road price of over Rs 1.5 crore club on the likes of the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X6M, Maserati Levante etc.
Pictures by Kapil Angane