When Land Rover’s handsome Range Rover Sport bowed for the 2006 model year, it raised eyebrows among aficionados of the venerable British marque. This new model certainly looked a lot like its celebrated big brother, the Range Rover, but cut a decidedly trimmer figure, and although it was mechanically derived from the square-jawed LR3, it rolled onto Land Rover showrooms with an almost scandalously dashing mien. As the faithful quickly discovered, this seemingly enigmatic addition to the Land Rover family was, in fact, a triple threat par excellence: as sumptuous as a luxury sedan, as swift and agile as a sports car, and as talented off the pavement as, well, a Land Rover.
For 2010, the Range Rover Sport—along with the Range Rover and the LR4 (née LR3)—enjoys a comprehensive makeover that brings new levels of style, opulence, power, and efficiency to the sportiest member of the Land Rover range. New headlights, taillights, and bumpers freshen the exterior, and the passenger compartment, already five-star worthy, is even grander this year. Most surfaces, including the dashboard and door panels, are swathed in supple stitched hide and trimmed with gorgeous wood veneer. A centrally placed touch-screen display controls the available GPS navigation system, 480-watt Harman/Kardon audio system, and Surround Camera System, an innovative quintet of tiny external cameras that relays a nearly 360-degree view of the outside world.
Bigger news lurks beneath the Range Rover Sport’s imposing hood, where a brand-new, 5-liter V-8, developed with corporate cousin Jaguar, provides the motivation. The engine uses high-pressure direct-injection technology to deliver fuel to each cylinder with uncanny precision, enhancing both responsiveness and efficiency. The standard model uses a normally aspirated version of the new V-8, good for a generous 375 horsepower, while the engine in the top-drawer Supercharged puts a whopping 510 horsepower to the pavement. So powered, the Range Rover Sport will launch to 60 mph in a scant 5.9 seconds and hustle onward to an electronically limited 140 miles per hour—hugely impressive figures for a burly, 5,900-pound off-roader.
Rest assured, however, that the 2010 Range Rover Sport forgoes none of Land Rover’s indefatigable off-road tenacity in the name of luxury or sportiness. Four-wheel drive is, naturally, standard, controlled as before by Land Rover’s masterful Terrain Response system. A series of pictograms surrounds a rotary knob on the center console, indicating modes for snow and ice, mud and ruts, sand, and even rock crawling. When the January sky delivers its worst, for instance, a twist of the knob to the snowflake icon prompts the computer to evaluate the unique demands of winter-weather driving and tailor the workings of the throttle, gearbox, center differential, height-adjustable air-spring suspension, and stability-control system accordingly. No hubs to lock or transfer cases to engage; the process couldn’t be simpler. And this year, the Supercharged model gets a new Terrain Response setting that befits its prodigious horsepower. Dynamic Response mode analyzes the driver’s actions and sharpens steering, throttle, and suspension settings to deliver an appropriately thrilling on-pavement experience. And taking its sporting demeanor even further, the Supercharged model now features shift paddles behind the steering wheel, giving manual control over the six-speed automatic gearbox.
On sale now, the Range Rover Sport starts at $60,495; the top-trim Supercharged model runs $74,195. (landroverusa.com)