Although we’ve spent considerable time in the supercharged Range Rover Sport, this is our first drive of the naturally aspirated car. Using a long-stroke version of Jaguar’s V8 – enlarged to 4.4 litres – it produces 295bhp and 313lb ft and has a revised lubrication system to keep the oil flowing when the car is at extreme angles off-road.
Sport is a much overused word these days, but Land Rover is keen to promote the car’s ability as a sports tourer. It’s not that fast – progress is leisurely, but rarely embarrassing. This is a particularly smooth engine, whose voice fades to almost nothing on part throttle yet woofles authoritatively under acceleration, like the original Range Rover. Such a character is a good fit for this car, because it’s effortless and relaxing to drive, quiet and comfortable at speed with good all-round vision.
Drive in a more sporting manner and it responds well unless you’re really pressing on, with light, accurate and consistent steering that helps shrink the car around you. On the smooth roads of our test route it rode well, with smaller rims and softer suspension than the supercharged car.
Part of the multi-talented appeal is the Sport’s ability off road. A morning spent fording rivers, climbing rocky passes and dangling wheels in thin air over impossible-looking rock crawls reinforced that no one takes off-roading as seriously as Land Rover.
The German competition might offer a sharper drive, but the Range Rover Sport has a different – and very British – character: that of the good all-rounder.