The word ‘’Sport” as you’d expect points to the most nimble and dynamically pleasing model in the Range Rover range. All Sport models gain edgy handling, supremely confident chassis control and give the driver inspiration to push what’s still a very large premium SUV to its limits. But of all the engine variants on offer the SDV8, a 4.4-litre 8-cylider twin-turbo diesel is simply stunning. Chris Bowen takes a look at this enormously satisfying drive.
The 10 Minute Test Drive
If cavernous interior space is what you’re after the Range Rover Sport will not let you down. This is a very large car by any stretch of the imagination. The dash is wide, flat and angled upwards. It’s far from an innovative design with mostly squared off leather paneling, clean and simple climate controls and an equally straightforward 8-inch infotainment display. It’s a whirl of greys and blacks before you start ticking those expensive options to create your own luxurious colour scheme.
The instrument cluster is entirely digital on this model, with the speedometer and tachometer projected onto the screen. I’ve seen better, but it’s still reasonably cutting edge stuff.
The wheel is sufficiently chunky with two circular dials for controlling the audio and cruise control systems. Around the joystick-style gear shifter is an array of sophisticated 4×4 modes in addition to suspension height modes. The later allow for easy access by dropping the Rangie almost to its knees making the substantial climb into the cabin much easier. After Normal Mode is Off Road Height, which raises the entire vehicle seemingly up one story.
High end metals get plenty of use around the cabin and there’s little doubt the craftsmanship is excellent. The front seats are extraordinarily comfortable, the kind of chairs you’d expect had royalty in mind when conceived. For such a large cabin you still feel reasonably cocooned in them, the 2nd row is much the same but best suited for two.
Driving the Range Rover Sport is one of the great joys in motoring. Looking forward across the famous square bonnet and seeing the two air intakes serves as a constant reminder you’re in something special.
But despite the king of the road feel the Sport still has a way of handling that inspires a style of driving that it really shouldn’t. I found it immensely easy to adapt too, you often hear about the great cars shrinking around you. The Range Rover Sport is a perfect example and gets around like one of the more dynamically blessed smaller premium SUV’s. The ride is soft and absorbent but any hint of body roll is reined in by any number of systems making darting in and out of traffic flow a breeze.
But back to the SDV8 up front because it’s such a beautiful thing. The low down rumble is distant thanks to near bank vault sound insulation and build quality. But what’s up front feels like a relentless bullock train and produces a sound easily confused with petrol V8’s. Plant the foot and the front lifts while the 2.3 tonne Range Rover Sport shoots down the road with almost Formula 1 style, lightening gear changes. This is without doubt one of the great diesels and one capable of shaming some family sedans in the fuel economy stakes, but more on that later.
Put simply this vehicle is epically capable both on and off-road, although you’d want to be sufficiently well-heeled to risk the rigors that tough off-road driving brings with it. The Range Rover Sport strokes the ego like few others.
Ins and Outs
What creates all the excitement is a 4.4-litre 8-cylinder twin-turbo diesel V8. With 250kW and most importantly 740Nm from a very early 1750rpm. The automatic transmission gives you eight cogs to play with and paddle shifters if you desire. A dynamic mode enhances cornering even more with sharpened suspension traits and a very believable 0-100km/h dash is obtained in 6.9 seconds.
Our HSE model with Luxury Pack sees the occupants ensconced in leather trim with extras such as a sliding panoramic sunroof, 12.3-inch virtual instrument display, parking assistance, a 19-speaker audio system by Meridian, Head Up Display and automatic high beam head lights. Although on our test car the speedo readout projected onto the windscreen seemed out of focus.
The adaptive suspension gives you a range of clearance options at the touch of a button and the Terrain Response 2 system should keep you in control no matter what conditions are experienced. As you’d expect a reversing camera and parking sensors are thrown in as must have safety items.
The Tech Inside
The most impressive piece of tech kit is the magical split screen Digital TV. Most of these systems only operate when stationary for obvious reasons. However the Range Rover gets around this via what is technically known as Parallax Barrier. In short the front passenger can enjoy a DVD or live TV program while the driver on the same screen only sees whatever is currently selected, be it the satellite navigation or home menu. This is beyond cool.
— Chris Bowen (@TheBowen) June 19, 2015
Add to that the digital dash as mentioned earlier, Digital Radio (DAB+), and you’ve got a nice bit of tech filtered throughout this vehicle.
Prices start from $146,300 but once you start adding the Luxury Pack, panoramic sunroof and the optional Meridian sound system you’ll end up paying way north of that even before on roads. At the pump the claimed thirst figure is a mere 8.7/100km, a figure I dipped below at 7.4/100km with mostly highway driving. That’s simply phenomenal. Our test car was up around $176,000 after factoring in options. Warranty runs for 3 years or 100,000km with excellent 12 month or 25,000km service intervals.
EFTM Rubber Stamp
The Range Rover Sport SDV8 is quite possibly one of the most versatile machines around. It provides a luxury limousine-type experience for those onboard, handles better than some so called “sports sedans” and can traverse territory better than more seasoned hardnosed off roaders. So taking all of that into consideration, plus that frugal yet monstrous diesel V8 up front – there can be only one conclusion. I award the Range Rover Sport SDV8 the EFTM Distinction Rubber Stamp of approval.