Land Rover Range Rover Sport Performance
The 2008 Land Rover Range Rover Sport nicely balances on-road performance with Land Rover's signature off-road capabilities, and the SUV earns a very good performance score. "Driving the Range Rover Sport on-road is unlike many SUVs," writes Road and Track, "as it offers a very rewarding experience."
The Rover is available with either a 300- or 390-horsepower V8, so it is not surprising that the most common complaint about the Range Rover Sport's performance is its poor fuel economy.
The Range Rover Sport offers a comfortable, responsive ride. Motor Week says, "On the squiggly, the Sport is the best handling Rover we've ever tested, feeling far more car-like than SUV." CNET adds additional praise, "Handling, assisted by cornering the brake control, dynamic stability control, and dynamic response systems, is assured and solid, even at high speeds."
Acceleration and Power
The Range Rover Sport is available in two models. The HSE has a 4.4-liter V8 that makes 300 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 315 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. The Supercharged model has a 4.2-liter V8 that creates 390 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 410 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 rpm. Both have an electronically limited top speed of 140 mph, which Motor Trend explains is reflective of "the limit of off-road-tire technology", since not surprisingly the Rover comes standard with off-road capable tires.
Reviewers find the smaller, normally aspirated V8 engine powerful enough for everyday driving. Edmunds deems acceleration "flawless," explaining, "Nail the gas at any speed and there's power and acceleration to be found." The Auto Channel notes of the base V8, "When it's on the highway it doesn't need the extra power" that the Supercharged V8 offers.
Some reviewers recommend upgrading to the Supercharged for its extra power. Kelley Blue Book, for instance, says, "We much prefer the rush (zero to 60 miles-per-hour in 7.2 seconds) that comes from the Supercharged 4.2-liter engine." Other reviewers find that this extra power is just enough to power the Range Rover Sport's significant bulk. Even the Supercharged "didn't flatten us against the backs of our seats," asserts Automobile Magazine, adding, "Don't forget: we're talking about a vehicle weighing nearly three tons."
The most frequent criticism of the Range Rover Sport's performance relates to its gas consumption. "Don't expect sparkling fuel economy from either engine," advises MSN. The HSE gets an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 12 miles per gallon in the city and 18 mpg on the highway, while the Supercharged gets the same figures. Motor Week cautions that its fuel economy tests "were at the low end of 13 miles per gallon," while Consumer Guide says "test vehicles averaged a dismal 11.1-11.2 mpg in mostly city driving." CNET summarizes, "The Sport's appalling gas mileage -- just a little more than 10mpg in our experience -- is an expensive caveat that every potential emptor should heed."
Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic that Car and Driver calls "smooth-shifting." Cars.com agrees "the six-speed automatic shifts smoothly," but also notices that "when accelerating from a standstill the transmission had an annoying tendency to upshift quickly to keep engine rpm low." Perhaps this is an effort by Land Rover to eek out a little more mileage from the large SUV.
Handling and Braking
Most test drivers agree that the Range Rover Sport offers a comfortable, responsive ride. Motor Week says, "On the squiggly, the Sport is the best handling Rover we've ever tested, feeling far more car-like than SUV." CNET adds, "Handling, assisted by cornering the brake control, dynamic stability control, and dynamic response systems, is assured and solid, even at high speeds."
The Range Rover Sport's four-wheel independent air suspension has four settings: optimum handling (the standard setting), highway (for high speeds), access (which lowers the SUV when parked to allow easier loading), and off-road (providing more clearance). A Dynamic Response system, standard on the Supercharged and optional on the HSE, controls front and rear anti-roll bars to minimize body roll and lean. In addition, owners can program a remote key fob to put the suspension in access mode, which lowers the vehicle and simplifies trailer connection.
According to Road and Track, "The speed-sensitive steering is just right, not too light (carlike) and not too heavy (trucklike) with good feel for the road. Take a corner at speed and you'll most likely find that it could have been taken at a brisker pace." Motor Trend contends, "The steering can be sharp in corners without being twitchy at speed in a straight line." MSN feels that the steering "is nicely geared for on- and off-road use."
The Range Rover Sport's four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with power-assist impress reviewers. "The shocking thing about the Range Rover Sport," writes Car and Driver, "is how amazingly well it stops." Electronic brake-force distribution adjusts braking according to front and rear weighting, while cornering brake assist detects lateral forces to optimize braking during turns. New Car Test Drive contends, "Braking is more than adequate, much better than older Land Rovers." MSN cautions that "some may feel that the brake pedal is a little touchy," but concedes, "Stopping distances are good." A Dynamic Response Package, which includes the Dynamic Response suspension system and well-regarded Brembo front brakes, can be added to the HSE.
Like every other land Rover in production, the Range Rover Sport excels in its off-road capabilities - and most test drivers agree that in this area the big SUV is among the, if not the absolute, best off-roader in its class (excluding, of course, the top-of-the-line Range Rover). New Car Test Drive observes, "The Range Rover Sport may push the needle a bit closer to the on-road end of the gauge than many of the marque's faithful will find appropriate. But most needn't worry, as it'll still go where many will hesitate to tread." Automobile Magazine agrees with this assessment, nicely reflecting the almost universal consensus of reviewers, stating, "Unlike a lot of SUVs with macho names and steroidal styling, the Range Rover Sport is more than an off-road poseur." After a test drive, Edmunds concurs: "It handled muddy terrain with ease, despite its wide, low-profile tires. Deep sand, too, was a walk in the park; just keep your foot planted in the throttle and it'll scoot up steep dunes that would leave lesser SUVs stranded."
The maximum towing capacity of the Range Rover Sport is a reasonably competitive, though by no means class-leading, 7,716 pounds.