When Land Rover launched the second-generation Range Rover Sport to the world’s automotive media, it did so with a lap of Wales and the Cotswolds, a spot of off-roading, a sprint through the woods along a gravel rally stage and – for no better reason than the decommissioned Boeing 747 sitting about and being put to no better use – a low-speed crawl through an old Jumbo Jet.
We drove up one steep steel ramp and into the plane’s fuselage, before inching tentatively along its length and dropping out of the nose down another sharply inclined ramp.
Launch routes don’t get any more memorable. Everything was for a reason, though, because while the full-size L405 Range Rover that arrived a few months earlier would have felt unwieldy on those very narrow Welsh B-roads, far too heavy and much too tall for the quick dash along the rally track (which had no speed limits whatsoever) and very probably wouldn’t have fitted inside the 747 at all, the smaller and more athletic Range Rover Sport felt right at home throughout. The message was clear: for those buyers who neither wanted nor needed anything as sizeable as a Range Rover, the alternative could be found just one door along.
That was in 2013. Six years later, the Range Rover Sport serves much the same purpose, being very nearly as luxurious as a Range Rover, almost as grand and just about as capable off road, but also nimbler, easier to manoeuvre and much more usable in town. What’s changed in that time is the money you’ll pay to put one on your driveway.
When it was new, even the entry-level SE model with the least powerful engine in the range, a 255bhp turbodiesel V6, cost £60,000. Today, Land Rover dealerships are awash with used cars costing half that. With 50% of their original purchase price wiped off their values already, these cars will only depreciate at a gradual rate from now on. Spend closer to £40,000 and you’ll pick up a 334bhp V8 diesel model in plush HSE Autobiography Dynamic trim, a car that would have cost more than £80,000 at launch.
The L494 Range Rover Sport was an enormous improvement over the original model with better ride and handling, a far superior automatic gearbox, a more modern interior and fresher styling. Whereas the first Range Rover Sport shared its underpinnings with the Land Rover Discovery and so was a Range Rover in name only, the second-generation Sport does actually use the same platform as the top-of-the-line Rangie. Mostly aluminium, it means the newer model is close to 200kg lighter than the old one.