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.