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2014 Range Rover Sport - Long-Term Report: Part 3 of 4

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on February 16, 2015
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When you pay upwards of six figures for a vehicle you don’t expect it to do everything well. You demand it. So far, our 2014 Four Wheeler of the Year, the Range Rover Sport, has mostly delivered on that front. We’re still in love with the 510hp supercharged 5.0L’s acceleration, the smooth transmission, tight and responsive chassis, and the seamless four-wheel-drive system. But what happens when you use a vehicle like this in a way that 96 percent of the people who buy it wouldn’t? You know, wheel it, tow with it, and haul junk with it. Bob’s your uncle; we’re your huckleberry.

As for carrying bulky cargo, the retractable cargo cover can be removed from the vehicle and the rear seats folded down to provide a decent amount of storage. You can fold the rear seatbacks down in thirds for single, multiple, or no passengers. We’ve hauled several toilets home from our local hardware store (new in the box, not used), hung mountain bikes off the back and inside of it, and even loaded the rear with power tools, a toolbox, and building supplies. The cargo area lifts up to expose the spare tire, but the floor material isn’t as flimsy as cheaper vehicle’s, and it feels like it can hold some weight without bowing or folding up. Our test model isn’t equipped with roof rails, so we can’t add an external cargo rack, which would come in handy in some situations. With the rear seats folded up and in use, the rear cargo area has ample floor area, but the raked rear window does intrude in the cargo area, so shelve your dreams of moving furniture and really bulky boxes with more than two passengers aboard.

With about 12 inches front and almost 14 inches in the rear, the Rover Sport rivals a Raptor in terms of wheel travel. And unlike most IFS/IRS chassis that wheel like a sheet of plywood, the Range Rover Sport will actually articulate, allowing the tires to keep in contract with the terrain for better traction. And if all fails, there’s a real locker in the back and a seamless brake modulation system to keep the front pulling.

Our supercharged ’14 Range Rover Sport has a towing capacity of 7,716 pounds, and we used almost every ounce of that capability a few times. With an adjustable air suspension and backup camera, we figured hooking up our trailer would be a breeze, but it’s actually a bit frustrating. For starters, the angle on the camera doesn’t cover the trailer ball, so while you can get it close, you’re really worried about poking your trailer hitch through the rear valance. It’s best to just put the transmission in Park and get out and look. But once you put the vehicle in Park, it resets the collision avoidance system. Forget to turn it off a second time and the transmission automatically goes from Reverse back to Park, because the collision system thinks you’re about to back into something. In all, they’re minor issues, but still annoyances.

We first took an all-freeway towing trip with a Jeep and trailer combo of around 7,000 pounds. Despite a decent amount of tongue weight, the Sport’s air suspension leveled the vehicle and the drivetrain had no problem coping with the load. Even with the trailer brakes at their lowest setting, the huge Brembo brakes made hauling down from speed a non-issue. In fact, even with a loaded trailer, this vehicle stops as well (or maybe better) as some lifted vehicles with 37s we’ve driven. On the highway at legal towing speeds we never felt like the trailer was pushing or manhandling the lighter tow rig around. Credit no doubt goes to the Sport’s full-time four-wheel-drive system and very well tuned on-road stability systems. The transmission didn’t hunt for gears, and we were able to comfortably cruise with traffic no matter the grade. Our combined mileage over a 400-mile route with the Jeep in tow was 13.66 mpg, despite some pretty steep grades. Color us impressed. We also hauled a 23-foot wakeboarding boat and trailer combo weighing roughly 6,000 pounds around Lake Havasu City over a long weekend. Like the Jeep/trailer, the boat towed beautifully, and with hydraulic trailer brakes, it stopped even better, and the full-time four-wheel drive is just the thing for recovering your boat at the slippery launch with nary a hint of tire spin. The in-town towing mileage was our worst tank of our testing so far at 9.3 mpg.

Hauling a 7,000-pound Jeep and trailer combo or splashing and recovering a 23-foot wakeboard boat, the Range Rover Sport’s 7,716-pound tow rating has come in handy during our time with it.

Poking around some of the off-highway roads and trails in western Arizona, we gouged one of our low-profile front tires on a very benign-looking rock, but otherwise, we could raise the air suspension enough to keep our front and rear fascias out of the dirt in most situations. When off-road, selecting the “rock” mode requires the T-case be put in Low. This also automatically raises the suspension to its maximum height and readies the T-case and rear diff lock. Wheeling the Rover Sport is a really seamless experience with virtually no wheel slippage, buzzing, clicking, or other shenanigans associated with IFS/IRS platforms that rely on electronic aids to get you down the trail. You definitely know it’s an off-road-bred chassis by the way it wheels. And by the way, all the components from the driveshafts, T-case, fuel tank, and even exhaust tips are all within the vehicle’s silhouette. That means there’s nothing hanging down, off, or behind it, and everything underneath is covered with a nice, heavy skidplate. Add a set of steel bumpers, rocker guards, and tires with more sidewall and an aggressive tread, and we’re betting there’s very little that would stand in its way. Hmmmmm...rock rails and bumpers.

You need to shift into Neutral and hit Low on the T-case to get Rock mode to activate. Once that’s done, the rear locker and T-case diff lock come into play, and the suspension raises to its maximum level. The throttle becomes less sharp for smoother input, and the vehicle will hold First gear longer. We’ll get into what the other modes do off-road in our next update.

Options As Tested
Adaptive cruise control ($1,295), Santorini black contrast roof ($650), Dynamic Package: 21-inch wheels, TFT virtual display, red badges, aluminum gas and brake pedals, 155 mph top speed, special interior colors and piping, gloss black mirrors, sport textured aluminum trim ($2,500), ebony headliner ($350), Luxury Climate Comfort & Visibility Pack: heated and cooled front and rear seats, front cooler box, 16-way power seats, auto dim exterior mirrors, adaptive headlights, heated windshield and steering wheel, four-zone climate control ($3,545), Meridian Premium Audio Pac: 825 watts, 19 speaker surround sound, and satellite and HD radio ($2,000), rear-seat entertainment ($1,800)

Report: 3 OF 4
Previous reports: Sept. ’14, Dec. ’14
Base price: $79,100
Price as tested: $94,085
Four-wheel-drive system: Full-time electronically controlled, two-speed

Long-Term Numbers
Miles to date: 22,519
Miles since last report: 5,927
Average mpg (this report): 15.07
Test best tank (mpg): 18.93 (highway between 70-75 mph)
Test worst tank (mpg): 9.30 (in-town towing 7,000lb boat/trailer)

Maintenance
This period: None
Problem areas: Clearcoat on wheels beginning to check

What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Surprisingly capable towing performance
Not: White seat leather starting to look yellow unless you bust out the saddle soap every other day

Logbook Quotes
“The brakes on this thing just keep getting better.”
“People look at me like I’m better than I am when I’m driving this sucker.”
“Backup camera not designed for easy trailer hookup.”
“Every vehicle needs at least 500 hp.”

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