Oh Range Rover, what have you done to me?
The 2014 Range Rover Sport made a big impression on me, and it remains stuck solidly in place, long after the press vehicle was picked up.
Let’s start by talking about what this vehicle is. The name confuses people, but most simply, it’s the second from the top of the line Range Rover. The big daddy is called the Range Rover, this one is the Range Rover Sport. The difference? It’s shorter and lower, has sportier styling – and comes in at a significantly more affordable price level.
This thing looks fantastic. Styling is subjective but every single person that looked at it appreciated the vehicle’s exterior styling. The new Sport is instantly recognizable as a Range Rover, and if you know your Range Rovers, as a Sport. The lines are very strong, with new contemporary angles thrown in, giving it a fresh, bold look.
Its dramatic silhouette is accentuated by the steeply raked windshield and the floating roof, and while you’ll be hard pressed to find any curves here, these distinctive macho lines seem to appeal to everyone. Though it wasn’t everyone’s favourite, I really liked the cool Scotia Grey colour, which looked sporty, rich and confident at the same time.
The Sport’s stance is aided further by the stunning 21-inch rims, shod with massive rubber, and the spicy looking LED driving light signature at the front, as well as an interesting set of LED tail lights. I also enjoyed the tail pipes that are big enough to let you know this thing means business.
In my opinion, the Range Rover Sport is one of the hottest SUVs on the road today.
A very nice cabin awaits you, spacious and airy with a large panoramic sunroof overhead. There’s a massive, powered sunshade that can cover it and cut out the sun if you need it to. You’ll find plenty of really nice soft-touch materials everywhere throughout the cabin. The nice materials are enhanced further and complemented by an excellent, luxurious palette of colours – beautiful wood grains, mesh-type stuff, light and dark leathers and some splashes of metallic brightwork. Everything feels good to the touch and looks nice – fit and finish appeared to be excellent. Again, styling is subjective, but everyone who sat in the vehicle loved the space.
There is good headroom in the front, and you’ll enjoy the incredibly comfortable power-adjustable leather seats. I found them to be highly supportive – they’re heated, cooled and have three memory settings for both front seats.
Unfortunately many of the Range Rover Sport’s controls are complicated and sometimes frustrating. One of the biggest sore points in the experience is the centrally-mounted touchscreen which is not very responsive and has a bit of an old-school interface, chunking things into bins and making some of them difficult to find in the first place. The sound system sounds good, but if you have extra dough laying around, you should spring for the upgraded Meridian system. I’ve heard it and it is absolutely mind-blowing.
You’ll control your chariot with a nice heated steering wheel and you’ll rest your tired arm on a nicely upholstered armrest – inside are some audio system connections and a powered cooler for your beverages or your Grey Poupon mustard collection. Optioned like this, the Range Rover Sport has some cool driver assistance tech – cameras all the way around, parking distance sensors including reverse traffic detection, blind spot monitoring and a parking assist function.
The cabin provides woefully few open storage spaces, so just simply dropping your stuff into something isn’t as easy as it should be in a vehicle this spacious.
The rear seating area is almost as nice as the front. The headroom was sufficient for me at 5’10” – while spacious enough, it might get a bit tight for passengers much taller than that. Similarly, legroom is good but not great. There is seating for three, though the centre position isn’t the best for adults. The heated outboard seats are remarkably comfortable, and recline for further comfort. There are a couple of amenities and small storage options at the back of the centre console. The middle seatback folds down to become a sort of centre console for the back – it’s way too huge, clunky and involved, but you do end up with cupholders, armrest and a storage bin for your trouble.
A speedy power lift gate allows for access to the huge 892 litre trunk. It benefits from a nice high load floor. The rear seats fold 60/40, if you need more cargo space.
Under the Hood
On paper, the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 seems too small, and its numbers (340 horsepower and 332 lb.ft of torque at 3500 RPM) seem a bit paltry by today’s standards, especially for an expensive über-SUV. The Sport gets a thoroughly modern 8-speed automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel drive.
It is rated at a combined city/highway mileage of 12.4 L/100 km (19 US mpg) which isn’t bad, considering the incredible heft of this vehicle (5,255 pounds!). What I found most shocking was the fuel economy I ended up posting during my week with this ride. To my surprise, during a week of commuting, a couple of quick freeway/highway trips and never putting any effort into saving any fuel, I managed to eke out an average of 11.3 L/100 km (21 mpg). That’s stellar for a vehicle like this. It does swill premium fuel, which stings a bit at the pump, but hey, if you’re dropping 90 grand on a vehicle, I’m guessing that really isn’t your first concern.
To start, just getting the Range Rover into gear is an adventure I never got used to. The terrible BMW-esque trigger-based gear selector is irritating and unintuitive, and it’s easy to put the vehicle into the wrong gear.
Once you’ve got it in Drive, you can access this potent power train. Remember I said it seemed a bit weak-kneed on paper? It’s not. Not at all. The blown V6 provides absolutely effortless power off the line and at any speed. Frankly, I really couldn’t find a situation where I’d have wanted for the fire-breathing optional V8. On top of that, the V6 sounds fantastic and screams when you step on it. It’s addictive and I loved it!
The transmission is very smooth. In regular mode, it will certainly hunt for higher gears quickly to save fuel, but this suits the character of the vehicle. You can also choose a Sport mode, which aggressively holds on to gears and makes things more responsive, and you can manually shift the gears too if you’d like.
That brings us to the Sport’s ride which is simply too firm, and borders on choppy and even harsh at times. It really doesn’t suit the vehicle’s luxurious character on rougher surfaces, and that is very unfortunate. Though it’s great on smooth roads and the highway, it got tiring on Edmonton’s less-than-exemplary pavement and potholes. The Sport’s handling is surprisingly good. Yes, you can feel the extraordinary size and weight of the vehicle in corners, and the tall, top-heavy nature of the SUV shows up once you pick up the pace, as it leans around curves. But the turn-in is almost shockingly quick, and it feels taut, secure and responsive when you’re driving quickly. For this vehicle class, it’s actually fun to drive.
We only drove on dry surfaces so the all-wheel drive system remained nearly invisible for us, with the exception of being able to feel some mild vibration and driveline drag when letting off the gas. There’s a terrain management selector with options for sand, mud and snow, as well as a hill-descent mode – add that to that a Range Rover’s purebred off-road capabilities, and you’ve got a highly competent off-roader for those three buyers that will actually take their Sport off the beaten path. Oh yes, there’s also the selectable ride height, including being able to drop it to the low, low, low access height for getting in and out of the vehicle. I thought it looked pretty hot when it’s parked and hunkered right down – it’ll raise itself up again once you start driving.
The brakes are amazing and provide powerful performance and short stopping distances when called upon. Visibility out of the Range Rover Sport is excellent, thanks to the high driving position, huge windows and low dash. And if you need to tow, the Sport can lug an impressive 7,715 pounds down the road.
One of the options on our vehicle was the soft close doors – there’s no need to slam the doors shut. Let them gently swing shut, and the car will close them for you.
We immediately noticed parallel wavy lines in the windshield, almost across the entire glass. Once your eye locks on to them, they are very distracting and it becomes difficult to focus on the things past the windshield. A somewhat dangerous distraction. I never figured out what these lines are for.
The Sport’s automatic start/stop function turns the engine off at red lights. We found it to be quite noticeable and a bit intrusive. Thankfully you can turn it off, but it is the default mode and it will revert to this every time you fire up the vehicle.
I fell in love with the Range Rover Sport. The exterior says Range Rover the second you lay eyes on it. It looks expensive and the styling is very well done. Inside, the rich materials and styling follows suit, and you consistently get the feeling you are in a top-tier vehicle. Add the Sport’s engaging character on the road and it’s tough to find much to fault.
I give the 2014 Range Rover Sport a 9 out of 10.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) soared, seemingly into the stratosphere. She loved driving it, and she said she couldn’t help but love being seen in it. The vehicle gets a ton of attention, and whether it was an appreciative stare or a jealous glare, she liked it. She felt it was a very easy vehicle to live with on a daily basis too.
You knocked one out of the park, Range Rover. I loved the new Sport. And it was tough to part with.
Pricing: 2014 Range Rover Sport
Base price (HSE trim): $78,990
Options: $450 Sirius satellite radio; $350 Shadow Zebrano wood; $1800 21″ 5-spoke rims; $2250 Vision and Convenience Package; $1300 Climate Comfort and Visibility Package
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $86,710
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Land Rover/Range Rover Canada.
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