by Adrian Foster
It is a sign of the times that luxury brands like Range Rover are increasingly striving for greater economy and lower toxic emissions. Indeed the company takes its green responsibility very seriously. The Range Rover Sport is smaller and sleeker than the regular Range Rover as designers have targeted on-road performance during its development rather than strictly hard-core off-road capability.
As the flagship for Range Rover Sport, Autobiography Sport represents the ultimate expression of sporting luxury and style, according to Land Rover. The upgraded leather trim package offers two new two-toned interior themes – Cannes and revised Valencia; and five interior themes with varying degrees of sportiness – Estoril, Hockenheim, Le Mans, Monaco and Monza. All include a special Autobiography Sport front grille, 20 inch alloy wheels, polished Autobiography door tread plates as well as body-coloured door handles, special badging and a tow eye.
The latest power plant in the Range Rover Sport is a cleaner, more efficient three-litre diesel. Added to this is a seamlessly-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox which also features paddle controls placed behind the steering wheel. In conjunction with the new gearbox, the Sport comes equipped with a BMW-inspired ‘Drive Select' rotary gear selector. Other new features, some available as optional extras, include a dual-view touch screen that allows the passenger to watch TV or video while not distracting the driver, WhiteFire wireless technology which enhances rear seat entertainment and a superb, ear blasting Harmon Kardon 825W, 17-speaker audio system. There is also the 'Say What You See' voice command system for audio and satellite navigation as well as USB and Bluetooth connectivity and a hard drive music server.
Possibly most impressive is the smoothness of the ride. Bumps, potholes and rippled surfaces won’t disturb or unsettle the big vehicle as it regally irons out copious road imperfections. Continuous development has resulted in a nigh-on perfect compromise between comfort and handling which allows the Sport to be hustled through bends at indecent speed with little roll and even less drama.
The new engine is an impressive addition to what is an excellent car that has been tweaked for 2012 with exterior and interior revisions and a lightweight aluminium single piece powered tailgate. Power has been increased from 245bhp to 256bhp, while CO2 emissions are reduced from 243g/km to 230g/km. All come equipped with a diesel particulate filter making them among the cleanest big diesel engines on the market.
On the open road, which is where this car will spend much of its life, the whisper-quiet turbo diesel rockets the three-tonne-odd vehicle from 0 to 60mph in just 8.5 seconds. Despite its height and bulk, it sits well in corners with reassuring and utterly predictable handling. Steering is well weighted and direct and the cabin, with its big windows and large glass area, is a comfort zone in its own right. Economy is a claimed 32mpg, which seemed a far cry from the 25mpg average we achieved during a week of varied motoring.
RANGE ROVER SPORT AUTOBIOGRAPHY
We did not have an opportunity to take the Range Rover Sport off-road during our tenure, but colleagues assure me it is quite capable of fulfilling most of the tasks that Range Rover owners will ask of it. The Range Rover Sport is fitted with Terrain Response, a low-ratio gearbox and height adjustable air suspension, so can venture into places where most rivals fear to tread.
Although it's a thoroughly modern design, the Range Rover Sport's proportions, and many of its cues, recall the original, go-anywhere mountain goat that started the brand. Inside, the design is pure luxury, but with a utilitarian air. It's a mixture of opposites, and it works.
Manufacturer’s web site: www.landrover.com/gb/en/rr/range-rover-sport/explore/supercharged-autobiography