2014 Range Rover Sport - Long-Term Report: Part 1of 4

    Luxury That Hauls Ass

    Christian HazelPhotographer, Writer

    Forget any preconceived notions you may have about Range Rover. Yes, the bulk of Rover’s present-day clientele differs vastly from the hoi-polloi who scooped up the first utilitarian models that came off Land Rover’s assembly line back in 1970. But despite its excessive luxury, the present-day Range Rover hasn’t lost any of the off-road prowess that made the brand famous. The current 2014 Range Rover Sport has more horsepower than a Grand Cherokee SRT, nearly as much wheel travel as a Ford Raptor, and handling that would make a BMW M3 pull up its skirt and run for the powder room. It is an amazing vehicle.

    Therefore, it should come as little surprise the 2014 Range Rover Sport easily mopped the competition to take home our 2014 Four Wheeler of the Year award. And the same Chile Red vehicle that we flogged in our testing is the one we’ll be spending the next year and umpteen-thousands of miles in. With creature comforts rivaling a five-star luxury resort and an absurd 510hp supercharged V-8 under the hood, it’s a sacrifice we’re not unwilling to make. But with a base price of almost $80,000, we’ll admit it’s a sacrifice few will be able to make.

    “Fighter jet: all that’s lacking is missiles and machine guns”

    The base price gets you a lot in the way of performance. You’ll have to tick the Dynamic Package for an additional $2,500 to get the 21-inch wheels and sticky Pirelli Scorpion speed-rated tires that’ll bump top-speed up to an electronically limited 155 mph. Otherwise, all the important items like the supercharged, intercooled 5.0L V-8 with 510 hp and 461 lb-ft, excellent eight-speed ZF automatic tranny with lightning-fast auxiliary paddle shifters, two-speed T-case that can split power from 100 percent front, rear, or any combination between, auto-terrain response four-wheel-drive system, hill descent, adjustable air suspension, electronic rear diff, and more comes as standard. In all, it’s a drivetrain system that lets you rail high-G corners on-road with nary a hint of body roll or mow through a mogul-strewn trail at speed while barely ruffling the grocery bags in the back.

    Delivering 510 hp, a best-as-yet 24 mpg tank, and an exhaust note sweeter than a thousand anvil-pounding blacksmith angels, the 5.0L supercharged, intercooled V-8 is a wonder. The airbag suspension, Terrain Response 2 Auto system, electronic traction control, and an active differential all combine to keep you glued to the road, no matter how much of a chucklehead your right foot makes you act.

    Unlike many high-horsepower performance vehicles of this ilk, the 2014 Range Rover Sport is still able to deliver impressive fuel economy. Using features like intelligent start/stop technology (shuts the engine down at stoplights or when the A/C system demands are low), direct fuel injection, and smart regenerative charging that puts the vehicle’s kinetic energy back into the electrical system to reduce fuel demands, the 2014 Range Rover Sport delivers economy numbers of vehicles easily half its horsepower. But despite the fuel savings, the engine is an absolute animal when you want it to be. Clip the accelerator and the response is instantaneous and ferocious. It’s intoxicating and addictive and will ruin you for most other vehicles because everything seems lethargic, stiff, and ungainly by comparison.

    So far, the drivetrain has been flawless. Push the button on the dash and the engine roars to life. Yes, it literally roars. Grrrrrrrrowl—burble, burble, burble. It’s killer. Press the button down on the electronic shifter and push it forward to engage Reverse. Put your foot on the brake, push the button on the shifter again, and pull back to hit Drive. It’s the best electronic shifter we’ve encountered thus far; more intuitive than the rotary button of the Ram pickups and the Dodge Durango and far, far more certain in engagement than the Grand Cherokee. The steering feel and control is flawless, the seats are comfortable, yet supportive, and the clarity and volume of the stereo is nearly without equal in a production system.

    That said, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. So far we’ve noticed some intermittent quirks we feel you shouldn’t have to deal with in a (nearly) $100,000 vehicle. For starters, the aluminum trim along the center console looks killer, but periodically emits a rattle, squeak, and vibration at freeway speeds. Also, the white leather on the driver seat began to show signs of wear and discoloring after about 8,000 miles. Keep in mind the driver only weighs about 175 pounds soaking wet, so it’s not like it’s highly abused or anything. Also, the seat heaters seem to have a work ethic rivaling the British Leyland employees of the mid-1970s: They work when they want to and with varying degrees of efficiency. And finally, although the stereo system sounds crazy good, it’s somewhat ponderous to scroll through the setup panels on the touch-screen to change input (like to select your Bluetooth device) or adjust the video for rear-seat occupants. That said, those are our only gripes thus far.

    Although white leather isn’t exactly great for small kids or muddy off-roading, it speaks to the Rover’s intended high-zoot clientele. The optional rear-seat entertainment package includes headrest-mounted video screens, wireless headsets, and a remote-control. The rear seats are heated and air-conditioned like the fronts.

    It’s a rocket ship you can use to take your family of five off-road on the weekend and then whisk the partners off to lunch after the Monday-afternoon board meeting. Not that we have partners—or board meetings. Check back next time when we’ll have more dirt miles under the speed-rated tires and numbers for the V-8’s first scheduled maintenance.

    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, 155mph 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: 1 Of 4
    Previous reports: None
    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: 12,981
    Miles since last report: 0
    Average mpg (this report): 17.6
    Test best tank (mpg): 24.0 (highway between 70-75 mph)
    Test worst tank (mpg): 11.61 (off-road/in-town driving mix)

    This period: None
    Problem areas: None

    What’s Hot, What’s Not
    Hot: Stupid amounts of power without a huge mpg sacrifice
    Not: Inconvenient entertainment/sound-system controls

    Logbook Quotes
    “Hot cougars in yoga pants flock to this thing”
    “This stereo system is like adding four ears to your head”
    “Why white leather?”

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