Land Rover Range Rover Sport 2010

2010_range_rover_sport_030_lr A bumper sticker spied on an old battered Land Rover Discovery sums up the brand- “Don’t follow me, you won’t make it”.  Land Rover has always made rugged off-road vehicles that are designed to go anywhere in the world.  Videos show these machines slogging through mud that should swallow them whole.

Really wringing one of these out would invoke financial fear for us working class folk.  Practical people will feel it just isn’t right to chuck a vehicle the cost of  a decent college education through a bunch of big rocks.  And honestly, many of these pricey SUVs never see a dirt road.  So maybe it’s actually appropriate that Land Rover designed one to be confident in a paved curve- the Range Rover Sport.  For 2010 it gets some welcome upgrades, power being front and center.

Despite its name, Sport gets its DNA from the smaller LR4 (formerly the LR3), not the large Range Rover architecture.  Starting at $60,495 it slots in between those two utes in price though size wise it’s actually a bit smaller than the LR4.  It’s mission?  To compete with Porsche and BMW and still tackle nasty terrain.  Considering those performance oriented brands now make rigs like the Cayenne and X5, you have to figure Land Rover needs to protect its craggy turf.

Best of both worlds

2010_range_rover_sport_007_lr Compared to its brawny Land Rover brethren, the Sport has noticeably better asphalt manners.  It’s quiet and comfortable but doesn’t wallow in the corners.  This is not a 3 Series BMW though, don’t forget this truck tips the scales at just over 5,500 pounds.   After a serine 2 hour mix of highway and two-lane country roads I arrived at my destination fresh and looking forward to the trip home.  Air suspension at all four corners has automatic leveling.  Fully independent front and rear, it has different modes for cruising and off-road use.

Sport improves the on-road experience but it’s no slouch when the terrain gets tough.  It shrugs off the moderate off-roading I’m doing without a second thought.  Standard is a permanent four-wheel-drive system with two-speed transfer case.   There’s an electronically controlled, fully variable locking center differential that automatically sends torque to both drive axles when they need it.

Off-roading made easy

lr-v8_5-0_naturally-aspirated_lr Motivating the Sport is a new 5.0-liter V8 with 375 horsepower and 375 lbs-ft of torque.  It’s mated to 6-speed auto tranny with a sport shift mode and manual control.  Accelerating to 60 miles an hour from a stop sign in 7.5 seconds now means satisfying acceleration.  Keeping the sport from being really sporty is that 5,500 pound heft.  Weight also effects fuel economy.  Drinking premium fuel, the EPA numbers are 17 miles per gallon highway, 12 in the city.  I’m seeing a 16 mpg average with heavy freeway use.

2010_range_rover_sport_016_lr Land Rovers come with a technology called Terrain Response System which is sort of like Off-Roading for Dummies.  It’s a knob on the center console.  First take a gander at the surface you’d like to traverse.  Then just match the rotary dial to the appropriate icon (Sand, Rock Crawl, General Driving, Grass/Gravel/Snow, and Mud/Ruts).  That’s it, you’re good to go.  Just a turn of that dial and the engine, transmission, ride height and traction control settings are all reconfigured to get you where you want to go.  There’s hill decent control too.  Those with a lot of toys to haul will appreciate the 7,700 pound towing capacity.

Inner beauty

Land Rovers have sumptuous interiors and this one is no different.  Lining the cabin with premium leather and wood, I find myself wishing my house looked half this nice.  At $1,000 the Extended Leather Pack adds cowhide to the upper dashboard, top door panels and armrests.  Looks good/  There’s extra storage space with two glove boxes, the center console is cooled to keep your lunch chilled and the supremely comfortable seats keep your bottom warm.  One gripe, the window controls are quite a reach.   Satellite navigation and handsfree Bluetooth phone connection are standard.

2010_range_rover_sport_013_lr In back guests are treated well.  There’s a fold down arm rest and there’s an adequate amount of legroom.  Order the Cold Climate package ($1,400) and they get bun warmers. New for 2010 is an iPod interface with a cable in the front center console.  A DVD entertainment system with twin LCD screens mounted in the back of the front seat headrests will set you back $2,500.

Moving to the trunk, there are two ways to load cargo into the Sport.  The first is through the window, handy when pilling lots of small items that might slide out the back.  The second of course is through the main hatch.  You have to push a button on the tailgate and then lift. No power liftgate here.  Trunk aficionados will enjoy the well trimmed space and some extra storage for small stuff under the load floor.  The steep rake of the back window cuts into space, meaning it doesn’t completely ace the Costco Toilet Paper Test.  Its 10 pack capacity is lower than average for a rig this size.

Want more sport in your Range Rover Sport?

Go for the Supercharged version that adds a supercharger (duh) and ups the horsepower to 510 and torque to 461 lbs-ft.  It also ups the price tag more that 13 grand but it includes more than just the engine.  They also throw in 6,300 dollars of equipment that’s optional on the HSE that I’m driving.

2010_range_rover_sport_031_lr If you’re fortunate to be in the target income demographic of the Range Rover Sport you’ll also be test driving Cayenne, X5 and perhaps the Acura MDX.   For grins let’s throw in the VW Touareg, Mercedes M Class, the 7-seat Audi Q7 and Lexus LX 570.  The Land Rover is more oriented to the off-road experience than the Porsche and BMW while maintaining good on-road agility.  On pavement it offers up more grins than the Audi, Merc and Lexus.

The “sport” moniker is often slapped on vehicles for marketing purposes without significant improvement in chassis dynamics.  Land Rover keeps its promise here.  Unfortunately the $70,845 as tested price will keep it out of most of our garages.   For those who have the bucks, Range Rover Sport offers up style, comfort and capability.

FULL GALERY BELOW.  ALL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY LAND ROVER.

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