In you want a fourth generation Range Rover - and if you're in the market for a top luxury SUV, then you probably will - then the potent diesel SDV8 is the one you'll have your eye on. Jonathan Crouch looks at the revised version.
Ten Second Review
Defining the 4x4 Range Rover's global appeal in words like unique, icon and majestic remains almost as futile as rivals have found it to deliver credible opposition. Some are faster roadrunners, many are cheaper, but none match Range Rover's relaxed repertoire of relentless progress in outstanding comfort, regardless of terrain. You could pay over £200,000 for a Rolls Royce and still hanker after this alternative Range Rover's astonishing abilities. Especially in this improved and still potent 339PS SDV8 diesel form.
The big news with this car centres on a strengthened right to a priority place on worldwide luxury car shopping lists. For this is so much more than an extraordinarily capable 4x4. No, the Range Rover also deserves consideration from customers looking at conventional super luxury models in the £100,000 classes, such as the Mercedes S class and the like.
Yet this is not the fattest of fat cats. A gigantic diet focussed on an innovative aluminium chassis slashes weight, boosting efficiency and driving dynamics.
To the point where this generation model has been able to adopt a more economical entry-level 258PS V6 diesel that offers much the same performance as the previous generation's TDV8. Why then, with this MK4 Range Rover, would you want to opt for 339PS SDV8 power? That's what I wanted to find out at the wheel.
You really get two cars in one package with Range Rover. The first a truly luxurious saloon and the second a proven offroader that retains its composure through extreme rough road duress. The SDV8 we certainly fast enough, making 62mph from rest in around 6.5s, a second quicker than the TDV6 version, on the way to a top speed of 135mph. With 740Nm of torque, this 4.4 litre diesel has the most pulling power in the range. Just what you need for a substantial vehicle, especially if it has a full complement of occupants, luggage and is hitched up to an appropriate Range Rover boat or horsebox load.
Off road prowess has been further improved in recent times thanks to a revised version of the already impressive all-terrain drive select system. Terrain Response2 has an extra 'Auto' mode, which means you can concentrate on driving over any surface from snow, via rugged rocks, to sodden grass, without pausing to select a suitable setting.
This is a machine for many moods, all seasons and so many reasons. From lazy amble through 8-obedient automatic gear ratios, to paddle-shifting pace that becomes more impressive as the weather or terrain worsens, this versatile vehicle does not just comply promptly with your wishes, it positively pampers you as your commands are pleasurably executed.
Design and Build
There are no exterior changes to this updated model but it remains an elegant thing, the classy panelwork draped around a lightweight all-aluminium monocoque body structure. Inside though, quite a lot has changed. As before, there's an optional long wheelbase bodystyle if you feel the interior of the standard short wheelbase model to be insufficiently spacious for your needs. Either way, the cabin now features wider, softer seats that at the back, free up an additional 186mm of legroom. Rear seat folk can also specify a massaging system and can make use of up to 17 media connection points. If you need even more rear space, then as before, there's also a LWB version of this car offering an extra 200mm in length, all of which goes for the benefit of rear seat folk.
Up front, the key interior change with his revised model lies with the addition of the brand's latest Touch Pro Duo infotainment system which features a pair of high-definition 10-inch touchscreens that form the centrepiece of the minimalist cabin. Otherwise, things are much as before. As ever, we particularly like the way that the car's air suspension system automatically drops to its lowest 'Access Height' when parked to make entry and exit easier.This car's substantial size isn't enough to permit the fitment of the couple of occasional rear boot-mounted seats you'll find in a Land Rover Discovery or (optionally) in a Range Rover Sport. Still, buyers of this top Range Rover model have never seemed to want them. Luggage room has always been a greater priority, so I should point out that there's 505-litres of it - which may be a little less than you were expecting. Perhaps that has something to do with the greater priority that Land Rover's designers have given to space for rear seat passengers.
Market and Model
Expect to pay from around £87,000 for your Range Rover SDV8, or more once you've allowed for a few well-chosen extras. That's around £7,000 more than the entry-level TDV6 diesel version. There's the usual single five-door, five-seat bodystyle and Vogue, Vogue SE and Autobiography trim levels. The long wheelbase version comes only in top 'Autobiography' or ''SVAutobiography' trims, with prices starting from a cool £113,000.
As you'd expect, you get a lot for that in terms of equipment. Items added as part of this range revamp include a gesture-controlled sunblind; a cabin air ionisation system; Pixel-laser LED headlights that never have to be dipped at night; and an 'Activity key' allowing you to securely lock and unlock the doors without the need to carry a conventional key fob.
Other clever driving features include Adaptive Cruise Control, plus Land Rover's 'Queue Assist and Intelligent Emergency Braking' set-up. Advanced Tow Assist takes the anxiety out of reversing when towing a trailer. And Low Traction Launch is a manually selectable driving mode that helps you gain traction when pulling away on slippery surfaces.
Cost of Ownership
Nobody buys a Range Rover as an economy purchase, but the company know that they have to deliver competitive fuel economy and emissions figures versus their rivals, which is why Jaguar Land Rover made such a massive investment in the reinforced aluminium body that delivered such a rewarding weight loss. Overlooked by many is that depreciation is the biggest financial factor to run a car from the top end of the mark. However, employing so much aluminium content will also fight corrosion more effectively than any rival, bringing longer-term benefits to fight depreciation. Over three years the current forecasts are that the diesel V8 will retain 50% of its value over 3 years and a typical 36,000 mileage.
And ongoing costs? Well, the bottom line figures are 33.6mpg on the combined cycle and 219g/km. Insurance charges? Group 50. Other routine costs contain few surprises. Service intervals are set on an annual basis or 15,000 miles, whichever occurs first.
So many cars claim to be unique, offering to make mundane motoring a sparkling affair. Few achieve that memorable status, but Range Rover definitely does, then adds an adventurous twist for leisure drives. I admire such extensive, expensive and efficient engineering that serves- rather than frustrates - as you work through an unmatched breadth of ability.
Yes, there are plenty of super luxury saloons that pamper their occupants with graciously presented accommodation front and rear, but you wouldn't ask those same motorised palaces to haul 3 1/2 tonnes along a challenging dirt trail in startling comfort. For a serious price, a Range Rover will execute testing such commands, completing them with unmatched style and strong pace. And that stays true, whatever the weather, or the road ahead, likes to throw at you. True, you don't need the SDV8 diesel variant we tried to get that - the entry-level TDV6 diesel remains a very good buy. But if you're looking at the best luxury SUV, then you want the best diesel engine to go with it. And the SDV8 is certainly that.
This Range Rover does not claim perfection, but it's the nearest the motor industry has come to delivering an automotive multi-tasking machine. One with resourcefulness and grace.
This improved second generation Range Rover Sport gets a smart look and the option of clever PHEV plug-in petrol/electric hybrid technology for the first time. And, as before, it offers amazing all-terrain capability. If you can afford one, there's now very little not to like, thinks Jonathan Crouch
Ten Second Review
The Range Rover Sport came of age in second generation form, bigger, lighter and sharper in its reactions. Now, Land Rover has usefully improved it, adding in Plug-in PHEV petrol/electric power for the first time in the shape of the hi-tech P400e variant. As you'd expect, this dynamic luxury SUV also gets up-to-the-minute safety and connectivity technology in its latest form, plus there's a 'Low Traction Launch' system for peerless all-terrain capability.
So to the Range Rover Sport. A car that in its original guise was neither a Range Rover or 'sporty'. In fact, it was based almost entirely on the brand's sensible Discovery model and, thanks to that car's practical ladder frame chassis, as about as dynamic to drive. Not so this second generation model, now usefully improved to create the version we're going to look at here. Appropriately, its very existence is properly inspired - and in many ways completely made possible - by the fully-fledged Range Rover. Back in 2012, that car was completely redeveloped in fourth generation form with aluminium underpinnings, sharper handling and hybrid power, engineering eagerly seized upon by the Range Rover Sport development team in their quest to at last be able to offer a credibly sporting SUV rival to cars like the Porsche Cayenne and the BMW X5.
These two competitors of course, don't have to blend in unrivalled off road excellence with their back road blasting. They don't have to be automotive swiss army knives - all things to all people - in quite the same way. So, burdened with such expectations, how can this Range Rover Sport take them on at their own game? That's what we're here to find out.
Can this car really be what Designer Gerry McGovern calls the 'Porsche 911 of SUVs'. The impressive 'Sports Command Driving position' anticipates such a showing - and once on the road, this car delivers it, the impressively light aluminium body structure making it feel a lot more nimble than you expect.
Key changes beneath the bonnet have altered the engine line-up in recent times, which now starts with a 300hp version of the brand's four cylinder 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol engine - yes, a four cylinder unit does feature in a 'Sport'. Performance from this variant is reasonable - 62mph from rest takes 7.3s en route to 125mph - but if you need more pulling power, then you're going to want the 306hp SDV6 diesel that most customers choose. The other key alternatives lie with the 400hp P400 petrol version. And the 339hp SDV8 diesel. At the top of the line-up, the 5.0-litre supercharged petrol unit lives on, now offered with either 525 or 575hp, the later output available in the flagship sporting SVR variant. The most technologically advanced derivative is the 404hp 2.0-litre petrol/electric P400e PHEV plug-in hybrid version.
Off road, as you would expect, this car is peerless, especially if you specify it with a Terrain Response system that'll always choose the perfect off road set-up. There's the further option of Land Rover's latest and very clever All-Terrain Progress Control system and now a clever 'Low Traction Launch' set-up that assists you when pulling away on slippery surfaces. Plus you can now monitor things via what's called an 'All-Terrain Information Centre', accessible via the centre dash touchcreen. For on road use, the quicker models get Torque Vectoring and 'Dynamic Response active lean control' to sharpen things through the bends, plus a 'Dynamic programme' that quickens up throttle response, steering and gearshifts if you're feeling sporty.
Design and Build
Minor changes have been made to the exterior styling in recent years, with more piercing intelligent Matrix Pixel LED headlights sitting alongside a redesigned grille. This is complemented by a restyled bumper with a more aggressive profile. Otherwise, it's as you were, so the clamshell bonnet, the 'floating' roof, the powerful wheelarches and the side fender vents that have always defined this model are all present and correct.
And inside? Well, you'd be disappointed if you didn't have to climb up into a Range Rover - that's part of its appeal - though older folk can ease the process by selecting the lower 'Access' mode on models fitted with air suspension. Once installed in the generously side bolstered seats though, there's no mistaking that you're at the wheel of this British institutional model's younger, slightly smaller and much sportier twin. For a start, you're sat a tad lower than you would be in a Range Rover, plus the more compact thicker-rimmed wheel's smaller, the upright gearstick more purposeful and the centre console higher. The key interior change with his revised model lies with the addition of the brand's latest Touch Pro Duo infotainment system which features a pair of high-definition 10-inch touchscreens that form the centrepiece of the minimalist cabin.
In the back, there's plenty of room thanks to the large wheelbase and the option of a sliding seat. Which you'll need if you choose the 7-seat option and want to make the atmosphere for third row occupants a bit less cramped. Boot capacity isn't massive at 784-litres, but with the rear bench folded, the 1,784-litre total will be sufficient for most.
Market and Model
Range Rover Sport pricing is pitched into the £64,000 to £101,000 bracket. If you're looking at the entry-level SD4 version, that's around £13,000 less than a fully-fledged Range Rover with a 258bhp TDV6 engine fitted. So there's quite a price gap between the two models, something that also holds true if you're comparing Range Rover Sport and Range Rover variants fitted with the 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8 engine. Where this rule doesn't hold true is if you're comparing the Range Rover Sport with a Range Rover at V8 diesel level: here, pricewise at least, there's not much between the two cars at all.
But this could end up sounding complicated, so let us try and simplify things. Essentially, there are two kinds of Range Rover Sport you buy into: lets loosely call these levels 'volume' and 'nice to have'. Most buyers will choose the six cylinder diesel model, the 306hp SDV6. As an alternative to the SDV6, you might like to look at the 300hp Si4 four cylinder petrol unit or the 400hp P400 six cylinder petrol powerplant.
At the other extreme in the line-up, there's the 'nice to have' variants - the P400e plug-in petrol/electric Hybrid, the SDV8 diesel and 5.0-litre V8 supercharged petrol variant, offered either in 525bhp 'Autobiography Dynamic' or 575bhp 'SVR' guises.
Cost of Ownership
When the very first Range Rover Sport was launched, buyers were faced with a choice; reasonable performance or reasonable economy. You couldn't have both. How times have changed. Did you ever imagine that you could own a version of this car able to achieve 101mpg on the combined cycle and capable of putting out no more than 64g/km of CO2? Well, in the form of the P400e four cylinder Plug-in petrol/electric hybrid model, you can now. This PHEV variant offers a 31-mile all-electric driving range, enough for most owners' daily commute. This derivative's 13.1kWh high-voltage lithium-ion battery can be charged from empty in as little as 2 hours 45 minutes at home using a dedicated or 32amp wall box. If you're limited to using an ordinary plug socket and the 10 amp home charging cable supplied as standard, the battery can be fully charged in 7 hours 30 minutes.
As for the more conventional variants, well even the six cylinder SDV6 diesel shouldn't be too expensive to run, managing up to 32.0mpg aon the combined cycle and up to 198g/km. All these figures are helped by Land Rover's decision in developing this MK2 model 'Sport' to create an all-aluminium body structure, thanks to which a huge 39% weight reduction has been possible. The first generation Range Rover Sport weighed 2,583kgs. This one weighs 2115kgs. Enough said.
At the other diesel extreme, even the top 339hp SDV8 model manages 244g/km of CO2 and 26.7mpg and, thanks to its large 105-litre fuel tank, will probably offer you a similar driving range to that of the SDV6 variant. The top 5.0-litre V8 Supercharged petrol model also shares that bigger tank - and it'll need it because even though combined cycle fuel economy is still only rated at 18.9-19.9mpg, a figure we think you'd only achieve with a very frugal driving style indeed.
With the fully fledged Range Rover now a plutocratic purchase, it's this Sport model that for us, now most faithfully continues a model line stretching all the way back to the 1970 original. That very first Range Rover was a car you didn't have to be afraid to use as intended, on or off road. And nor is this one.
Get the fundamental thing right with any great design - in this case the weight - and everything else then tends to fall into place. The aluminium platform that here makes this car so relatively light solves at a stroke the two issues that blighted the original first generation Range Rover Sport: stodgy handling and high running costs. And yes, it does leave room for proper 4WD hardware to be fitted without compromising paved road prowess. Which is something that German rivals could learn from.
True, it's a pity that pricing can't be more affordable - though the introduction of the Si4 four cylinder version does make the bottom of the range a little more accessible. Still, the right version of this car offers exactly the right kind of luxury SUV experience for those fortunate enough to be able to enjoy it. A Range Rover Sport that is in every way a proper Range Rover. Enough said.