Full 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Review
What's New for 2009
The HST Limited Edition package for the Supercharged trim level debuts for 2009. It features a unique grille, an extended rear roof spoiler, special upholstery and additional exterior and interior upgrades.
There once was a time when Range Rovers -- or at least the Land Rovers that preceded them -- were closely associated with images of British colonels wearing khakis and pith helmets caravanning across the African plains. Today, some people are more likely to picture the luxury SUV in the parking lot of a suburban shopping mall piloted by a well-Botoxed soccer mom. But even though the Land Rover brand has evolved over the years into little more than a status symbol, it still offers a lineup of very capable off-road vehicles.
Enter the 2009 Range Rover Sport. Contrary to what the name might suggest, it's not simply a shrunken-down version of Land Rover's flagship SUV (though slightly smaller and sleeker than the latter, it's actually based on the company's LR3 model). The Sport is Land Rover's attempt at fully embracing an on-road, stylish suburbanite image. Although the Range Rover Sport retains classic Land Rover mountain-tackling abilities, its retuned steering and suspension components, combined with available active roll technology, create athletic handling that's better suited for Beverly Hills than the green hills of Africa.
The Land Rover Range Rover Sport is relatively able, but it comes with a hefty price -- and a hefty curb weight. The latter (a whopping 5,670 pounds) hampers acceleration, agility and fuel economy. And like all modern Land Rovers, the Sport suffers from notoriously poor reliability. So before you sign on the dotted line, we'd strongly recommend taking a look at the BMW X5, Infiniti FX50 and Porsche Cayenne. Still, the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport has the power and handling credentials to keep it competitive, whether going on safari or to the cosmetic surgeon's office.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Range Rover Sport is a midsize SUV available in HSE and Supercharged trim levels. The HSE comes standard with 19-inch wheels, a sunroof, bi-xenon headlights, auto-dimming rearview mirrors, an adjustable air suspension, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, power front seats with driver memory settings, a power tilt and telescoping steering column, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, a navigation system and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon Logic 7 stereo with a six-CD changer and an auxiliary jack. An optional Cold Climate package includes a heated windshield, heated washer jets and heated front and second-row seats. A Luxury package includes the cold climate package and adds adaptive headlights, walnut trim, premium leather upholstery and a cooler box.
The Supercharged trim comes standard with 20-inch wheels, Brembo front brakes (both of which are optional on the HSE) and everything on the HSE with the luxury package plus a unique grille and upholstery, satellite radio and the Dynamic Response suspension system, which enhances on-road and off-road handling. The HST Limited Edition package adds different 20-inch wheels, a unique grille, an extended rear roof spoiler, specialized front and rear bumpers, adaptive cruise control and exclusive leather upholstery.
Stand-alone options include a rear differential lock, various wheel styles, upgraded leather upholstery and a rear-seat entertainment system with LCD screens mounted in the front headrests. Adaptive cruise control is optional on the Supercharged only.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard Range Rover Sport HSE is powered by a 4.4-liter V8 that makes 300 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque. The Supercharged model features a blown 4.2-liter V8 that ups the power output to 390 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. Both come with a six-speed automatic transmission. In our performance testing, the Supercharged Range Rover Sport went from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, which isn't much quicker than the larger flagship Range Rover Supercharged.
Land Rover's permanent 4WD system with a two-speed transfer case and the Terrain Response system comes standard on both trim levels. It automatically sets the powertrain, suspension and electronics systems to optimize traction based on five different settings: general, grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, sand and rock crawl. Properly equipped Range Rover Sports can tow up to 7,700 pounds.
Fuel economy estimates for the naturally aspirated 4.4-liter engine are 12 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined. The Supercharged 4.2-liter V8 achieves the same estimated city and highway mileage but gets only 14 mpg combined.
The 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport features antilock disc brakes (more powerful Brembo brakes are fitted to the Supercharged model), hill-descent control, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Rollover-mitigating stability control is also standard on all models.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2009 Land Rover Range Rover Sport offers a commanding driving position and elevated stadium seating, which give both driver and passengers a clear view of the road. The dash is simple and elegant, with minimalist switchgear that requires little driver input. However, many of the buttons look alike, and some are tricky to reach. The soft, supple leather seats will fit four adults comfortably, although a fifth could squeeze into the center rear seat if need be. Taller occupants might find themselves with limited headroom and could feel as if the rear headrests dig into their backs if not raised. Cargo space maxes out at 71 cubic feet, which is average for this class. However, the Sport's sloping rear glass limits the ability to load large or bulky items.
A hefty curb weight keeps the base HSE Range Rover Sport from winning any awards, whether on the drag strip, through the slalom or at the gas pump. The torquey Supercharged version, however, does a much better job living up to the Sport's higher-performance image. In our opinion, this is the only trim level that can truly match the performance of the Sport's highly capable competitors. The 4.2-liter V8 offers plenty of power, and the Sport's chassis and suspension deliver a smooth ride and responsive handling -- thanks in part to the Dynamic Response system.