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2014 Range Rover Sport: Manly, Yet Appealing to Both Sexes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Maynard, Creative Syndicate   
Thursday, 03 July 2014 02:38

Photo Credit Creative Syndicate

The Range Rover Sport is sold in four, all-wheel-drive trim levels with two supercharged engines.

The new Range Rover Sport defies gravity and the laws of luxury. Re-engineered for 2014, this midsize Rover is a full-blown SUV, more capable than just about any five-seat, off-roader in its class. It is as smooth-rolling and as richly equipped as the best luxury sedan. And when Dynamic sport mode is engaged, there is a righteous remapping of electronics to slice and dice with the most renowned sport sedans.

This range of polar opposites is possible because of price and some flinty English engineering. The Range Rover Sport is sold in four, all-wheeldrive trim levels with two supercharged engines. Starting prices range from $63,525 for the 340-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 to $93,325 for the Sport Autobiography with 510-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8; pricing includes the $925 freight charge from Solihull, England. All models use a CommandShift eight-speed automatic transmission.

The V8 Supercharged test truck had a starting price of $80,025 and was $94,115 with options. For that kind of money, just about every popular convenience and system of advanced technology was included -- and I still took it trail riding without (much) concern of breaking something fussy.

Even with an aluminum unibody chassis, doors, fenders and hood, the curb weight is a full-bodied 5,093 pounds, including the V-8, 21-inch wheels, panorama sunroof and power everything, including tailgate and suspension.

The direct-injected 5.0 liter V-8 has plenty of pull, 461 footpounds of torque from 2,500 to 5,500 rpm. Acceleration can be feathered or a hammer blow, hitting 60 mph in 5 seconds. Fuel economy is wishful at 14 mpg city, 19 highway and 16 combined, on premium. And once I discovered the rush of the Dynamic sport mode, mileage was a distant memory, stretched a little farther with a 27.7 gallon tank.

With an electronic air suspension, ride quality is an art form. The driver sees bad road but the suspension adapts and absorbs it. Off-road washboard gets sandblasted and speed bumps are transitioned with little upset.

Despite electronic controls for nearly all functions -- steering, braking, drive modes, performance -- the driving experience is hands-on with tactile response. The steering weight is linear and consistent at all settings and speeds. Throttle roll-on is fairly quick, balancing in nanoseconds the stability, cornering and traction controls with all-wheel drive. The Supercharged V-8's big four-wheel vented disc brakes -- 14.9-inch front, 14.3-inch rear -- are generous if a bit abrupt on initial engagement.

For most rational and reasonable off-roading enthusiasts who have the nerve to get into an intense situation, the Sport's Terrain Response AWD system has the guts to get them out. And for those who would attempt to defy physics, they will appreciate how the boxy sides and roof will help to slow the multiple rollovers down the hill.

The driver has commandof- road seating and an orderly layout of gauges and controls. Sightlines are acceptable over the hood, with help from front and rear parking control tones and a rearview camera. Front seat armrests are height adjustable but still got in the way of buckling up, so I pushed them up and out of the way. The optional 16-way power front seats are thronelike (part of the $3,545 Luxury package), but the plump seat bottom side squabs (bolsters) are just tall enough to catch on the thigh, necessitating a little English to hoist-and-hop aboard. Not such a big deal to the gents, but ladies in dresses are not amused by the obligatory wedgie. The suspension does have an entryheight setting that lowers the step-in point by 2 inches, but the door openings could still use an alternate grab handle for leverage. Standard above-door handles do not help on entry.

The visors are large, there is generous door storage and the optional chiller in the base of the center console is a unique extra.

The fast exterior styling creates some compromise in back seat comfort. If not for the panorama glass roof (with power sunshade) the space can seem low and enclosed. The ride is just a bit higher than the front seats and the lower greenhouse limits views, though the tall doors are beneficial to crash protection. There are 37 inches of legroom and 39.1 inches of headroom for adult seating, enhanced by a flat floor. The center seat is perched and uncomfortable for all but youngsters. The window seats have heaters.

Air flow is good from vents integrated into the readinglight module above the door and dual vents in the center console with temp controls, also inputs for USB, 12-volt and AV. Miniature seatback pockets are token, but there also is storage in the doors and in the spacious, pull-down center armrest.

The 60/40 back seat folds, but not flat. A little more engineering could have created a flat and more functional floor space.

The cargo area is nicely finished, including grocery bag hooks, tailgate lighting and a full-size spare below. There is easy loading because the tailgate closes at the edge of the bumper. The cargo opening is 44 inches wide, about 68 inches long and 30 1/2 inches tall.

Building a car with vault-like prestige was lost in the race to lighten curb weights and lift fuel economy. But in this price segment there can be some compromise of mileage and this truck has that reassurance of strength with the power to move it.

Mark Maynard is online at mark.maynard@utsandiego. com. Find photo galleries and more news at MaynardsGarage