When life is absolutely hectic, your car needs to rise to the occasion. And with a house move on top of the usual manic pace of running three kids around and working, it’s been a busy few months for us Fowlers.
Yet, thankfully, our Range Rover Sport has proved to be as much of a multi-purpose vehicle as a sports utility vehicle. It’s hugely versatile and still puts a big smile on my face every time I drive it.
I opted for the five-seat version rather than paying the extra £1,600 for seven, but I think I’d have gone for the extra seats in hindsight. With a family of five, two more seats can be useful when friends or family come to stay, even if they’d be tight for my adult-sized kids.
However, the boot has been put to good use; not only while moving house, but also on the numerous trips to the local DIY store. My daughter discovered the ‘ski hatch’, which was especially helpful for the six-foot-long hanging rails, while the seats fold for the obligatory flat-pack furniture.
Annoyingly, they don’t fold completely flat and remain at a slight angle, which makes loading long items awkward and has them pointing skyward with a gap underneath.
Plus, you can’t fold the seats down from the back of the car – you have to go around to the side, open the doors and flip them forward once you’ve found the lever at the side. Still, those rear seats are as comfy as they are stylish, with their leather watch strap finish. There’s always going to be a bit of a fight between my 16-year-old daughter and her 15-year-old brothers over who sits in the middle (my wife usually bites the bullet to keep the peace), but legroom is good.
Also, the panoramic glass roof is a family favourite for keeping the cabin bright and for improving the view out – it’s amazing what you get to see when you look up, although when driving I have to take their word for it. I have to admit, though, that I prefer driving the Sport on my own – the excellent Meridian audio system transports me to my own little world away from the hectic reality of life.
But even better is when I get the opportunity to turn the Terrain Response controller to dynamic mode and slide the stubby gear selector across to Sport mode – then our car really starts to live up to its name. The steering instantly becomes meatier, the adaptive dynamics tense up and the auto box holds on to gears longer.
It keeps the Range Rover incredibly flat in corners for such a tall car, with astonishing levels of grip. And although the V6 diesel is the smallest engine available, I’ve never wanted for more power. So, the Sport is turning out to be all things to this man, and as the first service comes around, we’ll see if the dealer network can be just as impressive.
Range Rover Sport: second report
Fuel economy: 30.7mpg
I like hot things: hot weather, hot cars and hot food – which is why our Range Rover Sport finds itself outside my favourite Indian restaurant so often. But it’s the Range Rover’s spiciness that also proved to be its downfall, when it failed to top an Auto Express group test for the first time in March 2015.
What I love most about our car is the cause of what I like least – it just begs to be driven, shall we say, enthusiastically, which means the economy is hovering around the 30mpg mark – some way short of the claimed average of 37.7mpg. And that itself is well below the 42.8mpg average of the Porsche Cayenne the Range Rover Sport lost to.
But you do get what you pay for and, economy aside, this Range Rover is very easy to fall for. As well as being great fun to drive when you knock the gearlever to the left and use the paddles to jump up and down through the gears (with some lovely sporty graphics appearing on the TFT dash display), the Sport is easy and comfortable to live with over more mundane miles.
It rides superbly even on the big 22-inch wheels, while there’s not as much road noise as you might expect from the big Continental tyres. The active cruise control that automatically slows the car and speeds it up also takes the pressure off on longer journeys.
I’ve been enjoying Land Rover’s InControl infotainment upgrade, too, which offers apps like Sygic, a more attractive navigation system, Stitcher for podcasts and parking app Parkopedia.
InControl is much more user-friendly than the standard in-car system with its eighties graphics, but connecting it can be problematic and there’s currently no radio app – you have to step out of InControl to tune in to DAB.
One other moan – when I stand filling the car, I always stare at the trim around the rear window where it meets another window, or doesn’t in this case. Which then makes me look at the panel gaps and gaps around the door – neither of which are up to the standard of rivals.
But then rivals don’t have the style – inside or out – of the Sport, especially with the Stealth Pack of our car, with its satin black trim and darker front lights.
Oh, and there’s one other thing about my car being so hot – the heated seats are real bum burners! Of the three settings, I can just about stand the mildest – anything more and it gets quite uncomfortable. Still, with summer around the corner, I’ll be able to make use of the one cool thing I like about the car – the air-conditioned seats.
Fuel economy: 30.7mpg
What a difference a word makes. It may be difficult to tell a Range Rover apart from a Range Rover Sport when you see one in your rear view mirror, but I’ve set out to see what separates the cars and how the (ever so slightly) smaller and cheaper Sport measures up to its bigger brother. And after the first few thousand miles, I’m amazed at just how different these two SUVs feel.
Last year, I finished a 25,000-mile stint in a Range Rover – a car that can claim to be one of the very best luxury cars and 4x4s all rolled into one. And now I’m the proud owner of a Range Rover Sport, still with off-road prowess aplenty, but with a sportier bent – as the name suggests.
I collected my car from Land Rover’s Solihull factory, where the Range Rover Sport shares an all-new production line with theJaguar XE. As befits the Sport tag, I gave it a bit of attitude with gleaming white paintwork and satin black trim, thanks to the recently introduced £1,300 Stealth Pack. Oh, and some fabulous 22-inch black alloys – a bit of a risk for someone who values ride comfort so highly.
So my car looks a million dollars, but with all the extras – including the premium Meridian audio system and rear seat entertainment pack – it comes out at a sizeable £92,278. That’s up from the £76,250 base price.
It’s not that the Autobiography model is sparsely equipped, but the kit list isn’t as generous as on a similar full-size Rangie. In fact, a slightly better-specced Range Rover only costs about £7,000 more.
It’s also easy to see where costs have been cut with the Sport – there’s no button to lower the car into access mode by the electric window switches (you have to use the control on the centre console), and the mood lighting isn’t as moody. Plus, you have to delve into the options to get luxury stuff that’s standard on the Range Rover: soft-close doors and massaging seats, for example.
What you do get is a level of dynamism you wouldn’t expect from a 4x4 – this car is serious fun on road as well as off. The need to protect those large wheels meant we couldn’t tackle the roughest stuff on Solihull’s off-road course, but the Sport still went over some pretty scary terrain.
And with all sorts of clever engineering and electronics, including adaptive dampers that monitor and adjust their settings 500 times a second and electric power-steering, the Range Rover Sport can be hustled like a sports car through twists and turns.
In fact, maybe there’s a little too much fun to be had – my average mpg of 30.7 could be better, but then I probably wouldn’t be smiling so much.
The ride on those 22-inch wheels is amazingly acceptable, too – firmish, but not thumping. Even more pleasing is that my car works with InControl apps, which covers the archaic infotainment system with something that’s bang up-to-date, easier to use and easier on the eye – more of that in an upcoming report.
For now, though, I’m really enjoying the difference between Range Rover and Sport – this car is much more about the driver, and this driver’s having a ball.
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