The all-new Range Rover Sport and I had previously met by chance, some time before the car officially took a bow. I had been putting a Freelander through its paces on a Land Rover range review day, deep in the muddy Worcestershire countryside, marvelling at the car’s ability to make light of truly tough conditions (deep water, big, ugly rocks … you know the kind of thing).
And there, not too far away, shrugging off a steep and slithery climb was a Range Rover-y looking vehicle, heavily camouflaged in those bits of black tape and other stuff that manufacturers use while their creations are undergoing pre-launch testing, so as not to reveal the new baby to the world before they are good and ready.
Now, months later, we were face to handsome face (the latter being the Sport’s, of course) with not a shred of tape to hide the view.
And what a view it proved to be, with dynamic lines echoing the highly popular outgoing model while displaying the design cues of the new Range Rover look. The former model shared its underpinnings with the tough-as-teak Discovery, while the new arrival boasts aluminium architecture and lightweight technology, delivering a 420kg weight-saving over the previous car.
The new model is a clever lesson in intelligent packaging and versatility. While retaining the dimensions that contribute to its sporting character – overall length has grown by only 62mm – its longer wheelbase allows for a third row of rear seats, as an option.
Flush Magazine’s road test car, a top-of-the-range Autobiography Dynamic, with three-litre SDV6 diesel engine, was loaded to the gunwales with tasty features.
Standard kit across the range includes posh satnav, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, two-zone climate control, heated front seats, DAB audio system, powered tailgate and Land Rover’s Terrain Response all-terrain system, allowing for the correct driving mode whatever the conditions.
Our car’s specification also included intelligent stop-start, four-corner air suspension with automatic levelling, Oxford perforated leather seats – with heated ones in the rear – paddle shift controls, heated windscreen and a rear view camera (very handy as the high rear screen and back-seat headrests don’t do much for reversing visibility).
And, being the flagship, there’s even more … sliding panoramic roof, high beam assist for the headlights, configurable interior mood lighting, illuminated tread plates, adaptive cruise control with queue assist and an advanced preventative safety package including emergency braking and active front seat belts.
Just to make life even better, the car boasted optional features including dual-view touchscreen, with on-board TV and a rear-seat entertainment system, and a £5,000 audio system.
Listing the goodies may be impressive, and they are certainly central to the total luxury of the car, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, for the Range Rover Sport succeeds so well on in so many ways.
It has limo-like qualities and tremendous off-road capability, while also oozing sporting appeal, for this big car delivers nimble handling and lays down its lashings of power through a truly seamless eight-speed automatic gearbox. A joy to drive, seated in an elevated position and swathed in cream leather upholstery complemented by other high-grade, tactile finishes, this is motoring on another level.
Jaguar Land Rover is riding the crest of a sales wave, and seem to have the Midas touch as model after model wins rave reviews and brings in the customers, the Sport surely set to continue this success.
Never mind all that tape, there’s no disguising real quality!
MAKE/MODEL: Range Rover Sport Autobiography Dynamic
TECHNICAL: 292bhp, six-cylinder engine; eight-speed automatic gearbox with stop/start technology
PERFORMANCE: 0-60mph, 6.8 seconds; top speed. 130mph
FUEL: 37.7mpg ( combined)
PRICE: £74,995 exc options