Thursday 5th January 2012


Driven: Range Rover Sport Supercharged (2012)

The home counties yummy mummies might just be onto something here...


OK, let's get it out of the way. This 510hp, supercharged V8 Range Rover Sport uses a lot of fuel, the accelerator less a throttle and more a sluice-gate. If this troubles you then buy the diesel, which is excellent and will do 30mpg+.

Still here? Good.

New colours spruce up the looks a tad
New colours spruce up the looks a tad
Because the Range Rover Sport, especially with this engine, ranks very highly on the guilty pleasures stakes. True, it is the 'new money' Range Rover and the whole yummy mummy/footballer axis does it no favours at all.

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.

Nearly three tonnes no barrier to 'cornering'
Nearly three tonnes no barrier to 'cornering'
The 2012 model has brought various revisions, including a simplification of the range to just 255hp 3.0-litre SDV6 diesel or 'our' supercharged petrol V8. The diesel now gets the Jag-style rotary gear selector and the latest eight-speed gearbox, the petrol sticking with the familiar six-speeder and manly conventional shifter. Other additions include an expanded range of colours and trims, a nifty 'Dual View' infotainment screen and an irksome powered tailgate. This is one of those 'convenience features' that proves anything but when an argument over whether we wanted it open or closed turned ugly and resulted in one of the rams breaking off its mounting.

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.

When you were a kid you did this in wellies
When you were a kid you did this in wellies
Weight distribution
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.

Autobiography a tad chintzy in places
Autobiography a tad chintzy in places
It's a car that soothes and compliments in other words, and at a relaxed pace on the motorway can just about tickle 20mpg - it's easy to see why some owners develop a certain sense of (ahem) impenetrable self confidence.

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
Weight: 2,590kg
MPG: 19mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 348g/km
Price: 74,595 (78,100 as tested)

Author: Dan Trent

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