Saturday morning we drive the Rover to the ultrahip Fred Segal mall in Santa Monica to impress our sunglass-selling friend, David. The guy has been talking about trading in his Porsche 911 for a Range Rover Sport since the SUV hit dealer lots a few months ago, so we figured a ride in this 2006 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged might get us a deal on a pair of Versace shades.
Turns out David's waiting for Melanie Griffith to return and is unable to experience the supercharged Sport firsthand, which is too bad. Land Rover designed the Range Rover Sport for people just like him: style-conscious city folk who dig high-priced, high-horsepower machinery.
Available in two versions, the 300-horsepower, 4.4-liter V8 HSE and the 390-hp, 4.2-liter V8 Supercharged, the Sport's mission is to steal thunder from street-rod SUVs like BMW's X5 4.8is and Porsche's Cayenne S, and it has the goods under its hood to give the Germans a serious run for their money.
The Family Tree
At just over $56,000 for the HSE and nearly $70,000 for the supercharged model, the Sport is priced between Land Rover's LR3 and the full-size Range Rover. All Land Rovers get permanent four-wheel drive.
Although it resembles the big daddy Range Rover, the Sport rides on a shortened version of the LR3 platform, which makes it the smallest of the three. The Sport's wheelbase is over 5 inches shorter than the LR3's, and its overall length is 2.4 inches shorter. The Sport's about as wide as an LR3, which makes it nearly 10 inches narrower than the big daddy.
Exterior differences between the HSE and Supercharged are subtle, but distinctive when you know where to look. The blown model gets a brighter grille and side vents, black and gray Land Rover ovals instead of the traditional green, and Brembo brake calipers peek from behind its unique 20-inch wheels and wider, lower-profile Continental rubber.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Pumping out 390 hp at 5,750 rpm, the supercharged V8 is the same engine Jaguar uses in the S-Type R, XJR and XKR, and the same engine you get in a top-of-the-line Range Rover Supercharged (although it's rated at 400 hp in some of those applications).
With 410 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm, the 5,670-pound Sport Supercharged leaps off the line with a 0-60 time of 7 seconds flat and a quarter-mile time of 15.4 seconds. Despite it weighing 600 pounds less than the Rover, the BMW X5 4.8is we tested earlier this year recorded the same time. The HSE, which shares a 4.4-liter Jaguar engine with the LR3, is nearly 2 seconds slower to 60 mph at 8.9.
David's 911 is much quicker of course, but the supercharged Sport feels quick out in the world. Open freeway acceleration is flawless. Nail the gas at any speed and there's power and acceleration to be found.
The smooth power band is aided by the crisp shifts of the six-speed automatic transmission. Although it can be shifted in manual mode, the gearbox is so well-timed, the manual sport shift doesn't really alter its pattern, even during full throttle shifts.
Drive it aggressively and the heavier Sport feels less agile than the lighter X5 or Cayenne, which it is. The Rover's slalom speed of 58.1 mph is nearly 5 mph slower than the X5, but our track notes insist that the supercharged Sport could have run the slalom even quicker if the Dynamic Stability Control (DSG) would relax when in the off position instead of continuing to intervene.
Slight body roll is evident during high-speed testing, but out on the open road the Sport feels level and secure. Although both the HSE and the supercharged Sport use the same electronic air suspension, the Supercharged version comes standard with Dynamic Response active roll bars. The system makes the Sport Supercharged more responsive, but less adept at absorbing freeway bumps.
Its bigger tires and Brembo brake calipers give the supercharged Sport a 5-foot advantage over the HSE in our 60-0-mph brake tests. Its 114-foot stopping distance also betters the BMW's number by more than a foot and is only 3 feet longer than the stopping distance of a 911 Carrera S, which weighs half as much. We also like the truck's firm brake pedal, although the supercharged Sport's moves freely then stiffens suddenly, which takes some getting used to. The HSE's pedal feels more progressive.
Although we didn't have the occasion to take this show boat off-road, the Sport is ready to take on varying road surfaces with its five-setting Terrain Response system and standard electronic traction control.
If David had climbed into the Range Rover Sport's cockpit, he would've been surprised by the lack of hiproom. He's a big guy, and the tight cabin is the first thing you notice. A 120-pound female frame fits snuggly in the seat, which is squeezed between the door panel and the acre-wide console. Legroom and headroom, however, are plentiful as expected.
Interior décors are vastly different in the HSE and supercharged Sports. Our HSE tester mirrored traditional Range Rover luxury — soft cream color leather, with wood and metal-colored accents. The supercharged Sport has a much sportier feel in its black-on-black cabin. Even the wood accents are black, with faux brushed aluminum trim as the only exception.
Some editors complained about the hard plastic bits in the interior, which they think are too cheap-looking for the truck's sticker price. For $70 thou, they think you should get real brushed aluminum trim, but a majority of others think the Sport's perfect fit and finish, its long list of luxury amenities, along with its supple leather and furniture-quality wood make its interior satisfyingly upscale.
On a 600-mile road trip from Los Angeles to Monterey Bay and back, the Range Rover Sport Supercharged proved plenty comfortable for two, but averaged a dismal 16 mpg for the trip. At least we made good use of the drink cooler built into the front console, which we discovered can chill a Coke in 31 minutes.
Equipment includes a Harmon Kardon Logic 7 audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD player and 14 speakers, plus a DVD-based navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, and front and rear park distance control. Adaptive cruise control is an option, as is an easy-to-operate rear DVD entertainment with two 6.5-inch LCD screens mounted in the backside of the front-seat headrests which can be had for $2,500. Heated front and rear sport seats with silver inserts behind the perforated leather come standard on the supercharged Sport, while the HSE can add seat heat as part of the $2,750 Luxury Cold Climate Package.
Open the tailgate and the cargo bay appears to go on forever. With a maximum of 71 cubic feet of cargo capacity, the Sport beats the X5's 69 cubes and handily trumps the Cayenne's 63 cubic feet as well. But load it up and you'll notice the sharp fastback cuts into the space at a quick angle. At least Land Rover designed the tailgate glass to lift separately for quick access without opening the full door.
A Versace Land Rover
BMW might offer slightly more athleticism from its X5, but the 2006 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged is no wallflower. Although its fuel mileage is laughable and its curb weight sounds like something from the Hummer collection, we applaud its designer look, its strong performance and its artful interior.
Although we still think David's a bit nutty for wanting one over his 911, we understand the Range Rover Sport's appeal. And it's just plain dumb to get one in any color other than the brilliantly named Vesuvius Orange, which goes really well with our new pair of high-dollar Versace shades. Bought at cost, of course. Thanks, Dave.
Components: Both the Range Rover Sport HSE and Supercharged come standard with a high-end Harmon Kardon Logic 7 stereo. The system is rated at 550 watts and uses 14 speakers. It includes an in-dash six-disc CD changer that can also read MP3 CDs. Our Range Rover Sport included optional Sirius Satellite Radio.
Performance: The Logic 7 stereo is an excellent sound system, we've enjoyed it in the BMW 5 and 7 Series sedans and have always been impressed with its power and clarity.
While CDs sound best in the Range Rover Sport, we were still impressed with how good satellite radio sounds. Too often the satellite radio sound quality fails to meet our expectations based on a given vehicle's stereo specs but the Range Rover Sport's system sound good no matter what format you listen to.
The controls for adjusting bass and treble are easy to use and the graphics are simple and straightforward. We also like the large display that makes it easy to check song or artist info at a glance. However, we didn't like the fact that the display for Sirius radio would always revert back to "category" each time we turned off the radio. Most head units allow you to set the text to "artist name" or "song title" and leave it.
The sound quality is very good with the near perfect combination of bass punch, separate midrange and clear highs. The Logic 7 system seems to sound better in sedans as it delivers better sound presence but this is still a great sound system that leaves little to complain about. The bass never distorts or sounds rumbly and virtually all types of music sound excellent. We especially like the adjustable subwoofer that goes a step beyond the usual on/off control.
Best Feature: Sound quality.
Worst Feature: Satellite radio display resets to "category."
Conclusion: A terrific stereo that is perfectly appropriate for a $70,000 SUV. &mdash Brian Moody
Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:
I really like driving the Range Rover Sport, but I don't like doing much else in it. For instance, putting the windows up or down requires a reach that only NBA stars will appreciate. And only the driver's window offers one-touch operation. What's up with that in a $70,000 "premium" SUV? Same with the navigation system's touchscreen. It's got a very clean, upscale display quality, but it's too far away &mdash at least it is for a touchscreen design.
The primary gauges (tach and speedo) are also tough to use because of small lettering and confusing dots and slashes between the small numbers. The little display window below the tach is similarly hard to read. The letters that indicate park, drive and reverse are the size of pinheads, which is how I'd describe this vehicle's interior designers.
But the car does have incredible driving dynamics. It's quick, agile and stops far better than any 5,700-pound SUV has a right to. Like I said, if all I had to do was drive it (as opposed to interacting with it), I'd love it. And I know Land Rover is capable of very intelligent designs. The dual-opening rear hatch is too cool, as are the dual video screens mounted in the front headrests (talk about an idea that's long overdue).
On so many levels this SUV works wonderfully. But for a $70,000 investment, there are still too many areas, mostly in the cabin, where it doesn't.
Road Test Editor Brian Moody says:
I appreciate what Land Rover is doing with the Range Rover Sport, but I'm not sure it completely appeals to me. I truly enjoy the Range Rover HSE (although have lingering doubts about long-term reliability) and find it to be a nearly perfect combination of off-road muscle, on-road luxury and stylish perfection.
However, while driving the larger Range Rover I never once thought "I wish this truck had less interior space." Maybe that's not the point. The Range Rover Sport is certainly good-looking if not practical. The lowered roof and short wheelbase combined with big wheels make it look like something out of the Mattel design studio rather than something from a builder of rock-crushing luxury off-roaders.
Still, there's a price to be paid for all this sportiness. The Sport's suspension is noticeably stiffer and while it may be better for cornering, it's not so great for road trips. Again, I'd rather have the standard-issue Range Rover HSE than the Sport.
The Supercharged Sport's 390 hp is definitely something to get excited about but it doesn't move the truck with quite the authority I was expecting. There's always plenty of power for passing and the exhaust note is especially cool. But the buzz kill to all this is the fact that we averaged just over 13 miles per gallon on a 900-mile road trip. That's gonna cost ya.
"So far I have had the privilege of a number of Discos, 2 RR, an LR3 and now the RRS. It is truly fantastic. Land Rover has always made a vehicle which truly could work off-road (unlike so called "sport-utility vehicles"). The RR has always been an elegant working vehicle. Now they have managed to incorporate a sports car into the package. There are no comparable vehicles on the market today although there are many wanna-bes! If you want true performance, off-road capabilities and luxury the RRS can do it all. I like so many of the features, it's difficult to pinpoint when there are so many. Styling, performance, luxury, safety, service." — reg, September 16, 2005
"I traded a Mercedes S500 and gained a vehicle that handles just as well. Great fun to drive, with the off-road capability I needed for recreation. The engine is a dream, and the sport shift works amazingly well to match gear to speed or allow manual shifting. The sport seats provide lots of support, and the legroom is sufficient (I am 6'4"). Like the supercharged engine and sport shift transmission. Great sound system, and unmatched off-road capability. Would like better interface for the active cruise control; more visible instrumentation; and a telephone system that works with current model cell phones. Bluetooth system iffy at best and only a limited number of phones work." — BGreig, August 31, 2005
"I'm not a fan of SUVs as a class and had to buy this one as the best compromise between performance, luxury, style and utility. The Cayenne is too awkward-looking and cheaply made inside, the BMW X5 is just an AWD car on stilts, not an SUV (and too ubiquitous at that). I've put 1K miles on my RRS, problem-free so far. Ride quality is superb. The steering is just right: easy but not overly so. Directional stability is impressive, feels like riding on rails. Build quality is excellent. I'm glad I opted for the supercharged version with all the bells and whistles (DVD at rear including) in the limited-edition trim, it does give you that feeling of being treated as someone special. Like the styling (especially light metal front grille and overall shape); driver- oriented cockpit (the big Range Rover feels like you're in a truck, by comparison); Brembo brakes; steering. I'd like to see a bit less plastic on the dashboard; side mirrors should have a folding option and a backup tilt override feature; steering wheel adjustment should be powered." — Madox, August 27, 2005
"This vehicle performs incredibly on any road conditions. Very responsive both in steering, handling, and braking. I traded in my LR3 to get into this vehicle. Although the same engine, RR Sport handled better and felt lighter (though RR Sport is about 500 pounds lighter).The interior is impeccable and with the ease of control access in ergonomics and voice activation. I do miss some of the LR3 features such as the additional cupholders located at all side doors and center console. Additionally, the ashtray pullouts in the Sport are limited to only one which cannot accommodate coins. I really enjoy my RR Sport. Get this vehicle with the luxury and cold climate package. It looks cheap/dif without it. Like the leather seats and comfort. Wood trims on the doors and center console. Shifter and brake controls. Would like sideview mirrors that can be programmed to control the backup angle mode. Windshield vertical lines being visible — takes time to get used to them."
— Gary A., August 9, 2005
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