What is it?
A new version of one of this year’s must-have luxury SUVs: the Range Rover Sport SDV8.
Land Rover must be among the greatest places anywhere in the UK to work right now. The wave of growth and success that the firm has been riding these past two years is showing no signs of slowing, and under circumstances like that, few will wonder – or even care – how the company might be different today if it was still part of the BMW Group.
The irony is that, if that were the case, this new performance diesel version of the Range Rover Sport might have been almost perfect. Instead, Land Rover’s customers and its management will have to settle for ‘class-leading’ and ‘very good indeed’.
What’s it like?
It seems only a heartbeat since the new ‘L494’ Range Sport was introduced, but Land Rover has just released a 2014 model-year update for the car, adding a few options, driver aids and connectivity systems to the car, but accounting for no exterior or interior design changes. The headline introductions are engine derivatives.
Ready for delivery early next year, you can now order a 335bhp, 169g/km diesel-electric Range Rover Sport Hybrid if you want to – or this 334bhp, 140mph SDV8 diesel instead. In an interesting pricing tactic, either one will cost you precisely £81,550 on the road.
Powering the SDV8 is the same 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged diesel V8 you’ll find in the larger Range Rover, and after a few revisions, also in the last Range Sport SDV8. It makes for a car that’s now a little shy of the horsepower and performance standard set by the likes of the BMW X5 M50d and Porsche Cayenne S Diesel, but still promises sub-7.0sec 0-62mph acceleration and better than 30mpg ‘combined’.
As you are in every Range Sport, you’re aware of the SDV8’s weight and height during a cross-country drive – and not only because both are present, but because Land Rover doesn’t try to disguise either. While it’s an excellent handling example of the breed, this isn’t one of those SUVs that’s desperately striving to convince you that it’s a sports saloon.
It has a natch more body roll than the X5 and Cayenne, but critically that makes it easier to drive: more natural, communicative and consistent in its handling, easier to place, and sweeter and more trustworthy. The car’s steering precision is excellent, its balance of grip likewise, and it feels fluent and flattering when driven quickly.
But, while brisk, it isn’t all that quick. Despite the 516lb ft of torque, the performance gap up to the supercharged petrol is still big enough to notice. Overtaking’s very easily achieved, speed can be piled on every bit as is really advisable in a 2.5-tonner, and refinement is strong. But the V8 doesn’t rev with the freedom or ferocity of BMW’s tri-turbo six-pot turbodiesel, and doesn’t feel as flexible.
Should I buy one?
Yes. In spite of all that, you’d take this Range Rover Sport over either the BMW X5 M50d or the aforementioned Porsche, for the honesty, polish and poise it shows on the road, for its excellent rolling comfort, as well as for the warmth and luxury of its cabin and its unquestionable superiority over the rough stuff.
What Land Rover has demonstrated yet again with this car is that it understands how to make proper big 4x4s feel small and manageable. And that’s to make them comfortable and coherent to drive, as well as taut and controlled.
Range Rover Sport SDV8 Autobiography Dynamic
Price £81,550; 0-62mph 6.9sec; Top speed 140mph; Economy 32.5mpg; CO2 229g/km; Kerbweight 2398kg; Engine type, cc V8, 4367cc, turbodiesel; Power 334bhp at 3500rpm; Torque 516lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 8-speed automatic
What is it?