This improved second generation Range Rover Sport SDV8 offers even more muscle and a greater degree of customer choice. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
With the SDV8 4.4-litre turbodiesel under its bonnet, the Range Rover Sport is very desirable indeed and gets a slightly smarter look in his revised guise. Under the bonnet, there's 339PS and a massive 740Nm of torque which delivers prodigious in-gear acceleration. Off-road ability remains suitably burly and owners get a whole host of personalisation options to choose from.
Here's a car that claims to be able to do.. well, almost everything. It'll cruise on the autobahn at 130mph, ford rivers in the Serengeti, take a family of seven on holiday and slip you down to the shops. It can be affordable to run, rewarding to drive and looks dynamic and stylish. There has to be a catch - doesn't there? Time to check out the improved version of this second generation Range Rover Sport.
Built around a lightweight aluminium chassis, the Range Rover Sport can not only seat up to seven but now has the reflexes and the efficiency to trade punches with the class best. This SDV8 model represents the top of the tree as far as diesel engines go.
As much as we talk about the lightweight nature of the Range Rover Sport, climb into one and you'll realise that this is still a 2.4-tonne hunk of automotive real estate. The 4.4-litre twin-turbo diesel V8 therefore does a sterling job shifting it from its inert state to 62mph in just 6.9 seconds. That's a courtesy of a voluptuous 740Nm. This delivers rapid in-gear acceleration, ensuring effortless overtaking ability and a prodigious 3.5-tonne towing capability. The ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox incorporates a twin-spring damper to cope with the increased muscle.
The Sport's standard fit air suspension provides up to 115mm of regular movement, from the lowest 50mm setting to the standard off-road height. There's a +35mm intermediate setting which means that the off-road mode can remain available at quite high speeds, which is valuable in terrain with long, rutted dirt roads. The electric power steering offers a light feel and there's a proper full-time 4WD system featuring a two-speed transfer case with low-range option for the most demanding off-road conditions. You get a front-rear 50/50 percent default torque split and 100 percent locking capability, so not much will stop you.
There's nothing too surprising about the Range Rover Sport's appearance. It's good looking, neatly detailed and very eye-catching. Minor changes have been made to the exterior styling of this revised MK2 model, with more piercing intelligent Matrix Pixel LED headlights sitting alongside a redesigned grille. This is complemented by a restyled bumper with a more aggressive profile. Otherwise, it's as you were, so the clamshell bonnet, the 'floating' roof, the powerful wheelarches and the side fender vents that have always defined this model are all present and correct.
And inside? Well, you'd be disappointed if you didn't have to climb up into a Range Rover - that's part of its appeal - though older folk can ease the process by selecting the lower 'Access' mode on models fitted with air suspension. Once installed in the generously side bolstered seats though, there's no mistaking that you're at the wheel of this British institutional model's younger, slightly smaller and much sportier twin. For a start, you're sat a tad lower than you would be in a Range Rover, plus the more compact thicker-rimmed wheel's smaller, the upright gearstick more purposeful and the centre console higher. The key interior change with his revised model lies with the addition of the brand's latest Touch Pro Duo infotainment system which features a pair of high-definition 10-inch touchscreens that form the centrepiece of the minimalist cabin.
In the back, there's plenty of room thanks to the large wheelbase and the option of a sliding seat. Which you'll need if you choose the 7-seat option and want to make the atmosphere for third row occupants a bit less cramped. Boot capacity isn't massive at 784-litres, but with the rear bench folded, the 1,784-litre total will be sufficient for most.
The SDV8 diesel 'Sport' variant only comes with top 'Autobiography Dynamic' trim, which is why it's pricey, pitching at around £92,000. And that's before you start wading into Land Rover's ridiculously tempting options list. In case you were wondering, that sort of sum is actually more than you need to by a fully-fledged Range Rover with this engine, though of course if you go that route, this sort of money gets you a much lower level of trim. For many, this Range Rover Sport SDV8 will be the better all-round choice, offering the best on/off road compromise as well as the most predictable residual values.
Fresh technology introduced into this revised model includes two features we really like. First, the 'Gesture sunblind' which is opened and closed by an advanced gesture control system that senses an occupant's hand movement. All it takes to open the blind is a rearward swipe in front of the rear view mirror, and forwards to close. Also desirable are the 'Pixel-laser LED headlights': here, advanced technology provides greater luminance and intelligently blanks sections of LEDs to help to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers. We'd also want the 'Advanced Tow Assist' system. This takes care of the difficult counter-steering required to position trailers accurately when reversing. The driver can simply guide the trailer into the desired space using the rotary controller for the Terrain Response 2 system.
How many miles per gallon is reasonable here for the amount of performance and practicality you're getting? How many other seven-seat SUVs can pack over 300PS, beat their way through virtually any terrain imaginable and still get better than 30mpg? That list is pretty exclusive yet the Sport SDV8 manages a combined fuel economy figure of 26.7mpg. While that's bettered by BMW's mighty xDriveM50d, these feel very different cars and will be bought by different buyers.
The Sport SDV8 records emissions figures of 244g/km which remains some way off the class best. So despite the weight loss plan, the SDV8 powerplant can't compete with the most advanced engines in the SUV class. That's a bit of a shame, because the rest of the package is world class. Even with this slight caveat, the Sport SDV8 is a formidable package.
The Range Rover Sport SDV8 lives up to its undoubted potential. The Sport has been a frustrating car to witness, Land Rover's development team seeming to attend to one aspect of its dynamics as another falls off the pace. Its economy and emissions are still one area where it lags behind the class best. That'll be quite a challenge for Land Rover to overcome. In virtually every other regard though, the latest Sport SDV8 is a genuine force to be reckoned with.
Nobody ever said building world class cars was easy and Land Rover have grown to understand the subtleties of the market. Customers here want to be able to personalise cars to their own tastes, and many still wouldn't contemplate a Porsche, an Audi, a BMW or a Mercedes product. There's still work to be done here, but the Range Rover Sport SDV8 is a class act.
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