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Land Rover's offshoot of its traditional full-size Range Rover, the midsize Range Rover Sport, dates back to 2006. Redesigning for the 2014 model year reduced weight substantially, courtesy of a new aluminum body.
Newly standard automatic emergency braking heads the list of changes for the 2017 Range Rover Sport model year. A software revision works with the rearview camera to make backing up a trailer easier. Upgraded infotainment includes a new 10.2-inch touchscreen with pinch/scroll operation, Restructured option packages aim to simplify the buying process.
Anyone seeking flawless on-road behavior, coupled with supremely capable off-road talents, need look no further than the Range Rover Sport. Few SUVs come close to its blend of sporty behavior and practical utility, blended with luxury amenities. While both the big Range Rover and the Range Rover Sport stress superior off-road abilities, the full-size model leans toward opulent luxury and comfort, whereas the Sport focuses on sporty road manners. Both deliver a serene environment, but the full-size model has the more traditional demeanor.
Seven-passenger seating is an option for the Sport, but think of it as a 5+2: The optional third row is not comfortable for most humans.
A quartet of engine possibilities is available. The Range Rover Sport SE and Range Rover Sport HSE use a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that develops 340 horsepower. Supercharged 5.0-liter V8s come in two power levels, each deserving the Sport label. The standard 510-horsepower V8 powers Range Rover Sport Supercharged and Autobiography. The Range Rover Sport SVR unfurls 550 horsepower and 501 pound-feet of torque.
All models work with an admirable 8-speed automatic transmission that can include paddle shifters. Even the V6 promises a snarly sound and 0-60 mph acceleration in 6.9 seconds. That 60-mph sprint takes a mere 5 seconds with a V8.
The turbodiesel option uses a 3.0-liter V6 diesel that produces a muscular 443 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration is comparable to the gasoline V6, and diesel owners can expect pleasantly quiet operation.
Safety features include a lane departure warning, surround-view camera, parking sensors, parking assist, and automatic high-beam headlights. An optional Driver Assistance Package adds blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition that can display the current speed limit. Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have crash-tested the Range Rover Sport.
Range Rover Sport Td6 Diesel SE ($67,650) and Td6 Diesel HSE ($72,650) come with the turbodiesel engine. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Range Rover Sport Supercharged ($80,650) includes the 510-horsepower V8, sliding panoramic glass roof, Terrain Response 2 Auto, paddle shifters, and a two-speed transfer case. Autobiography ($94,450) comes with 825-watt, 19-speaker Meridian audio; 16-way power front seats; a heated steering wheel and rear seats; cooler; 21-inch wheels; blind-spot monitoring; and Reverse Traffic Detection.
Range Rover Sport SVR ($111,350) gets the 550-horsepower V8, adaptive xenon headlights, LED signature lighting, perforated leather, a firmer suspension, and an Active Sports Exhaust.
Hood and fender vents suggest the Sport's capabilities. Roof pillars are blacked-out, wheel areas are prominent, and the rear end is short.
The SVR flaunts a more aggressive stance with its bigger wheels and tires.
Weighing about 100 pounds less than the full-size Range Rover, the Sport is 2.2 inches lower. Some design details were influenced by the curvaceous Evoque.
Visible surfaces are covered in wood or leather. All materials, especially in upper trim levels, look classy. Even the base SE model delivers plenty of luxury and comfort.
Each version contains four bucket-type seats, plus a center position in the second row. Outboard occupants get ample room, though less support than the big Range Rover provides.
The optional, stowable third-row seats create a tight space, suitable only for children. The Discovery is a better choice for seven.
Even the cargo area is attractively finished.
Shared with Jaguar, the supercharged base V6 engine delivers impressively energetic response. Only a hair slower in acceleration, the turbodiesel V6 takes full advantage of its strong torque output, yet can barely be heard.
With either V8, the Range Rover Sport turns into an SUV that's an indisputably swift traveler. In SVR trim, the V8 model roars to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Not only can it merge like a sports sedan, the SVR stays fully composed through curves and turns long highway stretches into comfortable excursions.
As for off-road prowess, the Sport can cross creeks that are up to 33.5 inches deep, scamper over rocks, then blaze through sand or mud. Ground clearance of 9.3 inches, coupled with wheel travel greater than 10 inches, ensures rough-terrain readiness.
Terrain Response 2, standard with V8 power and optional for the V6, provides seven modes for almost any surface (including Automatic), working transparently to deliver the greatest amount of traction. Rather than merely capable, the Range Rover Sport is among the easiest vehicles to drive under tough conditions.
Range Rover Sports (except SVR) are rated to tow up to 7,716 pounds.
As expected, fuel economy isn't as admirable. The gas V6 is EPA-rated at 17/23 mpg City/Highway, or 19 mpg Combined. The Supercharged V8 is EPA-rated at only 14/19 mpg City/Highway, or 16 mpg Combined. For thrifty operation, the turbodiesel stands tall at 22/29 mpg City/Highway, or 25 mpg Combined.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection. James Flammang contributed to this report.
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