Modern Land Rover product launches are rarely so under-hyped or little anticipated - and if this one had been given a prominence appropriate with the contribution it makes to JLR’s bottom line, it would have had a hero’s welcome in this new third-generation form.
That’s because the Range Rover Sport has become the defining modern Range Rover. Part of its success is its perfect positioning. It brings refinement and capability you expect of the full-sized Range Rover to a price point that little bit easier to justify.
But then it combines both with a sharply-cut style, sporting performance level and driver’s-car dynamism: a package so complete that, even amongst £75,000 executive SUVs, is hard to beat.
But part of it may be the recognition by longtime Range Rover owners of a car that’s more like that of the original Range Rover of 1970 than the larger, more luxury-dominated modern Range Rover has become.
Once the BMW-Group-ownership-era ‘L322’ Range appeared in the early 2000s, the genie was out of the bottle for the big Rangie, and it has moved farther and farther upmarket ever since, catering to richer and richer tastes.
But the Sport has maintained the original Range Rover’s outstanding-on-and-offroad positioning, as well as its size and many of its defining design cues. And by offering a distinguishing level of driver appeal to the modern luxury SUV buyer, accompanied by all of the other qualities that the brand has become associated with over the decades, it’s continuing the mission that the 1970 original was explicitly designed for.
The latest version of the car is one almost without a weakness. Where previous generations might have been a step behind some of Germany’s luxury brands on cabin technology, or material cabin appeal, the ‘L461’ is a truly world-class product.
Between four-wheel steering and active anti-roll bars, and accounting for its long-range plug-in hybrid powertrains as well as its Ingenium and BMW-sourced engines, it has the chassis and powertrain technologies that arm it for success for years to come. It has luxury-level space, excellent digital cabin technology, and an inviting, upscale interior.
But the most striking progress that the car has made is on rolling refinement. JLR’s latest MLA-Flex model architecture has founded a supremely quiet and relaxing car with a limousine-like air here, running well in advance of the standards of its predecessors, and most of its competitors.
Count that alongside all of the Range Rover Sport’s other defining qualities, and you can’t help but recognise an exceptional package. And while it’s one for which Land Rover charges a tidy premium compared with some competitors, you certainly wouldn’t struggle to find ways to justify paying it.