It was 16 years ago that the slightly controversial - as it was then - Range Rover Sport was launched. Now it’s been announced by Range Rover that one million Sports have been sold since 2005. Given their popularity in certain areas, that’ll come as no surprise, but it’s a major milestone nonetheless; a sign of the global reach for one of Land Rover’s most expensive model ranges.
Back in the mid-2000s, the more road-biased focus of Land Rover’s L320 Range Rover Sport ensured it met resistance from the start. With a design clearly inspired by the bold Range Stormer concept car, and off-road capabilities that ranked it below the full-sized Range Rover, it wasn’t immediately seen as an authentic Land Rover. But there was no denying its on-road handling, or the fact that even a watered-down Land Rover remained a very effective off-roader against its direct competition. A supercharged V8 flagship did its reputation and popularity no harm, either. Not only that, with its smaller footprint it provided a more practical offering to Land Rover’s growing number of urban customers. The sales success was quickly established.
The Sport’s case was helped further by the very good L494 second generation, launched in 2013 with a decent portfolio of engines, including a larger, 5.0-litre version of the V8. The majority of sales were accounted for by the diesels in the UK, but having a 510hp range-topper certainly didn’t hurt – especially in how popular the performance SUV niche had become. The introduction of a seven-seat option helped its cause, too.
Most importantly, though, the second generation Sport was better than the original across the board – and it featured design that was more widely liked. The introduction of the wild Range Rover Sport SVR showed just how far the road-biased Range Rover idea could be stretched, a car which is still surprisingly adept off-road as well. And it could easily be argued that the Velar wouldn’t exist in the line-up without the Sport’s popularity.
As the million-car milestone affirms, the Sport stands strong in the now Range Rover line-up. It’s getting on a bit – 2021 is its eighth year of production – and rivals have certainly closed the gap. But as ever, this Land Rover retains a strong USP in its ability to be called a proper off-roader, despite its road focus. Furthermore, after a million sales and more than a decade and a half on sale, the Sport now carries with it its own reputation and kudos. Maybe it’s not at Defender or Discovery level just yet, but the Sport is showing no signs of slowing down. Given the market’s fondness for an SUV, don’t expect that popularity to change anytime soon, either – or for numbers to dwindle. There are 961 Sports on PH alone...
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