Lighter, lower, marginally longer, much 'greener' and a whole lot quicker than its predecessor this is the all-new Range Rover Sport, which makes its world debut today (27 March) on the streets of New York.
Why New York? Turns out more Range Rover Sports are sold in the United States than any other global market and New York is the model's best-selling city.
Developed alongside the new Range Rover, the new Range Rover Sport has a bolder, more assertive exterior, more luxurious interior and the option of occasional 5+2 seating. New, first-in-class aluminium architecture achieves a weight saving of nearly half a tonne, which improves agility and handling without compromising comfort, while Land Rover also claims to have reduced CO2 emissions to 194g/km.
The new Sport is firmly positioned between the Range Rover and the Evoque through a clear, shared design DNA. A significantly longer wheelbase (increased by 178mm) provides greater room and improved access for rear passengers but shorter overhangs front and rear make it only 62mm longer than its predecessor and, at 4850mm, shorter than other seven-seater SUVs and most E-segment sedans.
A 'faster' windscreen angle, streamlined and rounded profile and lower, dynamic sloping roofline make it eight percent more aerodynamic than its predecessor, with a Cd of 0.34. Model for model, it's 149mm shorter, 55mm lower and 45kg lighter than the new Range Rover on which it is based.
It will be available with a choice of rims ranging through 19, 20, 21 and 22" designs, including the sporty 'Viper's Nest', now available on all Range Rover models.
The new Sport’s lightweight aluminium suspension is fully independent, with double wishbones at the front and a multi-link layout at the rear.
Wheel-travel is 260mm front and 272mm rear, providing an athletic wheel articulation of 546mm, while ground clearance has been increased 51mm to 278mm. Fifth-generation air suspension provides up to 115mm of adjustment, from the lowest setting 'access height' (now 10mm lower at 50mm for easier entry and exit) to the standard off-road height.
A 35mm extension, either triggered by sensors or manually selected, gives a total movement range of 185mm.
The re-engineered air suspension system with its new +35mm intermediate setting means that the off-road mode can remain available at much higher speeds - 80km/h rather than 50km/h - invaluable in terrain such as South Africa or the Australian outback, with long, rutted dirt roads.
Land Rover says the all-new, electric power steering gives a lighter, more direct steering feel; given that electric power-steering systems generally have a poor reputation, we'll thake that one under advisement until we've driven the new Rangie.
A choice of two full-time four-wheel-drive systems will be offered. The standard system has a single-speed transfer case with a Torsen differential that automatically distributes torque to the axle with most grip, working together with the traction control systems.
Its default front-rear torque split of 42/58 percent is designed to provide a rear-wheel drive bias for improved driving dynamics on tar.
The alternative system has a two-speed transfer case with low-range option, for the most demanding off-road conditions, with a 50/50 default front-rear torque split, and 100 percent locking capability.
Customers will have a choice of two engines at launch - a 375kW supercharged five-litre petrol V8 and a 215kW three-litre SDV6 diesel.
This line-up will be expanded early in 2014 by the addition of a 190kW three-litre TDV6 and a high performance, 250kW 4.4-litre SDV8 diesel. A diesel hybrid model twill also be available to order in 2014.
All engines in the new Range Rover Sport drive through an electronically-controlled ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic transmission.
The big petrol V8 model will sprint from 0-100 in five seconds flat, while quoted fuel consumption is down by as much as 24 percent - depending on model - and CO2 emissions to as low as 194g/km.
And that will be improved still further in 2014 with the introduction of a diesel hybrid for which the makers claim CO2 emissions of only 169g/km.
All models also have an idle-stop function as standard.
MODERN, LUXURIOUS INTERIOR
The new Range Rover Sport is so much lighter than its predecessor that Land Rover are even looking at the possibility of a future derivative with a smaller, four-cylinder engine - which would weigh in at under two tonnes, more than half a tonne less than the previous lightest model.
That's thanks to its all-aluminium body structure - a first in a SUV according to Land Rover - fabricated from a mix of pressed panels and cast, extruded and rolled aluminium alloy components, so that its strength is concentrated where the loads are greatest, and it's 39 percent lighter than the previous model's.
The cabin gets a cleaner, less cluttered layout, with soft-touch surfaces at key touch points, and a sportier feel with a smaller diameter, thicker steering wheel, a vertical gear shifter, higher centre console, configurable mood lighting and a more sporting seating position similar to the Evoque, with more generous seat bolsters.
The cabin is 55mm wider than that of the previous generation, and rear-seat passengers get 24mm more leg-room, while occasional 5+2 seating can be specified, with 50/50 split third-row seats that fold flat when not in use to provide a luggage compartment the same size as that of the five-seater.
New chassis technologies include adaptive dynamics with continuously variable dampers and, on more powerful models, a dedicated Dynamic mode in the Terrain Response system for enthusiastic on-road driving. This system is combined with twin-channel dynamic response active lean control, an active rear locking differential and torque vectoring by braking, which transfers torque to the outside wheels during cornering to reduce understeer.
What Land Rover calls 'connected car' technology allows the driver to check the status of the vehicle via an app installed on their smartphone and also provides support features such as stolen vehicle tracking, emergency call and assistance call.
In addition, a high bandwidth Wi-Fi hotspot can be installed so that passengers can use the internet and get the best data connection for their smartphones or tablets.
An optional colour head-up Display presents key vehicle and navigation data using laser technology for superior clarity and contrast, while a new digital camera system supports three driver assistance features: lane departure warning, traffic-sign recognition and automatic high-beam assist.
Also useful is a new wade sensing feature that provides 'depth' information when driving through water - especially since the Sport's maximum wading depth has increased by 150mm to 850mm!
COMING SOON TO A COUNTRY CLUB NEAR YOU
The new Range Rover Sport will go on sale worldwide during the third quarter of 2013, in a choice of three trim levels (HSE, HSE Dynamic and Autobiography Dynamic). An SE derivative will also be available on TDV6 models from early 2014.