Land Rover again raises the premium SUV bar with its latest offering - the V8 diesel-powered Range Rover Sport, writes Iain Dooley, Press Association Senior Motoring Writer
It can’t have escaped you that Land Rover is doing rather well at the moment. Although only one half of the Jaguar-Land Rover equation, the 4x4 side of the business is selling the lion’s share of the product.
The compact entry-level Evoque SUV burst onto the scene with all the fanfare and adoration of a major celebrity, and the trickle down effect - or should that be ‘trickle up’ - had been felt across the firm’s recently refreshed range.
One obvious recipient of the Evoque’s magic has been the second generation Range Rover Sport. Visual similarities to the rock star of the range are no coincidence, while Land Rover’s continued focus on reducing weight and boosting the level of technology in its cars continues with this more streamlined Sport.
What’s new: Lighter, more economical and offering a more engaging on-road driving experience than the car it replaces, alongside Land Rover’s long established off-road credentials, this new generation Sport also boasts more cabin space plus the option of a family-friendly third row of seats.
Just like the latest Range Rover, the Sport adopts its maker’s next-gen Terrain Response system, which includes an auto mode clever enough to sense changes in terrain and change the engine, gearbox and suspension settings accordingly.
Engine options: Although endowed with a perfectly good range of engines - six-cylinder diesel and eight-pot supercharged petrol units - the final piece of the performance jigsaw has now slotted into place.
If petrol isn’t your thing but you still want to feel a shove in your back, there’s now a hot diesel option in the form of a 4.4-litre V8, 334 horsepower lump. On paper, consumption and emission rise slightly as you’d expect, but the trade-off is a welcome increased turn of speed and more mid-range grunt.
The real drive: With a predictable embarrassment of riches in both power and torque departments, this hot V8 diesel Sport is the consummate all-rounder. Ample low down torque is complimented by superb throttle sensitivity, making it ideal not just for inching over treacherous obstacles but also breezing past slower traffic on wide, sweeping A-roads.
Despite the potential for higher corner entry speeds when in diesel V8 guise, bodyroll is expertly kept in check and the Sport’s ride is rarely compromised by its large but stylish alloy wheels. For a car destined to spend much of its time on the road, this should be music to any prospective owner’s ears.
One thing that hasn’t changed with the inclusion of a more powerful diesel motor, is the Sport’s living quarters. The cabin remains a plush and inviting environment for occupants fore and aft, while the fascia’s clean, simple lines put the cluttered driving environments of many rivals to shame.
In V8 diesel guise, the Range Rover Sport is as close to a no-compromise luxury SUV for the real world as you can get. It might look stately but its footprint remains a manageable one, while its expertly honed driving dynamics allow you to fully exploit the diesel V8’s welcome extra power with supreme confidence.
Facts at a glance
Model: Range Rover Sport SDV8 Autobiography Dynamic, from £81,550 on the road.
Engine: 4.4-litre V8 diesel unit developing 334bhp.
Transmission: 8-speed automatic transmission as standard, driving all four wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 140mph, 0-62mph 6.9 seconds.
CO2 Rating: 229g/km.