24 September 2004

This is the best picture yet of Land Rover’s upcoming Range Rover Sport. This new SUV has the onerous task of taking on the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne – a challenge for which it must display first-rate road manners.

A sharp-eyed Autocar reader caught this late engineering prototype in Bordeaux, France. The car had only a light disguise, allowing our computer illustration specialists to reveal the final form for the first time.

The roofline of the Sport is much lower (and the tailgate more acutely raked) than its Discovery sister car’s, although other crucial dimensions remain the same. This rear three-quarter shot also illustrates just how closely the car’s styling recalls the Mk2 Range Rover. Inside, the Sport is differentiated from the Disco by sports seats and major changes to the instrument panel, according to inside sources.

Based on the same T5 platform as the new Discovery, the Sport has spent hours at the punishing Nürburgring circuit in Germany, as engineers re-tune the chassis for more sporting responses. The Terrain Response system is expected to be re-calibrated to include settings for fast road use. Sources say the air suspension system allows the Sport to be lowered for fast driving. It is also possible that Land Rover will add a variable-ratio steering system later in the car’s life.

Power will come from a Jaguar-sourced V8 and the new V6 turbodiesel. The top-line Sport is expected to get a 400bhp supercharged version of the 4.2-litre V8. However, with Porsche upping the Cayenne Turbo’s potential (see p15), Land Rover may want to further boost output. The biggest sales will come from the V6 diesel, thought to be a 190bhp single-turbo unit, but we’d expect a twin-turbo unit to be offered within 18 months.

The Sport should make its public debut at the Detroit Motor Show in January 2005. There’s no news on price yet, but expect it to mirror the Discovery’s. This will also be the first time since the introduction of the Freelander in January 1998 that the British maker has launched an additional model range and its success could finally help lift the company into sustained profitability.

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