We Sadly Return Our 510 hp 2014 Range Rover Sport

    The British Bullet

    Fred WilliamsPhotographer, Writer

    It’s rare when I don’t want to write a story for this magazine, but this is one I’d really like to postpone for another year or three. This is our end-of-the-year review of our 2014 4x4 of the Year, the Range Rover Sport (“Range Rover Sport Wins!” Feb. ’14). I’d rather just keep testing it. After each test we take the winner and live with it for a year to get to know whether the vehicle we chose is up to snuff for daily driving and weekend wheeling.

    Not only is this Range Rover up to snuff, but it’s a lot of fun. What other stock 4x4 have you driven with 510 hp? Not too many (or any, if you’re like us and usually drive old trucks and beat up wheeling rigs). So when I got to slide my grubby jeans into the fine 14-way adjustable heated leather seats behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel (also heated) and mash the go peddle and let all those ponies run, I didn’t want to get out. Other than the fact that I’m not your normal Range Rover owner, it felt really good.

    This $90,000 SUV (sticker as tested: $90,585) is really much nicer than guys like me deserve to drive. It’s like the prettiest girl in school agreed to go to the prom with the buck- toothed farm boy. I had to be extra careful that I wasn’t hopping in with a screwdriver in my back pocket or greasy hands. Even so, I’m sure the detail job will cost a pretty penny before I return it because there may be some sand in the carpet and spilt coffee in the center console. Can you blame me? They gave it to me for a year to drive, and drive it I did!

    We know what you’re thinking. Why did this fancy vehicle win the 2014 test if it’s so expensive? If you recall, it beat out the 2014 Silverado 1500, 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel, and 2014 Ram 2500 diesel because it has all those horses in its stable (510 hp, 461 lb-ft of torque via a supercharged 5.0L V-8) and is darn fun to drive! Does it work off road? Yes, very well, especially on terrains like sand where big power makes a difference. It is also not a slouch at rockcrawling, but you need to be wary of the low-profile tires and expensive bodywork.

    So it’s with a frown that we hand over the keys (actually the wireless key fob thingy that activates the pushbutton start) to the Sport and await our next yearlong test. But we can’t say it wasn’t a fun trip to the prom.

    Any SUV on 21-inch rims with low-profile 275/45R21 Michelin tires gives off the look and feel of a street machine and not a dirt toy. We found that these tires worked great for hucking the truck down twisty mountain asphalt at speed, but a 21x9.5 wheel leaves very few options for aggressive off-road tires. However, those rims were an option. The standard 20-inch wheel will clear the massive 4-wheel discs, which would open up a plethora of more dirt-friendly tires.

    The Range Rover Sport is one of the many vehicles that run the ZF8HP70 automatic transmission. This eight-speed transmission is found in everything from Rolls Royces to half-ton Ram trucks and Maseratis to Dodge Challengers and Chargers. It is made to go behind a V-8 and has gearing from a 4.7 First up to a 0.667 overdrive. The transmission worked excellent, but the shifting was unusual because it requires a forward shift for reverse and a rearward shift for drive but then a pushbutton for park. However, we really enjoyed the steering wheel paddle shifting for when in the sport driving mode.

    Off-road the Range Rover is most at home in the sand. Rockcrawling is sketchy with the low-profile tires and $90,000 price tag but not impossible. In fact, the traction control is quite proficient, but door dings and rocker panel dents would be hard to swallow for anyone but the seriously well heeled. But in the sand it’s a whole different story. This is where the traction control helps the rover get on top of the sand and then the supercharged 5.0L takes over and puts a grin on your face. The car works like a high-dollar dune buggy, roosting up dunes, carving bowls, and sounding excellent as the exhaust screams while low-profile tires skip over loose sand.

    The Rover is leaving and we will miss it. Yes, it’s expensive and more of a sports car than a truck, but if we had to pick something to hop in and bomb across the country while still having the ability to explore backroads (both dirt and tarmac), this would be a hard truck to leave at home. It has great power, is very comfortable, and offers a variety of driving experiences, from sports car to sport/utility. It is fun to drive, and that is why we will miss it.

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