Test Drive: 2014 Range Rover Sport

Chile_V8Supercharged_184_LowResRange Rovers are notorious for being able to go where other vehicles only dare dream to tread, boasting “supreme composure in all conditions.” The new Range Rover Sport was put through 20,000 grueling tests, including 60,000 miles of durability testing in China, deep wading, bridge jumps, ditch drops, month-long “king of the sand” testing in intense Middle Eastern heat, 5000-mile endurance driving in Germany, and off-road testing over thousands of miles at challenging UK proving grounds.

The Range Rover sport can weather an Arizona haboob without flinching, and yet, many will never ford anything deeper than a puddle in the Trader Joe’s parking lot. Because, while the new Sport retains all of the brand’s performance capability, Range Rover is as much a status symbol as it is a paragon of off-road prowess.

Fitting between the classic Range Rover and the Evoque in the brand’s lineup, the new Sport is bold, contemporary and powerful. Eschewing the square look of its Land Rover siblings, the Sport borrows from the sloping roofline and seductive curves of the provocative new Evoque, albeit employing them in a more athletic-looking manner. Some may say it has lost its visual edge, conforming to the bourgeoisie lifestyle the brand has come to symbolize.

Chile_V8Supercharged_056_LowResI find it visually striking nonetheless, and this appeal continues to the interior, with precisely tailored premium leather seating surfaces, aluminum and real wood trim and satin-chrome details. You truly feel ensconced in luxury, with the center console higher and angled to create a comforting flow that makes the control panel both accessible and visually appealing. Raised seating offers a commanding view of the road.  An available third row is best left for children, and folds completely flat into the floor when not in use, allowing for increased cargo capacity.

Adapting and catering to the cadre of on-roaders who purchase a Range Rover Sport for its cache more than its capability, the new model has been engineered for superior on-road driving dynamics. It is connected, refined and much lighter than its predecessor. And of course, it includes all of the comfort and convenience amenities expected in this class of vehicle.

For the first time, the Range Rover Sport has been equipped with a V-6 engine, a 340-horsepower turbocharged power plant paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The thought of a V-6 paired with the “Sport” descriptor may raise some eyebrows, but the Range Rover Sport was surprisingly quick. Not push-you-back-in-your-seat powerful like the available 510-horsepower V-8, but certainly more than adequate for any everyday driving scenario.

The term “Sport” is a most apt term for this Range Rover, accurately capturing the essence of its looks, prowess and athletic capability both on and off road. The Range Rover Sport comes in four trim levels — two equipped with the V-6 engine and two with the V-8 — ranging in price from $62,200 to $93,295 before options, which can quickly push the price tag to six-figures.

As tested here, the Range Rover Sport V-6 had a base price of $62,200, and with options like the HSE package, stylized wheels, adaptive cruise control, premium audio, Extra Duty Package, and a climate package, topped out at $76,820.

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