By Courtney Messenbaugh on February 28, 2014
Given the proliferation of Land Rover Range Rover Sports that line the drop-off lane of an elite private school near my home, one might assume that it's a near-perfect family car. After recently test-driving the redesigned 2014 Range Rover Sport, however, I've decided that it's not the best choice for those of us with kids who are still in child-safety seats.
Sure, the Range Rover Sport is magnificent. A rare specimen of beauty and brawn, it drives like a regal boss around town and can off-road like a beast. The newly updated interior is quiet, comfortable and spacious. Then you try to install child-safety seats and all hell breaks loose.
That's because the top tether anchors are poorly placed. Tether anchors are used with forward-facing convertible and combination car seats, and they keep the car seat from moving forward or to the side in a crash, reducing a child's forward head and neck movement by as much as 8 inches.
In the Range Rover Sport, three tether anchors are located on the seatbacks, where the cargo floor and the seatback meet. I'd say they're even a little below that perpendicular point, which makes it rather difficult to use them.
For a moment, you might think you're saved the agony of installation when you discover the rear seats fold forward with the flip of a lever. Once you've pulled that lever, you realize the seat doesn't really fold with a car seat in its way, so that's no help at all.
Then you start the awkward fight to get the forward-facing convertible installed, getting in and out of the car for a better angle, jamming your hand down the narrow opening between the seatback and the cargo area to get to the tether anchor and grunting. Neighbors gather to watch. After 25 minutes, you're victorious. You scowl at the unintended audience that hovers at the edge of your lawn and drive off. Never mind the blood streaming from your knuckles.
I suppose if you opted for the newly available third row in the Sport, it would make accessing this hook easier. However, my test car did not come with that row and not everyone who purchases the Sport opts for it.
Of course, the 2014 Range Rover Sport is not the only car to cause great frustration with its Latch system. My colleagues can back me up on this:
Carrie Kim said of the Chrysler 200's top tether hook, "I almost hit the thing with a baseball bat; I was so frustrated!"
Chrysler's 300 gets a nod from BreAnn Ahara: "My hands were red, raw and shaking afterward. If you can have PTSD from Latch, that would be it for me."
Finally, Sara Lacey added that the Toyota Prius V's top tether hooks would make anyone feel "irritated."
Irritated indeed. I want to love the Range Rover Sport because it really is nearly perfect, just not for those of us who need to regularly use car seats. And that is irritating.
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears and Courtney Messenbaugh