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

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on April 24, 2015
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Our year-long test of our 2014 Range Rover Sport Four Wheeler of the Year winner has come to an end. Before we climbed in front of the steering wheel of this vehicle for the very first time, we had some definite preconceived notions about what a modern Range Rover was. You know, a flashy status vehicle designed to appeal to the upper-class nouveau riche while shunning the real off-road-loving hoi polloi. In short, a vehicle that, like a shooting star, would shine bright for a brief moment and then quickly die a violent death of electrical issues and mechanical breakdowns. That’s the popular convention and judging by the volume of hate mail we got when the ’14 Range Rover Sport won, it’s a sentiment shared by almost everybody who reads Four Wheeler. In reality, some of our prejudices proved accurate and some were so far off base it wasn’t funny.

For starters, the Range Rover can actually wheel. The limits to its abilities are the low-profile tires and plastic body cladding. We maintain, with some aluminum bumpers, rocker armor, and some sawzall work to clear a set of tires with decent sidewalls, this would be a really potent off-road vehicle. But nobody is really gonna do that to a $90,000 vehicle so it’s nice that as it sits the suspension flexes, the rear locker doesn’t miss a beat, and the computer-assists are seamless and invisible. You can feel the off-road-bred heritage reaching back to the old “Landies” of the ’40s and ’50s. It really is that good off-road.

The Range Rover Sport’s ground clearance was our biggest restrictor when exploring trails and roads through the Southwest desert. Still, with the suspension at its maximum “off-road” height we rarely had to find a go-around or turn back from an off-road adventure.

On the street, we are still amazed at the abilities of the drivetrain and chassis. Drop the hammer and the 510hp supercharged 5.0L V-8 screams to life all the way up to its 6,500-rpm redline. The acceleration is immediate and vicious. Tap the paddle shifters and the eight-speed auto instantaneously responds as the chassis levels itself in hard cornering and the tires claw and grip ferociously. It’s a track day vehicle that’ll bring bulk groceries home from Costco or tow your boat to the river. It’s pretty much ruined us for all other SUVs. Anything else seems slow, porky, and ponderous by comparison.

And although the interior amenities don’t include Wi-Fi like most of the Range Rover’s market segment competition, with amenities in our test vehicle ranging from a huge moonroof to a center console fridge to the best vehicular sound system we’ve tested to date, you’re not wanting for comfort or conveniences. Nonetheless, that’s not to say everything was peaches and single-malt cream.

Other than the door weatherstripping, rear fascia, and this interior panel coming loose our problems with our test model came down to what we suspect is a bad sensor or electrical glitch that prevents the suspension from lowering down to “access height.”

It’s no secret Rover models from the ’70s through ’90s have earned the brand a reputation of being less than reliable. And in the past 10,000 or so miles our test unit has started to manifest a couple niggling bugs. For starters, an intermittent wind whistle around the driver-side window caused us to take a good look at the door weatherstripping. We were surprised to discover that in several spots the clips holding the rubber weatherstripping around the perimeter of the door shells had popped out of their bores. We reinstalled the stripping, but it continues to periodically pop loose. Also, at around 24,000 miles we heard a loud “clunk” come from the cargo area during a right-hand turn and discovered the access panel for the electrical fuse and battery had come loose and fallen open. We popped it back in place but it’s fallen down a couple times since, despite how carefully we line up the clips. On the outside, the clips holding the corners of the rear fascia to the aluminum body shell behind the rear tires keeps popping out. A rap of the hand puts them back in place, but we’re finding the need to do this to one side of the other almost every time we exit the vehicle. And most recently at 25,873 miles, we hit the suspension lowering button for “entry height” so passengers could exit more easily. The suspension lowered and then automatically rose to its maximum “off-road height” because the vehicle is sensing obstacles that aren’t there.

The departure angles are a bit better than the approach angles, so as long as you can get the front through without dragging, you’re sure to exit cleanly. We never clipped one of the polished exhaust tips or tow hitch on the moderate trails and unimproved desert roads we ventured down.

We intended to bring all these problems up with our local dealership during our vehicle’s next service, but as of yet, the vehicle just keeps chugging along and the on-board diagnostics don’t require any service as yet. And most of these are minor issues common with first-year production runs. We suspect in short order Land Rover will figure out how to better retain the weatherstripping and fascia to the new aluminum body more securely. But as far as the drivetrain reliability is concerned, the engine, transmission, four-wheel-drive system, and brakes have been absolutely flawless. We’ve enjoyed the hell out of this 2014 Range Rover Sport both on- and off-road. It’ll be hard to see the taillights getting smaller in the distance as it goes back to the factory.

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 Pack – 825 watts, 19-speaker surround sound, satellite and HD radio ($2,000), rear seat entertainment ($1,800)

Report 4 Of 4
Previous reports: Sept. ’14, Dec. ’14, Mar. ‘15
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: 26,296
Miles since last report: 3,777
Average mpg (this report): 14.97
Test best tank (mpg): 18.37 (highway between 70-75 mph)
Test worst tank (mpg): 13.26 (in-town towing)

Maintenance
This period: None
Problem areas: Weatherstripping falling off, interior panels coming loose, entry height suspension lowering function inconsistent, body panels coming loose

What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Drivetrain and chassis still flawless
Not: Feels like it’s already coming apart at the seams

Logbook Quotes
“It’s uncanny how similar a Ford Explorer looks like this when parked side-by-side.”
“The driver seat is starting to look pretty ratty now that it’s got over 20,000 miles of butt-wear on it.”
“What this thing could do off-road with a decent-height sidewall.”
“Grrr, it growls at you when you fire it up on a cold morning.”

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