From £51,5509
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.


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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.

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

Join the debate


5 November 2013
Nobody needs an off road Range Rover. So stop pretending these SUV's are off roaders. As road cars, these latest Rangies look great, and 300kg lighter than before.

5 November 2013
The article states "you’re aware of the SDV8’s weight and height " and "Land Rover doesn’t try to disguise either" but in the summary it states that "What Land Rover has demonstrated yet again with this car is that it understands how to make proper big 4x4s feel small and manageable.". Is there anyone editing these articles for consistancy? The general impression I get reading the article is that the competition eats it for breakfast when it comes to what a "Sporting" SUV should do- if such an animal exists. This is a big comfortable, good looking SUV which just happens to handle better than its big brother. This is enough and there is no need to compare "performance" stats with other SUV's.... as the buyer will not care.

5 November 2013
...I'd like to see Saunders try to justify that howler.

5 November 2013
Dear God !! ........ they certainly know how to charge for their machines, just like their previous masters, BMW.

5 November 2013
Yes, but there is a 7 month waiting list.

5 November 2013
"if it had a shade more pace would be almost perfect" - so it's nearly almost perfect. To me, that translates as 'average at best'.

5 November 2013
It is interesting that you start your roadtest touching on the BMW years, when Land Rover was one of two jewels - the other being Mini - of the Rover Group. Curiously, the question of "What would Land Rover be doing today if BMW still owned them?" it is a question that has past my mind many times since they separated. I love cars, but I have a passion for two brands in particular - Land Rover and Porsche - the only two brands I ever consider. Many of your devoted readers who offer their opinions in these Forums will argue one brand over another as to which is best. One being more reliable than the other, one being faster which makes it better, one being able ride up moutains which makes that better, etc... The real answer is, of course, that they are both incredible brands that produce incredible cars, with each having their own indiviual characters that give the products such huge appeal. Crutially, neither is a mass producer of cars, although I do accept Porsches common components with VW and Land Rovers common components (although this is substantially reducing) with Ford. But BMW, yes - that is a hugely interesting question - "What if BMW still owned Land Rover?" Well, here is my thoughts... There were largely three main cars that spawned during BMWs ownership. The Rover 75, the Mark 1 new Mini and the Range Rover. Some may argue that The Freelander 1 should be included here. During its development, BMW was really leaving Rover to its own devices, and while they weren't disinterested, the development of the Freelander 1 was practically all by Rover Group itself including the first batch of engines, with the BMW diesel unit coming later. This car, like all Land Rovers before it was developed on a shoe string budget. Huge compromises were made at every level in order to save money, and while many of the ideas were good, very often the realisation of them were frought with difficulties due to the lack of money available. The interior, for example, was really well thought out, but you could clearly see where money was saved. However, thousands of hugely talented people worked -and indeed still work - at Land Rover, but what the BMW years gave them was an opportunity to show exactly where their skills could be carried - ie the Mark 3 Range Rover. What can you Land Rover actually achieve? Here is the money - go and use it and create something fantastic. And they did, with BMWs help. That Mark 3 Range Rover was so hugely different to anything the company had ever made before in terms of engineering, quality, abilities, interior design. It wasnt, however, perfect with reliablity in the first 3 or 4 years partilcularly being a concern. But, those 6 years changed Land Rover forever - far more than any other part of the Rover Group. Since BMW parted company, and then Ford, you can see the love and care that goes into the products now. People who work for Land Rover generally love working for Land Rover. There is a culture of success, of continual learning, and with each new product, you see were the money is being spent and the calibre of people working there, no longer having to compromise good ideas. BMW is now, of course, a mass producer. It wasnt at the time they bought the Rover Group, so I very much feel that Land Rover would be seen as secondary rather than having its own products. The two brands would have to be separate in some way... 1) Range Rover Mark 4. Would likely have been made, possibly sooner that it was. The luxury, go anywhere 4x4 is a different market than the X5, while I accept affluent people may have both! Of course, it would use BMW engines. 2) Range Rover Sport. I doubly this would have been part of the strategy, and neither the Mark 1 or mark 2 would have even been thought about. 3) Range Rover Evoque. Definately, although I suspect BMW would have wanted a mini version of the Range Rover - perhaps sized between the Range Rover and Evoque. The basic thinking of the car would again be luxury and off road rather than any hint at Sport. Would use BMW engines. 4) Discovery. Definately would be in production. The 4x4 would be the safest I think, as again it is completely different to the Sporty X5. BMW would make the Sport SUVs and Land Rover products aimed at the outdoor, adventurer type with big families who go to Scotland for the weekend. Would use BMW engines. 5) Freelander. Again, this would be safe, and I would expect that the Freelander 3 would already have made production. Maybe loosely based on a X3, but certainly loosly. 6) Defender. Absolutely certainly have been replaced by now, but this perhaps wouldnt have used BMW engines. May have spawned various body styles.

5 November 2013
I am just happy another day has produced another JLR story. You know, I was beginning to worry that it might not appear today!

6 November 2013
The same £81,550 will buy you the 50% more powerful supercharged petrol V8. No contest! Incidentally, in the Range Rover the diesel V8 is about £3,700 cheaper than the petrol V8.

6 November 2013
"335bhp, 169g/km diesel-electric " This is impressive for such a leviathan. Not such the anti-Christ any more. Is it as fast as the full on diesel?


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