DRIVEN: RANGE ROVER SPORT SUPERCHARGED (2012)
The home counties yummy mummies might just be onto something here...
Still here? Good.
Chances are a 500hp+ SUV doesn't figure as traditional PH fodder and arguing a logical case for such a vehicle is difficult. Of all such cars only the Range Rover Sport makes any pretence of maintaining serious 4x4 ability and it's this credibility that offers a shred of justification when compared with the likes of the X5 M and Cayenne Turbo. That the Sport can hold its own up to its axles in clag AND turn in an 8:55 'ring lap is truly a reason for a bit of national pride.
Up hill, down dale
PH's tenure didn't extend to putting that 'ring lap to the test, but the Sport did get a workout on- and off-road; the ability to haul ass across snaking moorland roads then chase camo-clad 'let's off-road' types through the clart proved most entertaining.
Where it counts, though, the Sport shows itself as a car of genuine substance, pun intended. Builders of mega-horsepower SUVs have long solved the unfavourable weight and distribution thereof with all manner of trickery and the Sport is no different, getting Adaptive Dynamics active dampers as standard. Where the Sport succeeds and others fail is making it work in an entirely natural way, with none of the artificially enhanced sensations of the tech-heavy Germans.
Which means you can carry indecent pace along roads you'd usually consider only appropriate for a 'proper' sports car. One local test road with a combination of elevation changes, harsh crests and compressions and violent direction changes was enough to make that astonishing 'ring time entirely believable.
On this kind of road you'd expect the Sport to be out of sorts, but the quality of the damping is astounding and the confidence the body control delivers means even the most evil combination of crest and corner is swallowed with disdain. And with the view over the hedges from the lofty driving position the Sport proves itself to be an unlikely B-road weapon. At the extremes a degree of reluctance to turn in reminds you you're carrying nearly three tonnes, but it's otherwise remarkable in its agility.
Old school rules
And the engine is magnificent, with a much more progressive power delivery than the whoosh-bang turbos in the German equivalents and a traditional Range Rover woofle, overlaid with a hint of supercharger whine.
This, near-ubiquity in certain postcodes and some cheaper fixtures and fittings beyond the (bit too) flashy Autobiography trimmings don't do the Sport any favours. The Cayenne does it better, cabin-wise. But it remains a car of massively broad ability and, compared with the rivals, a deal more charisma. If you're going to do the gas-guzzling SUV it's good to know it still pays to buy British.
Range Rover Sport 5.0 Supercharged
Engine: 4,999cc V8 supercharged
Power (hp): 510@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 461@2,500rpm
0-62mph: 6.2 sec
Top speed: 140mph
MPG: 19mpg (NEDC combined)
Price: £74,595 (£78,100 as tested)