Launched in summer 2013, the latest Range Rover Sport fits between the compact Range Rover Evoque SUV, and Land Rover’s full-blown Range Rover flagship.

The latest version of Range Rover Sport is no longer built on the old, heavy steel frame shared by its predecessor and the Land Rover Discovery. Instead it gets the new, lighter, aluminium chassis from the latest Range Rover.

New anti-roll bar technology and adaptive dampers give the latest Range Rover Sport nimble handling without sacrificing any of the comfort associated with the brand.

The lighter chassis has also allowed for Land Rover to squeeze more performance from the Range Rover Sport's engine range. Buyers choose from two versions of the 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, a 4.4-litre V8 diesel and a 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol unit. But that’s not all, the Range Rover Sport Hybrid uses an electrically-assisted version of the V6 diesel powerplant.

The new Range Rover Sport is a car of two-halves - it can match the straight-line pace and handling of the Porsche Cayenne, but will easily cruise the motorway in comfort and does so even better than one of its much bigger rivals, the Mercedes M-Class.

Unsurprisingly, being part of the Land Rover family, the new Range Rover Sport is extremely capable off road. It is, however, a fact that the majority of buyers won't get anywhere near its impressive off-road limits.

The entry-level Range Rover Sport TDV6 diesel returns combined cycle economy of 38.7mpg with 194g/km of CO2 and the range topping 5.0 Supercharged V8 Autobiography gives a poor 22.1mpg and 298g/km of CO2.

While it may not be the most economical mid-range SUV, the Range Rover Sport comes packed with loads of standard kit, making it feel that little more special than an Audi Q7 or a BMW X5.

If you need a car that's capable all year round, then there are very few things as good as the Range Rover Sport - so much so, it makes you wonder why you'd need to fork out the £20,000 premium for the standard Range Rover.

Our choice: Range Rover Sport SDV6 HSE Dynamic

Styling

Land Rover certainly looked to the smaller Range Rover Evoque and flagship Range Rover for inspiration when it came to designing the new Range Rover Sport. It's certainly an imposing car as it's longer and wider than its rivals, and its beefy styling sets it apart from the svelte Porsche Cayenne and the blocky looking BMW X5.

The design inspiration taken from the regular Range Rover can be seen in the new Range Rover Sport's black window frames which create the effect of a floating roof. Then there’s the distinctive clamshell bonnet and small light clusters on either side of the tailgate.

The cues from the smaller Range Rover Evoque come in the form of the two-bar mesh grille, slender headlights and deep front bumper. The tapering roof line and steeply angled tailgate glass are also nods to the smallest car in the Range Rover line-up.

The Evoque and Range Rover theme carries over into the Sport's cabin, and the dashboard receives the same TFT screens as found in its bigger brother. Everything is given an air of class thanks to the abundance of leather and metal.

Furthermore, the fit and finish of everything on board is first-class. It's just a shame the blocky, low-resolution display of the sat-nav lets things down.

Driving

Given its two-tonne kerb weight, you'd expect the Range Rover Sport to be heavy on body-roll in corners and generally a bit of a handful in the twisty stuff. However, thanks to the extensive use of aluminium in its construction, the Range Rover Sport is lighter than its closest rivals and gives an agile drive.

If we had to choose an engine, we'd take the diesel SDV6 with 288bhp, which helps the Range Rover Sport shift from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds. The 4.4-litre SDV8 is a little smoother, but has a stronger thirst (a combined cycle of 32.5mpg compared to 38.7 for the SDV6) and higher CO2 emissions.

The Range Rover Sport is also fitted with a Terrain Response system that allows the driver to switch the car's handling dynamics, depending on the road surface. In Dynamic mode - while the steering is still light - there's next to no body roll and lots of grip.

On the normal setting, body-roll is more than acceptable and its air suspension easily handles bumps and ruts with aplomb. The Range Rover Sport is more stable than an X5, and does a better job than the BMW of keeping you on your planned course in a bend.

Where the Range Rover Sport really excels over its rivals, though, is in the rough stuff. The Terrain Response system alters the car's suspension, gear, ride height and throttle response, according to the mode selection. There are settings for mud, gravel, snow, rocks or sand and the Range Rover Sport is absolutely outstanding across all of them. The Terrain Response system raises the car's height by 65mm to 278mm, which gives it greater ground clearance. A raft of displays also show you exactly what's going on when you take the Range Rover Sport off-road.

Land Rover also offers the Range Rover Sport a whole lot of off-roading options such as a surround-view camera system and Wading Depth indicator, which give even greater confidence when taking it off road.

Reliability

On previous models, Land Rover didn't have the best reputation for reliability, but the latest Freelander, Discovery and Range Rover models are going some way to rectifying that. The newest incarnation of the Range Rover Sport shares some of its running gear and electronic systems with the bigger Range Rover, and Land Rover's rationale behind this, is by sharing technology across the range, technology will improve.

As the Range Rover Sport was launched for the 2014 model year, it's still too early to comment as to whether the decision of tech sharing has worked. Apart from the odd electrical problem, it appears that the latest models from Land Rover are reliable.

The newest Range Rover Sport hasn't yet been crash tested by Euro NCAP. However, being based on the standard Range Rover which scored five-stars, it is expected that it will perform equally well as it also comes with the same safety systems which include Xenon lights, advanced stability control, roll control and eight airbags.

Practicality

As it's based on the massive original Range Rover, it should come as no surprise that the new Range Rover Sport is an extremely practical car. However, while its standard boot size is 784-litres - miles ahead of that found in the BMW X5 - with the rear seats folded flat, the Range Rover Sport falls 109 litres behind its German Rival (1,761-litres to 1,652-litres).

Like the Land Rover Discovery, a third set of seats are available on the Range Rover Sport as a £1,500 option but they are tough to access and rather cramped. The air-suspension can be lowered by 50mm to improve access and a flat floor in the back means all three passengers will get plenty of foot space.

However, the two sculpted outer seats found on the third rear bench will leave the central rear passenger feeling perched above the other occupants.

Running Costs

Whichever way you look at it, the Range Rover Sport is a big, powerful four-wheel drive car that will cost a lot of money to run. However, thanks to the aluminium chassis, Land Rover has slimmed the Range Rover Sport down and the SDV6 diesel returns a combined economy of 37.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 199g/km.

Mercedes ML350 or Porsche Cayenne Diesel is also cheaper to buy than the Range Rover Sport, and company car tax bills are lower. The TDV6 diesel which arrived in early 2014 returns a slightly better combined economy of 38.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 194g/km. An electric-diesel hybrid version of the Range Rover Sport arrived at the end of 2013 and is the most economical car in the line-up thanks to its 169g/km of CO2 emissions and combined cycle of 44.1mpg.

The price of a Range Rover Sport is around £51,000, which makes it almost £20,000 cheaper than the standard Range Rover. Like its bigger, more expensive brother, the Range Rover Sport is expected to hold on to its value well. Thanks to the generous amount of standard kit that Land Rover fits to the Sport, its price shouldn't be driven up too high by accessories, despite there being plenty of them on the options list.

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