This intelligent box can also temporarily use a lower ratio to run the engine faster, both to warm the engine more quickly and power-up the air-conditioning to cool a hot cabin. Sadly, the conventional shift lever has been replaced by the rotary dial, though the steering wheel now has paddle shifters. The rotary terrain response selector has replaced by rocker switch. The other big change to the Sport is the adoption of an aluminium, powered, tailgate prompted by complaints from owners about the difficulty of reaching and shutting the original tailgate.
Inside, the standard audio system has been significantly upgraded with a 11-speaker, 380W, Harmon Kardon audio and a dual-view central screen which can show two different screen images at once.
What's it like?
Impressive. Admittedly we tried the Range Rover Sport in near-ideal conditions: the magnificent (and magnificently empty) roads in the Borders and around the Cheviots, but the Sport is a compelling way to travel. The imperiousness of the driving position, the superb forward visibility and very brisk performance is a seductive mix.
The engine is very refined and seamlessly torquey, the ‘box swift and unobtrusive (although on this low mileage example, it would occasionally hang on to too high a gear at very low speeds and was keen to shift into top at higher speeds) and the whole car stable and confidence-inspiring at speed.
The driving position and more cockpit-like interior of the Sport is, arguably, more satisfying than the more limo-esque cabin layout of its bigger brother. The odd thing about driving a Range Rover is that the car tends to fall away from the driver’s attention, with most thought going into either enjoying the ride, the view or revelling in the car’s ability to stride past slower-moving vehicles.
Indeed, the trademark express-train Range Rover overtaking manoeuvre has to be one of today’s definitive driver experiences. On challenging country lanes, the Sport is surprisingly capable, and the ride only rarely betraying a slightly knobbliness and the steering’s (mechanically, a different set-up to the related Discovery) accuracy and weighting pretty impressive for a vehicle of this type.
The brakes are also up to the job, and inspire more under-foot confidence that the set-up on the Range Rover itself manages. You can’t fling this high-roof, 2.6 tonne, machine around tight B-road bends, but the combination of being able to see so far ahead and the mighty engine, means thoughtful driving allows serious progress to be made.
Should I buy one?
If you can afford it, the Sport is a glorious way to cover long distances effortlessly and rapidly and it works as a luxury car better than nearly any conventional saloon. The extraordinary off-road ability is probably wasted on a car that will spend most of time with two wheels on the kerb stones of affluent city streets, but once you’ve experienced the Sport up to its bonnet in fast flowing water or crawling down a steeper-than-45 degree slope, you can’t help admiring it even more.
Range Rover Sport HSE 3.0 SDV6
Price: £55,995; Top speed: 124mph; 0-62mph: 8.5sec; Economy: 32.1mpg combined; Co2: 230g/km; Kerbweight: 2670kg; Engine: V6, 2992cc turbodiesel; Power: 252bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 433lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox: 8-speed auto