Hot diesel Range Rover Sport has typical Land Rover polish, and if it had a shade more pace would be almost perfect

What is it?

A new version of one of this year’s must-have luxury SUVs: the Range Rover Sport SDV8.

Land Rover must be among the greatest places anywhere in the UK to work right now. The wave of growth and success that the firm has been riding these past two years is showing no signs of slowing, and under circumstances like that, few will wonder – or even care – how the company might be different today if it was still part of the BMW Group. 

The irony is that, if that were the case, this new performance diesel version of the Range Rover Sport might have been almost perfect. Instead, Land Rover’s customers and its management will have to settle for ‘class-leading’ and ‘very good indeed’.

What's it like?

It seems only a heartbeat since the new ‘L494’ Range Sport was introduced, but Land Rover has just released a 2014 model-year update for the car, adding a few options, driver aids and connectivity systems to the car, but accounting for no exterior or interior design changes. The headline introductions are engine derivatives.

Ready for delivery early next year, you can now order a 335bhp, 169g/km diesel-electric Range Rover Sport Hybrid if you want to – or this 334bhp, 140mph SDV8 diesel instead. In an interesting pricing tactic, either one will cost you precisely £81,550 on the road.

Powering the SDV8 is the same 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged diesel V8 you’ll find in the larger Range Rover, and after a few revisions, also in the last Range Sport SDV8. It makes for a car that’s now a little shy of the horsepower and performance standard set by the likes of the BMW X5 M50d and Porsche Cayenne S Diesel, but still promises sub-7.0sec 0-62mph acceleration and better than 30mpg ‘combined’.

As you are in every Range Sport, you’re aware of the SDV8’s weight and height during a cross-country drive – and not only because both are present, but because Land Rover doesn’t try to disguise either. While it’s an excellent handling example of the breed, this isn’t one of those SUVs that’s desperately striving to convince you that it’s a sports saloon.

It has a natch more body roll than the X5 and Cayenne, but critically that makes it easier to drive: more natural, communicative and consistent in its handling, easier to place, and sweeter and more trustworthy. The car’s steering precision is excellent, its balance of grip likewise, and it feels fluent and flattering when driven quickly.

But, while brisk, it isn’t all that quick. Despite the 516lb ft of torque, the performance gap up to the supercharged petrol is still big enough to notice. Overtaking’s very easily achieved, speed can be piled on every bit as is really advisable in a 2.5-tonner, and refinement is strong. But the V8 doesn’t rev with the freedom or ferocity of BMW’s tri-turbo six-pot turbodiesel, and doesn’t feel as flexible.

Should I buy one?

Yes. In spite of all that, you’d take this Range Rover Sport over either the BMW X5 M50d or the aforementioned Porsche, for the honesty, polish and poise it shows on the road, for its excellent rolling comfort, as well as for the warmth and luxury of its cabin and its unquestionable superiority over the rough stuff.

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What Land Rover has demonstrated yet again with this car is that it understands how to make proper big 4x4s feel small and manageable. And that’s to make them comfortable and coherent to drive, as well as taut and controlled.

Range Rover Sport SDV8 Autobiography Dynamic

Price £81,550; 0-62mph 6.9sec; Top speed 140mph; Economy 32.5mpg; CO2 229g/km; Kerbweight 2398kg; Engine type, cc V8, 4367cc, turbodiesel; Power 334bhp at 3500rpm; Torque 516lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 8-speed automatic

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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John C 14 November 2013

Yes this is the car for every

Yes this is the car for every adventures I saw it in www.landrovernorthdade.com and I cant wait to have it.
dipdaddy 8 November 2013

i don't think that Jag LR can

i don't think that Jag LR can ever catch up the German engine technology, they're too ahead due to their massive bank balance. strapped finances for JLR means most is being spent on building a new engine plant, and models. they will need to wake up to this and put some serious investment into new powerful engines and pay attention to detail. in terms of this range rover sport lacking pace, well its a trade off, either you want more power vs. less mpg or vice versa. either way it would get criticised. nevertheless they need big investment put into drive train and engine technology without it they will always lag behind. if it was my money and i wanted a 4x4, it will always be a range rover, its looks beat the germans by light years, and if i can afford a range rover then the fuel bill will be least of my worries. i still feel that Range rover have a good opportunity to investigate a design case for a cross country estate, i'm sure such a car with LR know how will be more than better than rivals from Volvo and Audi.
Cobnapint 6 November 2013

SPORT..? What an anti-climax

That's hardly a rave review for what should be a Cayenne crushing torque monster, but how wrong can you get. If you must have a RRS, just why would you bother getting this over LR's own SDV6 ? It's 0-60 is only 0.3 secs quicker, top speed just 2 mph over, yet it'll use more fuel and handle (by the sounds of it) like a boat in the process. And more to the point, if you must have a V8 SUV, why would you by this over the 'cheaper' Cayenne S Diesel, which has an extra 110 lb/ft and quite frankly eats this for breakfast, not just on that front but many others as well.