By Bill Jackson on August 28, 2008
Now this is what a $60,000-plus SUV should be like. I drove the Toyota Land Cruiser and was distinctly underwhelmed and put off by its price and impracticality. Now, I grant you, this Land Rover is not a true Weekend Athlete car (waaaaay too dressy) but it does show that a fancy car can still be capable in this test.
For starters, unlike some other Land Rover products and the aforementioned Toyota, there isn't a clamshell hatch. That is awesome, because clamshell openings generally stink. When open, they force you to lean and reach over the bottom half of the clamshell to get your toys, and that can be tough, whether you're tall or short.
In a throwback to SUVs of old, the Range Rover Sport does allow you to open the rear glass independent of the full hatch. This is still the best way to handle a hatch, I think.
It carries gear well, but it should, seeing as it's just larger than a battleship and slightly smaller than an aircraft carrier. I've never understood why my English friends give Americans a hard time for owning SUVs when their beloved Land Rovers are such arks.
Where was I? Oh, yes, take yourself and three people camping in this and you'll be fine. Also, if you're a bike racer, the bike slides right in — no need to remove a wheel.
However, it's not all strawberries and cream with the Range Rover Sport. That rear hatch that's so nicely designed? It's fine for me, but I really think it opens high enough to be uncomfortable for shorter folks. Ditto for just opening the glass section — it leaves you with a high liftover to put stuff in. There's no power open/shut feature offered, even as an option, and it's heavy to lift — or at least heavier to lift than you'd expect in a luxury SUV.
Finally, if you read this column regularly you already knew this was coming: The interior is a living room. It's just not a place you should wear your muddy shoes or even sit in if you've had a hard day in the bike saddle.
Weekend Athlete Scores (out of 10)
Ease of loading gear — 7: The split hatch is nice, but if you're short I think you'll find closing that hatch uncomfortable.
Ease of seat operation — 6: You have to flop the seat bottom up, then fold the seats over. It works OK, but it could be better at this price. Still, it's nice to see it's all handled with simple pull tabs and buttons.
Bike hauling — 9: Not having to take a wheel off is such a little thing, but such a nice little thing.
Locker room cred — 1: Yeah, I was a bit embarrassed pulling up to the campground in this big, beautiful, expensive bit of automotive wonder.
All-around — 6: I just can't say this is a car I'd take to the races or camping – even though I did.
Assistant Managing Editor Bill Jackson manages the Research section, and he enjoys triathlons and cross-country skiing. Email William