by Brad Leach - 09/01/13
‘Driveaway’ prices for Range Rover Sport don’t come along too often, so as dealers get set for the all-new model next year, now is a great time to buy the world’s best luxury SUV. And a great time for Car Showroom to sample the top-of-the-range Sport Autobiography model.
Also rare is a 4.5 star rating. We’ve thought long and hard about it, but the case for the Range Rover Sport is undeniable. The world’s best luxury SUV? Yes, we think so.
We’ve always said we’d like a Range Rover Sport Autobiography in white…and there it was awaiting our collection at Melbourne Range Rover. We know the team at Range Rover can’t read our thoughts but the coincidence was astonishing and our ‘Rangie’ looked stunning even before they handed us the keys…sadly just for one week.
Range Rover runs two model grades – the luxurious ‘Vogue’ and the ‘Sport’. Our test car was the range-topping supercharged V8 Sport Autobiography, normally priced at $175,900 - but, as we said, this generation Rangie is now in run-out mode ahead of next year’s all-new model. We’ve seen the advertising for ‘Driveaway’ pricing - as always you’ll need to speak to a Range Rover dealer to get the full details.
Our test car ran a dual-colour black and white leather interior which, combined with the massive 20-inch alloy wheels and the Sport bodykit, delivered on-road looks which just cannot be beaten.
Range Rover’s 375kW/625Nm supercharged 5.0-litre V8 is one of our favourite engines.
Power delivery is simply remarkable – a jet-like push in the back, zero to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds but supreme refinement at all speeds.
However that performance does come at a price – combined cycle fuel consumption is rated at 14.9l/100kms. Of course reduced fuel consumption/emissions has been a focus in development of the all-new Range Rover lineup coming next year.
Smooth and responsive, the six-speed automatic transmission is one area where the current Range Rover Sport is behind the Germans (seven-speed for the ML Mercedes and eight-speed in the BMW duo). Range Rover’s sister company Jaguar has an eight-speed automatic.
On the inside, Range Rover Sport carries on the Range Rover tradition with abundant luxury, technology and the usual high seating positions providing a commanding view. Our test car was trimmed in glorious black and white leather for a standout, contemporary look.
Of course there’s the hallmark gear-selector and superb instrumentation/switchgear and beautiful steering wheel with Formula One style buttons.
And naturally, there is massive room for both front and rear seat passengers. Access is aided by the adjustable ride height including a very low setting.
For the most recent updates, Range Rover added some new interior colours and a new optional headlining in ‘Ebony Morzine’. But the big news was electronics.
Now Range Rover Sport features the dual-view seven-inch touchscreen from the Vogue model – so the driver can view the navigation (an updated hard-disc system with Traffic Message Channel) while the front seat passenger can still view the DVD.
On the audio front, both Harmon Kardon systems have been improved – the standard system going to 11-speakers with 380W of power while the premium hard disc 17-speaker LOGIC7 system pumps-out 825W and scores new connectivity for DVD audio, iPod and video streaming. The rear seat entertainment system adds WhiteFire cordless headphones.
Even the luggage area is beautifully finished and a power tailgate is now standard. Range Rover being Range Rover, it’s not ordinary power tailgate – you can actually set your own opening height (to suit low ceilings in garages) by simply holding the tailgate at the required height and holding the button for 10 seconds.
When they write the next automotive styling handbook, under the chapter called “How To Successfully Evolve Exterior Looks”, Range Rover will be ‘Exhibit A’. The classic Range Rover look stands the test of time and still looks brilliant on-road (the all-new model coming next year is another evolution and it too looks superb).
Range Rover Sport features a stylish aero bodykit to distinguish it from the luxury Vogue models and the most recent updates brought extra sportiness in the form of gloss back trim for the headlight inners and grille surround, new colours for the grille and fender vents, body colour door handles and a new optional 20-inch alloy wheel design in ‘Sparkle Silver’.
With so much technology, every drive in a Range Rover Sport can be likened to take-off in an Airbus A380. For starters there is the usual cross-linked air suspension which includes a lowered setting for easy access, the normal setting, off-road and even extended height plus the Sport model scores Adaptive Dynamics as standard (a $5,500 option on other models).
Then there’s the rest of the drivetrain – that stunning 5.0-litre, supercharged V8 delivering its 375kW/625Nm via the six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters for manual changes.
So we cross-checked all of that, dialed in the sportiest set-up and tackled our high-speed mountain roads test loop. As we’ve said before in previous tests of Range Rovers – this just doesn’t feel like more than 2.6-tonnes of SUV when you hit the twisty stuff.
And that’s Range Rover’s brilliant engineering doing its stuff. There’s an instant response when you shift gears, precise turn-in, a flat stance in corners and balance - just like the AMG ‘Benz and M BMWs.
Around town you are aware of the size of any Range Rover and during this week, the Sport Autobiography was no exception. When parking, that terrific camera system plus front and rear parking sensors work overtime.
And naturally should you venture off-road, Range Rover stands head and shoulders over the rest with its low range transfer box and ingenious technology like Terrain Response. When the current Range Rover models were first launched we tackled some incredibly tough tracks in Wales and Scotland so we know first-hand about the levels of competency.
Despite the awesome performance of the supercharged V8, the Range Rover Sport is some way short of the BMW X5M/X6M and ML 63 AMG ‘Benz in straight-line acceleration and consumes more fuel in doing so. We’re sure both will be addressed in the all-new 2013 Range Rover.
It’s a tough choice – Range Rover Sport or Range Rover Vogue. But the conclusion is inescapable…this is the world’s best luxury SUV.
If pushed we do slightly favour the Sport Autobiography as tested – only because we prefer the bodykit and wheels over the sublime luxury of the Vogue models.
Now, as always, it’s the all-round excellence of the Range Rover Sport which knocks you out. And the extras included in the last update for this model – trim and exterior enhancements plus infotainment system upgrades - are the icing on the cake.
We already know the all-new Range Rover lineup coming in 2013 represents generational change (the massive weight reduction for starters) but for now, the opportunity to ‘bust’ a deal on the current Range Rover Sport is more than enticing…a once-in-a-decade chance in fact.
We’re talking Car Showroom favourites all-round in this league, starting with the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG. $177,900 buys you 386kW/700Nm of twin-turbo V8 performance (375kW/625Nm for the Range Rover Sport) and the armada of AMG goodies – but the ‘Rangie’ has an on-road presence which even the ML63 AMG struggles to match.
Then there’s the BMW X5M ($183,200) and X6M ($190,900) with 408kW/680Nm of twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 muscle. Both are brilliant and the X6M gives the Rangie a run for its money in the ‘Street Cred’ department (but not in interior space).
And, bringing some North American muscle to the table, the just-launched Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 delivers 344kW/624Nm from its atmo 6.4-litre V8, lots of SRT performance technology and is quite a bargain when shopped against the Europeans.
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