- Redesigned inside and out
- New touchscreen operating system
- V8 engine gets a bump in power
- Plug-in hybrid with an estimated 48 miles of range
- 2023 model introduces the third Range Rover Sport generation
2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport First Drive: A Divine Improvement
Walks the walk in all the right ways
What is the Range Rover Sport?
The Range Rover Sport is a popular SUV in the Land Rover brand portfolio, slotting between the high-end Range Rover and the bite-sized Range Rover Evoque. The company produced the previous Range Rover Sport from 2014 to 2022, and by the end it felt outmatched compared to rivals. Those days are over, as our first drive of the third-generation 2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport confirmed.
What's under the Range Rover Sport's hood?
There's a mix of engines to choose from — some are carryovers from the previous model and others are all-new for the Range Rover Sport. The base P360 SE trim retains the outgoing Sport's turbocharged inline-six with 48-volt mild hybrid system. It produces a healthy 355 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque.
The next-level P400 SE Dynamic trim uses a high-output version of this powertrain and develops 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque.
This turbo-six forms the basis of the P440e Autobiography trim, but the electrical hardware is upgraded to be a full plug-in hybrid, or PHEV. The Range Rover PHEV bumps output to 434 hp, but torque gets a massive upgrade to 619 lb-ft, thanks in part to a 105-kW motor fed by a 31.8-kWh battery pack. While the PHEV has not yet been formally tested by the EPA as of our review's publication time, Land Rover estimates an all-electric range of 48 miles before the gas engine kicks in.
Finally, the range-topping P530 First Edition swaps out all of the fuel-saving hybrid stuff for a full-bore, pedal-to-the-metal twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8. It produces 523 hp and 533 lb-ft of torque — only 5 more hp than the previous model's 5.0-liter V8, but torque from the new motor is up about 70 lb-ft.
Land Rover also says that an all-electric Range Rover Sport is due sometime in 2024.
How does the Range Rover Sport drive?
We drove two versions of the 2023 Range Rover Sport: the V8-powered First Edition model and a plug-in hybrid that will come to the U.S. as the Range Rover Sport 440e. Starting with the V8, the Range Rover Sport feels powerful and unbothered on the road. But even this high-horsepower twin-turbocharged SUV is not exactly a visceral performance machine. Think of the Sport as an agile, more willing version of the full-size Range Rover on which it's based. It certainly feels more rigid and closer to the ground than its larger brother, for instance.
Still, the company avoided going full-bore on the adrenaline. The V8 provides strong, smooth power, but there is a delay if you stomp on the throttle as the dual turbochargers prepare to deliver their whooshing burst of acceleration. The steering also adopts a leisurely pace rather than immediate response to your commands, and the brake pedal — while clearly connected to powerful brakes — feels mushy and surprisingly vague. The Range Rover Sport is easy to drive, but it lacks the engagement and excitement of a BMW X5 M, for example.
To its credit, that smooth demeanor is highlighted to a greater extent in the plug-in hybrid version. We drove a Range Rover Sport 510e Autobiography, which is similar to the less powerful 440e Autobiography that will arrive on U.S. shores later this year. The two share a plug-in hybrid system, so we feel confident that 510e impressions will also apply to the U.S.-bound 440e. And our impressions are good. The Range Rover Sport PHEV supplies smooth and brisk electric power when it's needed most — particularly initial acceleration from a stop, filling in the power gaps during gear shifts, and helping to smooth out the on/off transitions from the fuel-saving engine stop-start system.
The additional weight from the onboard batteries and other components don't necessarily translate to a noticeable lower center of gravity compared with gas versions, but they also don't make the Range Rover Sport PHEV feel heavy or bulky. One pleasant surprise is that the brake pedal feels great and allows you to stop smoothly. On other PHEVs or EVs, the brakes can sometimes be overly grabby or hard to judge because of the combined nature of both regenerative braking and the regular friction brakes.
In short, the PHEV was the best version of the Range Rover Sport we drove.
How comfortable is the Range Rover Sport?
An adaptive air suspension comes standard on every Range Rover Sport — and thank goodness. It would be worth shoveling out extra bucks for as an option, but Land Rover has spared you the effort. The result is excellent ride quality. Even riding on enormous 23-inch wheels, which do produce some bumpiness now and then, the worst road conditions are kept in check by this cushioning technology attached to all four wheels. On smooth roads the ride is simply great — the Sport is more composed than the larger full-size Range Rover with all that extra weight to lug around. The only noise consistently allowed inside the cabin is from wind at highway speeds, and even then, some light tunes or a good conversation will easily drown it out.
How's the Range Rover Sport's interior?
The interior feels modern yet elegant and features a curved 13.1-inch haptic feedback touchscreen that cascades into a concave center console. There's also a 13.7-inch digital information display in front of the driver, giving the Range Rover Sport a high-tech look. Some models have trim pieces outfitted in arresting forged carbon, with a coat of protective resin built in rather than layered on top. Other materials include a sustainable imitation leather upholstery, plus a "technical fabric" used on the upper doors and throughout other strategic locations to help improve the acoustics of the sound system.
How's the Range Rover Sport's tech?
The Range Rover Sport is full of the latest tech you'd expect from a luxury automaker. You'll get useful features such as heated and ventilated seats with 22-way adjustment and massage, selectable driving modes and an available 29-speaker Meridian sound system.
But there are also high-tech features such as active noise cancellation, which uses microphones throughout the vehicle — including some in the wheel arches — to reduce ambient road noise and make the cabin more serene. There is also a cabin air quality ionizer for the climate control system, which eliminates odors, keeps the air fresh and reduces carbon dioxide buildup. Finally, there are a number of high-definition cameras, which can provide a 360-degree perspective and assist with the automated parking feature. The camera array is so advanced that it merits its own sharkfin antenna, along with the other fin for the audio system.
Land Rover's latest operating system, Pivo Pro, will now be featured in the Range Rover Sport and is capable of receiving over-the-air updates to add features or address any bugs. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity is included, along with a 15-watt wireless device charger. We weren't huge fans of Land Rover's last operating system, but based on recent testing, the Pivi Pro is a huge improvement in terms of processor speed and menu clarity.
How's the Range Rover Sport's off-road potential?
Don't let the Sport nomenclature fool you; the Range Rover Sport can handle its own in an off-road environment, to a surprising extent. The standard air suspension is able to raise the ground clearance to an eye-popping 11.1 inches, which is a lot by any SUV standards. As a result the Range Rover Sport can easily pass over hazardous rocks or large ruts in the trail. It also enhances the approach and departure angles needed to keep your front and rear bumpers clear of unforgiving terrain.
We drove the V8-powered First Edition along a trail of moderate — maybe even "moderate plus" — difficulty, with its fair share of obstacles. It came armed with two crucial features: Land Rover's Terrain Response 2 traction technology and the Stormer Handling Pack exclusive to First Edition models. Terrain Response 2 incorporates essential 4x4 equipment, such as numerous off-road driving modes and low-range gearing. For its part, the Stormer Handling Pack added an active rear differential that automatically vectors torque between the rear wheels to maximize available traction during off-roading.
Yet the star of the show was undoubtedly all-wheel steering, which enables the rear wheels to turn slightly, helping the SUV swing its rear out and around rocks and other tight spaces. Less successful was the off-road cruise control system. It worked effectively both up and down steep hills, though its separate adjustable speed and distance controls on the steering wheel were confusing and clunky to operate.
Our favorite things about the redesigned Range Rover Sport weren't the particularly "sporty" parts. Instead, this redesigned model is delightfully smooth and upscale. Not quite a performance machine, the Range Rover Sport instead shines as simply an excellent luxury SUV.