2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Driving Impressions

The Sport is aptly named, because the handling is sport all the way, especially compared to the full-size Range Rover that coddles its occupants. The Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport have different driving characters. Both are good, but they are distinctly different and are driven a bit differently. The handling prowess of the Range Rover Sport is impressive and comparing it with the pre-2014 Sport is like comparing night with day, a benefit of the comparatively lightweight structure.

The Sport uses air dampers and variable-ratio steering like the Range Rover, but they are tuned more sharply on the Sport. The Dynamic settings do a good job of sorting out some of the issues, such as body lean, that come with the Sport’s height and weight. Its 21-inch tires and other tweaks make it a rocket, keeping up with the German super SUVs.

The standard 3.0-liter supercharged V6 with 340 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque is quick and sounds good like a supercharged engine should, with rumbles and whistles. New for 2016 is a 380-hp version, the HST, same engine as in the fabulous Jaguar F-Type.

Another model is the Td6, a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel that’s just as fast as the supercharged V6 and gets much better fuel mileage, up to 658 miles on a tank of gas, on a road trip. Believe or not, it’s even quieter.

The 5.0-liter supercharged V8 makes a brutal 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. It will roar and blast to 60 mph in five seconds, that’s two seconds faster than the supercharged 3.0-liter V6. There you have it, that’s what you get: two seconds less for two cylinders and two liters more. Plus a beefy rumble. Oh, and another 25 mph top speed, from 130 to 155, with the optional Dynamic package. (We think it’s clearly well worth it.)

The Range Rover Sport SVR is a track-worthy 5000-pound SUV. British engine-builders caressed another 40 horsepower and 40 foot-pounds of torque out of the supercharged V8 to make 550 horsepower, 502 foot-pounds of torque, allowing 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, top speed 162 mph. Relaxed on the Autobahn.

The Range Rover Sport suspension is not too firm, even with the engineering emphasis on sporty handling, and it’s very comfortable on the road, in all conditions. The Sport does feel firmer and sportier than the smooth and luxurious Range Rover.

Off the road, as befits any Land Rover, the Sport is an incredibly capable muckraker. Despite the sporty suspension, there’s 9.3 inches of ground clearance, with 10.2 inches of front wheel travel, and 10.7 inches rear. Land Rover says the Sport can cross a river 33.5 inches deep. Pressing a button raises the ride height from the normal highway height to off-road clearance. Pressing that same button will also lower the suspension to make it easier to climb out and back in.

Four-wheel drive is standard and comes in two forms. Torsen four-wheel drive comes on V6 models, while a more technically advanced two-speed 4WD with locking rear differential comes on the V8 and is optional with the V6.

The Terrain Response system has modes for specific terrain and is incredibly sophisticated and works extremely well. Sensors and computers manage the rear and center differentials, traction control, and brakes, to get the best grip at the wheels. Terrain Response 2 has seven modes: General, Dynamic, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, Rock Crawl, and Auto, which decides for you which mode you need.

Even the 162-mph SVR is prepared to cross crevasses and climb boulders. It keeps the Terrain Response 2 system and low-range transfer case, reprograms the computers, and upgrades the driveline to handle the power and torque.

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