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ROAD TEST: Range Rover Sport SCV6 HSE
When people think Land Rover they generally know that there’s a larnier model in the family called the Range Rover – which has all the bush-whacking and mud-slaying ability associated with the brand, but throws in thicker carpets and softer seats for those preferring a more civilised offroad experience.
The plusher Range Rover also comes with a Sport badge, but what many don’t realise is that the Range Rover Sport is not just, well, a sportier version of the Range Rover – it’s a complete revisit of the equation.
Positioned between the Range Rover and the Evoque ranges, the Sport is designed to be equally good at on-road driving dynamics and veld-skopping ability. And after spending a week with the supercharged 3-litre V6 petrol version, I reckon the engineers have done more than a fair job.
For starters, the latest Range Rover Sport gets an aluminium body structure and lightweight suspension, and is a massive 420kg (or five adults) lighter than its steel-bodied predecessor.
The Sport doesn’t have that usual SUV-like overweight or bloated feel from the wheel – but having said that the 14.3l/100km consumption our test vehicle averaged wasn’t a sterling testament to this.
I dig the muscular look of the Sport, with its low roofline, and monster 21” alloys running 45-profile rubber.
But you have to feel for the marketing boys at Land Rover SA; you take one look at a Range Rover – Sport or otherwise – and you can’t help but think Fat Cat politician. When driving it I was called everything from Malema to Rajbansi, and it didn’t help that our test car was black – which tends to be the preferred choice of the politically connected.
Connotations aside, the Sport is one sweet ride. It sits 55mm lower than the larger and more expensive Range Rover, and gets short overhangs and a more sharply raked windscreen.
Land Rover will tell you that this second-generation version is the most aerodynamic Sport yet, and I don’t doubt it.
The interior is a master class in British luxury, with the pilot’s seat one of the comfiest in the business. It’s hard not to feel like a captain of industry from behind the wheel, especially with those immaculate little adjustable side armrests which both front passengers enjoy.
Throw in an elevated driving position, hardly any wind or road noise, an exemplary Meridian sound system, and more-than-ample power on tap, and you’re ready to take over the world. Or an EFF rally for that matter.
Start scrolling through the menus and you’ll find more exterior cameras than in an ANN7 newsroom here. These are designed to make sure you can see clearances when offroading, and general obstacles (like rocks and kerbs), but would also be perfect for still-shots of Joburg’s smash-and-grabbers, I reckon.
What I’m not all that impressed with is the old-school touchscreen functionality that Land Rover uses in its cars. The screen sometimes requires more than one prod to get things moving, and the menus could really be more intuitive.
The Sport feels very solid, with its body 25 percent stiffer than before. Despite the weight-saving aluminium there’s still around 2.2 tons to contend with so it’s not quite a sportscar around corners but all that development has resulted in a SUV that’s able to mask some of the laws of physics quite nicely.
The eight-speed ’box offers a sharper Sport mode; while V8 buyers get an active rear-diff and torque-vectoring tech – which all allude to an SUV with a more-engaging side.
The sprint times of the 250kW/450Nm supercharged 3-litre V6 version we tested were respectable too, clocking 7.4 seconds from 0-100km/h.
If all-out performance is your focus, though, we’d recommend the 375kW supercharged 5-litre V8; we drove it at the recent media launch and let’s just say that it’s rather entertaining.
Land Rover fans will be pleased to hear that none of the brand’s ancestry has been lost on this athletic model.
It’s still an offroader at heart offering 51mm greater ground clearance (278mm) than its predecessor. The air suspension and simple-to-use terrain response systems have been upgraded too, with the former now offering an intermediate ride-height setting that will hold at speeds of up to 80km/h.
The Sport will also crawl through water a full 850mm deep (a 150mm improvement) thanks to a new air-intake system and a Wade Sensing feature.
Not to mention all the usual toys like Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control, Hill Start Assist, Dynamic Stability Control, Electronic Traction Control, and Roll Stability Control.
So let’s just say you’ll hold your own with other Landies on 4x4 trails, but run away from most of them on the road.
We chose the Sport as this publication’s adventure vehicle of the year in 2013, and for good reason.
It offers an almost-perfect balance between style and comfort, and on and offroad ability.
If you’re looking for an all-rounder for your garage, that will make both weekday and weekend motoring enjoyable, this is your baby.
It sells for R1 057 074 in the high-spec HSE version we tested, but also comes in a lower-spec S for R824 474. -Star Motoring
Follow me on twitter: @mineshbhagaloo
Range Rover Sport SCV6 HSE
Engine: V6, 3-litre supercharged petrol
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
Power: 250kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: 450Nm @ 3500 - 5000rpm
0-100km/h (Gauteng): 7.4 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 210km/h
Consumption (claimed): 11.3 l/100km
Price: R1 057 074
Maintenance plan: 5-year/100 000km