Down and dirty with the Range Rover Sport SDV6 HSE Dynamic
16 April 2016
It was quite surreal to be chased by a pig and to be able to watch it on the dashboard courtesy of the myriad cameras on-board the Range Rover Sport. Unlike our porcine pursuer, I don’t suppose many Sports get to experience much mud throughout their lives. You can bet your bottom dollar ours did, though, during our week testing one.
Just 15cm shorter and 5cm lower than its big brother, the MY2015 Range Rover Sport has had a few lines tweaked and corners chamfered to give it a more athletic appearance. The Sport nicely bridges the gap between the Discovery Sport and the Range Rover and possesses very nearly as much presence as the latter on the road, in fields and indeed parked outside Waitrose.
The original Range Rover Sport felt somewhat claustrophobic, but the new one is a huge improvement, which feels far more airy and spacious, especially with the optional panoramic roof that allows the cabin to be bathed in additional light.
Unlike the full fat Range Rover Autobiography I tested the year before, the new Range Rover Sport came fitted with a whole range of safety systems, from a useful head-up display, parking assistance, lane departure and blind spot warnings, and road sign recognition. True to its roots, most of the buttons are chunky enough to be operated whilst wearing gloves, the optional Meridian audio system turns the RRS into a concert hall on wheels, and the branded puddle lights add an extra dusting of class to the mix.
Although the infotainment system is starting to look a trifle dated compared to some of the competition, the voodoo-powered ‘dual view’ screen still brings a smile to my face, the front passenger able to watch digital TV or a DVD on the move. The electrically-operated towbar is a neat touch if towing a caravan or trailer upto 3,500kg is required.
More suited to Asterix than Obelix, the optional third row of seats that turns the Range Rover Sport into a 7-seater would be found cramped by average adults on all but short journeys, whilst boot space with seven seats in play also becomes quite restricted. Despite its opulent appearance and aura, particularly in espresso, almond and ivory, the Sport’s interior isn’t as comfortable or luxurious as its big brother in Autobiography guise, the seats overly firm for long journeys and rear legroom proving adequate rather than abundant.
Firmness also characterises the Range Rover Sport’s ride quality, especially on 21” rims. After all, though, a SUV with these proportions is never going to be able to corner with aplomb were it built on a mattress-like chassis cornered by marshmallow wheels. The new Range Rover Sport is actually less firm than the original, so is definitely an improvement. It’s an incredible 4x4 that can genuinely be driven aggressively sportily on snaking tarmac roads before heading off onto properly challenging rough stuff where it copes equally as admirably.
The SDV8 engine being such a peerless powerplant, I expected the SDV6 to be a limp lettuce but it’s a seriously impressive performer, its 306bhp and 700Nm of torque only 33 horses and 40Nm down on the V8. Neither engine gets off the blocks like Ussain Bolt, that niche left to the bonkers Range Rover Sport SVR and Range Rover SVAutobiography, but once the SDV6 reaches cruising speed, its heart-melting blend of power and refinement is hard to fault. After covering 450 miles of driving on motorways, A roads, B roads and green-laning, I averaged a respectable 36.6mpg on an engine that had only covered a few hundred miles before I took delivery.
Confining a Range Rover Sport to tarmac would be like buying a state-of-the-art wetsuit to wear in the bathtub, so our road test of the RRS simply couldn’t exclude getting down and dirty. Maybe the sight of us churning up mud was what got that pig all hot and bothered, but fellow 4x4 drivers gave us an affirmatory wave.
Even just scratching the surface of Land Rover’s Terrain Response 2 system demonstrated that it’s more than capable of tackling whatever is thrown at it, the computer screen explaining where power is being sent and which differentials are being locked. Hill descent control performs as expected and axle articulation is impressive when driving through deep ridges. Terrain Response 2’s long-term reliability is yet to be assessed but at least personal and business contract hire customers who lease a Range Rover Sport won’t have to worry as contracts typically only last 2, 3 or 4 years and maintenance can be included in monthly rentals, addressing any electrical or mechanical issues that arise. Just be aware of de-hire charges resulting from off-road use, which the customer is liable to pay at the end of their leasing deal.
Its ride and seats may be on the firm side and its boot space inevitably compromised when the child-focussed rearmost seats are in use; but with a delightfully sweet, punchy and economical engine, an opulent-looking techno-fest of an interior and a peerless image, the latest Range Rover Sport SDV6 HSE Dynamic is a 4x4 that is both highly desirable and capable.