It was just a little scary driving the Range Rover Sport up a ramp to second-floor height 5 metres up the air, through a DC-10 airliner and back down again. The scary part being, of course, the unholy mess likely to be made by around R1 million worth of 4×4 tumbling to destruction. This was Land Rover South Africa’s way of introducing us to the new-generation Sport.
There was method, of a sort, to this madness. It neatly showed off the Range Rover Sport’s superb approach and departure angles (slopes of 26, 29, 34 and 35 degrees were involved), its maneuverability, massive torque, fine 4×4 control and, of course, the very handy cameras that allow the driver to see, from above, exactly where he is planting those big, fat tyres.
Wait a minute, are we talking Range Rover Sport here? You know, the one with the sporty attitude, the grunt, and plenty of potential, but the one that’s not r-e-a-l-l-y expected to spend much time off the tar. A poser’s car. Well, the second-generation is good off-road, too. Climbing, descending, wading, tilting, on smooth ground or rocky, the Sport is a very impressive performer indeed. On the road, like its predecessor, it’s fully capable of blowing off so-called performance cars.
This time around, though, Land Rover is talking up the Sport’s all-terrain prowess. That this doesn’t appear to have compromised the Sport’s on-road abilities was demonstrated on an extended jaunt through Gauteng’s horsey-country back roads and on the race track.
Road performance benefits from new or enhanced chassis technologies that include Adaptive Dynamics with continuously variable dampers, and a Dynamic mode with active lean control, a rear locking diff, and Torque Vectoring. But there’s one thing more than any other responsible for its lively demeanour: a massive 420 kg weight reduction compared with its predecessor. That’s mostly responsible for the 14 per cent drop in CO2 emissions and the concomitant improvement in fuel economy.
The new Sport uses lightweight suspension design and dynamic chassis technologies, in an all-new, first-in-class aluminium architecture. Its slightly more assertive look, with shorter overhangs, more raked windscreen and lower roof, add up to an 8 per cent improvement in drag factor compared with the previous model.
What is described as class-leading wheel travel (up to 272 mm) combines with exceptional ground clearance, air suspension and next-generation Terrain Response system provide outstanding off-road prowess. In addition to jacking the vehicle’s suspension up 65 mm above normal road ride height for off-road travel, the air suspension can automatically extend another 35 cm in response to sensors indicating an obstacle, and a further 35 mm by manual selection.
Optional Wade Sensing (wading depth is now up to 850 mm) shows on the dashboard display how deep the vehicle is. There’s a choice of two full-time 4WD systems. The first has a two-speed transfer case with low-range option and a front-rear 50/50 per cent default torque split with 100 per cent locking capability. Alternatively, you can have a lighter single-speed transfer case with a Torsen differential, slightly biased towards rear-drive.
Engine V8 5.0/V6 3.0/V6 3.0 diesel
Output V8 375/V6 250 kW/SDV6 215 kW
Performance 0-100 km/h 5,3 s (V8)
Price from R824 500