2014 Range Rover Sport HSE

There are times if you wonder, as an automotive journalist, if it is even worth reviewing a new vehicle so successful is it in the market. This applies to the new Range Rover fullsize and Sport models, which are basically on a six-month to one-year wait list. But I will forge ahead regardless, as this is a very important product, not only to its parent, but also to the niche it competes in.

Outside there isn’t much to say about the styling: the market loves it. To these eyes, it really needs something larger than 20-inch wheels to come into focus, which is somewhat ironic to say, insofar as that was the largest rim available on the first generation model. Inside, the Sport is one incredibly elegant machine, with a simplicity of line to its forms that makes most rivals look like they’re trying too hard. The downside to the low button count and lack of an awkward looking, German “wheel” controller, is a hard to use infotainment touch screen. While much faster responding than older products from Jaguar-Land Rover, it isn’t a stitch on the simplicity of the latest Teutonic systems. That’s made up for to a large degree by one of the nicest steering wheels you’ll ever hold and a perfectly shaped shifter pilfered from the Jaguar F-Type. Front seats are superb and the center row (there’s a kids-only 3rd row option) much more habitable, though still tighter than competitors’.

This new “entry-level” Range Rover Sport powertrain is a winner. Comprised of a 385hp, supercharged V6 coupled to an intuitive, ZF eight-speed auto, it provides massive thrust and near-20mpg economy in real-world, mixed use. All that’s missing is the evocative exhaust note served up by the outgoing 5-liter V8. But the Sport made easy work of 10,000-plus foot passes, never lacking for urge and running hard enough to make all but the most lead-footed question the need for the 510hp supercharged V8 models.

Some of the performance and economy gains come courtesy of the all-new aluminum construction (shared with the fullsize model, not the LR4 as beforehand), which reduces mass by 200-300 pounds on models with typical equipment levels. This also benefits dynamics, both on and off road. In the rough stuff, the new Sport will do things nothing short of a Jeep Wrangler will pull off, and on pavement, it is superb, with great steering feel and precision, excellent body control, a communicative, neutral cornering stance and great grip—if the pavement’s dry. Despite proclamations to having created bespoke tires capable of handling most all conditions, the test vehicle (with just over 6000 miles on its tires) was quite atrocious in snowy conditions in the Rocky Mountains, slipping and sliding about until the stability control abruptly tried to tidy things up.

The solution was simple: turn all the nannies off and drive the Sport like its name signifies. Despite the shock to other drivers of seeing over two tons of Solihull’s finest drifting about gleefully, all was calm and serene onboard, with excellent control available through the terrific helm and a transparency to the other controls that eludes large SUVs with less breeding than the Sport. It is called a Range Rover because it has such a range of abilities, after all.

EPA ratings: 17/23; 19mpg combined
Price as tested: $79,030
Here is what Range Rover has to say about the Sport.

Isaac Bouchard is the automotive journalist for Colorado AvidGolfer; the state's leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it. It publishes eight issues annually and proudly delivers daily content via www.coloradoavidgolfer.com.