It's fast, luxurious and a great way to cross Europe... but no money-saver: We test the hot diesel Range Rover Sport SDV8 over 1,300 miles
- Range Rover Sport SDV8 features a 4.4-litre turbocharged diesel engine
- It packs 339hp and despite weighing 2.5 tons can hit 60mph in 6.5 seconds
- Can it cope with family trek through the French Alps? We put it to the test
The Range Rover Sport is one of those cars that divides opinion. You’re either inclined to favour it, or tempted to want not to like it.
Of course, you know it’s a good car. It’s a Range Rover, so it will be refined and good to drive, and as a Land Rover product, it will not have been allowed out the factory doors without being able to cut it as a proper 4x4.
But while it might have proved hugely popular, for some a Range Rover Sport is something best left to being someone else’s guilty pleasure.
And then you take one on a 1,300 mile road trip and realise that you might just have changed your mind.
We took a Range Rover Sport SDV8 on a 1,300 mile family trip to the French Alps and back to test it out
That trip, from London to the French Alps and back, revealed to me that the Range Rover Sport is supremely comfortable, spacious, good to drive, and in this turbocharged diesel V8 version it has a gem of an engine.
Not only does it have smooth petrol-like power delivery, but thanks to that V8 rumble it is also one of the few diesels around that pulls off a satisfying engine note.
The 4.4 litre V8’s 339bhp takes all two-and-a-half tonnes of Range Rover Sport to 60mph in just 6.5 seconds and is aimed at those looking for a hot luxury 4x4, but who’d rather not endure the wallet-busting fuel consumption involved in owning the even faster 500bhp 5.0-litrelitre supercharged petrol V8 that can be bought for the same £87,000 price tag.
Land Rover claims a combined mpg of 22.1 for that petrol engine car, compared to 33.6mpg for the diesel V8.
On our 1,320 mile trip, made up of predominantly French motorway miles, with some mountain roads, and the UK leg between London and the Eurotunnel in Folkestone thrown in, we averaged 25mpg.
So it’s no money saver. Even with the diesel you can expect ownership to include plenty of expensive fuel stops, but nobody buys an £87,000 fast 4x4 for the fuel consumption, do they?
Smaller, cheaper and more subtle than a full-fat Range Rover
People buy Range Rovers because they want luxury and performance and cherish the badge they wear.
The full-fat Range Rover is the definitive big, powerful, luxury 4x4 – and for 34 years from 1970 to the end of 2004 it was the only model to wear Land Rover’s upmarket brand’s badge.
That changed when the Range Rover Sport arrived and its success was instrumental in the addition of the Evoque - and now Velar - to the line-up.
The Range Rover Sport is built on the same lightweight aluminium platform as its bigger Range Rover brother
But while the first generation Range Rover Sport was a sales winner, it was also built on the Land Rover Discovery’s steel platform and considered a little brash.
With the launch of the latest Range Rover Sport any such concerns were dismissed. The car is built on the same lightweight aluminium platform as its bigger Range Rover brother and wears its more subtle family styling well.
Whisper it, but to my eyes the Sport is now a better looking car than the Range Rover. Much as I like its bigger sibling, the Sport’s more swept back style and lower waistline combine to make it look less blunt and imposing.
Range Rover Sport buyers get a pick of ‘clean’ Euro 6 diesel engines from the 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 3.0-litre SDV6 and 4.4-litre SDV8, while petrol options are supercharged 3.0 and 5.0-litre engines.
The models come in four specifications: HSE, HSE Dynamic, Autobiography Dynamic, and the fire-breathing SVR.
Not all engines are available with all the specification levels, so smallest diesel only comes in HSE (from £60,015) and the SVR is solely for the 5.0-litre V8 petrol (a cool £97,870 without any extras).
Our test car, an SDV8 in Autobiography Dynamic spec, came in a not quite so subtle Firenze Red Metallic colour with 21 inch satin black alloys and privacy glass.
On paper that sounds like a combination ideally suited to a Premier League players’ car park, but in the metal it looked good.
If you're in the market for a car that offers an enormity of legroom up front, this should be on your shortlist. Unfortunately, leggy passengers don't get treated to the same space in the back
RANGE ROVER SPORT SPECS
Engine: 4.4L SDV8 Diesel
Max Power (hp): 339
Max Torque (Nm /rpm): 740 /1,750-2,250
Transmission: Automatic 8-speed
Brakes: 380 mm front and 365mm rear, single piston sliding caliper
Driveline: Four Wheel Drive (4WD)
Height (mm): 1,780
Width incl wing mirrors (mm): 2,220
Length (mm): 4,850
Wheelbase (mm): 2,923
Obstacle clearance (mm): 213
Wading depth (mm): 850
Turning Circle - kerb to kerb (m): 12.1
Weight from (kg): 2,434
Emissions EU6 CO2 EU Combined (g/km): 219
Fuel consumption - EU combined (mpg): 33.6
Fuel tank capacity (litres): 89
0-60 mph (sec): 6.5
Top speed (mph): 135
What’s the Range Rover Sport like inside?
In short, the Range Rover Sport is spacious, comfortable and luxurious.
It ticks all the right boxes when it comes to the interior and the classy cabin is a nice place to be.
The junior Range Rover has a high quality interior as standard and ours had been upgraded to 20-way heated and cooling electric front seats that can massage you as you drive, if you so choose. Alternatively, you can just enjoy riding along in something that manages to combine supportive car seat and comfy armchair.
Another expensive, but much appreciated, tick on the options list had been added for 10-inch rear seat entertainment, ideal for keeping the children quiet in the back when being subjected to an eight-hour driving day.
Albeit, a quirk of the system means that a new DVD didn’t seem to be able come on to both screens simultaneously; instead you switched on one then the other, which led to plenty of momentary complaints for our six and four-year-old daughters.
For a car pricing in at £104,000 - ours was fitted with a number of pricey options - the cabin is as you'd expect with quality materials and plenty of tech on offer
There is tons of room in the front of the Range Rover Sport, but it isn’t massive in the back. There’s plenty of head height and it’s not short on legroom even for adults, but don’t expect to be reclining limousine-style back there.
The boot, as you’d expect is big, and near the top of the class on paper. Fill it to the brim and its combination of height, depth and width will swallow a lot of stuff, if you prefer to only stack it to the window line you will have to make do with less.
A central fold-down seat in the rear means that skis and snowboards (or other long narrow equipment) can go through the middle, and we comfortably fitted these, four people’s luggage for a week and some mountain gear for my sister’s family into the Range Rover Sport.
The Sport also comes with the option of two fold-down occasional seats in the boot, delivering seven-seater capability – although ours didn’t offer that, so legroom and space for the passengers furthest back couldn’t be tested.
The tech on the Sport is good, with its 10-inch In-Control touchscreen combining with clear dials to make motoring easy. Jaguar Land Rover cars tend to get a few grumbles from reviewers for their technology, but I found everything was relatively simple to use and big enough to see and touch. The car also passed the all-important ‘can I easily sync my phone and music test?’
A couple more ticks on the option list for our car added a surround camera system, head-up display and full-on 1250W Meridian Reference Sound System. Even without those additions, the Sport in this spec is an already well-loaded car, however.
All-in this combines to deliver a cabin ideally suited to crossing countries and stepping out the door at your destination feeling refreshed.
The Range Rover Sport is at home on the motorway, eating miles with ease. However, take a turn onto a route with more twists and it is a capable car given the big dimensions
What's it like to drive?
The Range Rover Sport has been a hit with wealthy buyers thanks to its ability to combine performance with carting them and the family around in the lap of luxury.
The big V8 diesel propels the Range Rover Sport up the road at pace with a muted but satisfying rumble. It’s fast on paper from a standing start to 60mph, but more importantly it dispatches the mid-range acceleration that everyday driving requires with consummate ease.
You sit in the command driving position that Range Rovers are renowned for – higher than many rival SUVs – and dubbed ‘sports command’ here. That elevated position and the big windscreen and windows give you a clear view of the road ahead and what’s going on outside, and you can see why people get addicted to this sort of driving position.
This is why people love SUVs over the old-fashioned executive saloon, or even equally practical fast estate cars. They enjoy the vision and feeling of security that being sat up high brings. If that’s your kind of thing, the Range Rover Sport delivers handsomely on it – allowing you to even look down on those travelling along in their Porsche Cayennes, BMW X5s and Audi Q7s.
The SDV8 Range Rover Sport is at its best flying down the motorway and munching miles, but swap that for a fast A road, or something more twisty, and it’s good to drive.
It’s a big, heavy, high car, so don’t expect any hot hatch exploits, but it handles well with a responsive and well-balanced ride. On mountain roads, the Range Rover Sport was fun to drive, agile through the corners that it could then power out of on big waves of torque.
The best way to describe it is that the Range Rover Sport sweeps along, gathering speed with ease and losing it swiftly when required, while delivering that tricky to pinpoint effect of being a driver’s car.
In town though, the Sport glides along, absorbing bumps easily. But this is where you will notice its bulk. Although on paper it’s not much bigger than an executive saloon, such as the Jaguar XF, it does feel it.
If the Range Rover Sport SDV8 proved one thing over the number of miles that we did, it’s that it is a car that you can really enjoy driving – not for any one thing that it stands out for but for its do-everything Swiss army knife ability, performance and refinement.
The Range Rover Sport, especially the SDV8 model we tested, is something that should be celebrated - cars like this won't be around for long
The Cars & motoring verdict
The Range Rover Sport is a very good car. Given the budget to pick an all-rounder, it would make a very good choice and the SDV8 sits firmly in the most sought after bracket of Range Rover Sports.
You might need to be given that budget, however, as it is expensive. The base model comes in at a hefty £87,350 and our heavily-optioned test car managed to take the price tag up to just shy of £104,000.
You could easily lose plenty of stuff from the options list - including the £4,000 stereo upgrade - and a car much nearer the standard Autobiography Dynamic specification would still be a very nice place to be.
That’s still dear and you could pick out an even quicker diesel Cayenne S, or greener hybrid T8 Volvo XC90 for less. But to paraphrase an advertising slogan, this isn’t just a luxury 4x4, this is a V8 Range Rover luxury 4x4.
Soon cars like this will be a thing of the past. For some that’s a good thing, but for others their demise will be lamented – and if you fall into the latter camp the fact that the Range Rover Sport SDV8 still exists is something to be celebrated while you can.
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