2006 Land Rover Range Rover Sport
This 2006 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2013.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Call the new Range Rover Sport the wild child of the distinguished British Land Rover outfit, which is known for upscale sport-utility vehicles with stellar off-road prowess.
Land Rover says the 2006 Sport is the "best-handling, most agile and most exhilarating vehicle (it) has ever built" and also the "fastest and best accelerating vehicle" it has offered. Land Rover adds that the Sport "offers the excitement of a performance car, but with the versatility and go-anywhere ability of a Land Rover. Unlike rivals, its high performance doesn't stop when the road gets rough or runs out."
Actually, the Sport provides the excitement of a performance truck—not car—because it's tall and weighs about 5,500 pounds. It's said to do well at Land Rover's off-road proving grounds at Eastnor Castle in England, and that's good enough for me, having driven Range Rovers there on treacherous terrain several years ago.
As with other Land Rovers, the Sport has an advanced full-time 4-wheel-drive system that can handle really awful off-road conditions.
All Land Rover models have an off-road heritage that even Hummer might envy. But, while the Hummer has a roughneck image, even members of England's royal family long have driven Land Rovers, along with such folks as wealthy British gentleman farmers.
Invented Luxury SUV
As with all British owned-and-operated automakers, Land Rover was so poorly run that it nearly self-destructed and had to be saved by non-British outfits. Germany's BMW rescued Land Rover by purchasing it in 1994 and keeping it for six years—after which Ford bought the outfit in 2000 for about $3 billion.
Incidentally, England's Rolls-Royce now is the property of BMW, and the British Bentley now is controlled by Germany's Volkswagen.
The Sport is built on the platform of the fairly new Land Rover LR3 midsize SUV, which is a good start. The LR3 replaced the quirky Land Rover Discovery and is Land Rover's top-seller in America.
Positioned in the Middle
The Sport is nimbler than the LR3, due partly to a wheelbase that's more than 5 inches shorter, besides a shorter overall length. The Sport also looks more rakish than the LR3, thanks partly to a steeply raked windshield, lower height and a roof that's lower than on other Land Rovers.
The Sport's wheels also are pulled to the far body corners and there are front/ rear spoilers and side skirts that provide a racier look, along with improving aerodynamics and high-speed stability.
Two Trim Levels
The HSE has a 4.4-liter V8 with 300 horsepower, while the 140-mph Supercharged version has a supercharged 4.2-liter V8 kicking out 390 horsepower and lots of neck-snapping torque. You can feel the 300-horspower V8 working harder than the supercharged engine, but the Sport is hardly underpowered with it.
With all that horsepower and weight, don't expect sparkling fuel economy from either engine. Figure on 13-14 mpg in the city and 18-19 on the highway. Emissions laws prevent the Sport's more economical turbocharged diesel V6 used in Europe from being offered in America.
On road, the HSE does 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds, and the Supercharged hits 60 in 7.2 seconds. Both work with a modified 6-speed automatic transmission that is basically the same one used by Aston Martin. It's responsive and has a manual shift gate.
The speed-sensitive steering is nicely geared for on- and off-road use, and the height-adjustable air suspension provides a firm-but-comfortable ride. It uses electronically controlled air springs for a good balance between responsive handling and comfort.
The springs get firmer at high speeds and during cornering and are automatically more compliant at lower speeds on rough roads. They also allow for body height adjustment during off-roading.
Some may feel that the brake pedal is a little touchy, but stopping distances are good—especially with the Supercharged version's powerful Brembo brakes. Both versions have anti-lock, all-disc brakes.
Dynamic Response Help
A driver can use a console knob to choose one of five suspension and powertrain settings: general driving (for normal and off-road conditions), grass/gravel/snow (for slippery conditions), mud and ruts, sand—and rock crawl.
Changing the setting adjusts ride height, shock absorber valving, throttle response and calibration of the stability, traction control and anti-lock brake systems.
No wonder Land Rover calls the Sport "the most technologically advanced Land Rover to date."
Other faults? It's hard to slip the long starter key in the ignition switch on the steering column, which was an annoyance every time I started the Sport. Also, gauge numbers are small, power window switches are awkwardly placed at the front of the driver's high door sill and the steering wheel should have a power adjustment, not a manual one. Not for $50,000-plus prices.
However, there are fairly large sound system and climate controls that are easily reached, as are console cupholders.
The tailgate has a separate flip-up glass area and low, wide opening that allows easy access to the roomy cargo area, which can be enlarged by easily flipping the entire back seat forward.
Although it seemingly has a Swiss army knife's versatility, Sport chief program engineer Stuart Frith said, "Sporty driving is the Sport's key ability, although we didn't want to sacrifice ride comfort and refinement."