Editor's note: This review was written in March 2014 about the 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2015, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
The 2014 Range Rover Sport is loaded with all sorts of exciting technology, luxurious touches and even some family-friendly features, but it glaringly falls short in cornering.
The Range Rover Sport has been redesigned for 2014 (compare it with its predecessor here) and fills a gap in the company's Range Rover-branded models between the entry-level Range Rover Evoque and the full-size Range Rover. It seats five passengers comfortably, with an optional pop-up third row for two small passengers. The Range Rover Sport comes in four trims: the SE, HSE, Supercharged and Autobiography. I tested an HSE; you can see them all compared side by side here.
If you're in the market for an upscale and capable SUV, you may also want to research the Porsche Cayenne and the BMW X6. Compare them all here.
Exterior & Styling
With just a quick glance you can see this is definitely a native of the Range Rover family. It's slightly shorter, sturdier and sportier-looking than the tall and lean original Range Rover — hence the name. People can choose to customize their Sport with a choice of 19-, 20-, 21- or 22-inch wheels.
As much as I try not to buy into the whole brand-status thing, I have to admit I felt kind of swanky driving around in a Range Rover Sport. A sneaking feeling of disgust then immediately followed — the way you feel after binging on a full Sunday marathon of "Real Housewives of (fill in the blank)." Who drives an $80,000 car through the carpool lane every morning besides someone who wants you to know it? I need a hot shower and a rough loofa.
How It Drives
The Range Rover Sport's ride is entirely pleasant, with a newly engineered air suspension system that automatically adjusts between two ride heights and feels noticeably smooth and soft, managing to equalize small bumps and irregularities in the road.
The only problem arises when you have to turn. Cornering in the Range Rover Sport felt a bit like driving a boat and hitting an oncoming wake at the wrong angle. Even the slightest corner or steering correction is felt, and they resonate exponentially throughout the rest of the vehicle. Said my 11-year-old daughter: "I don't like this car. It's too hard to get into, and it makes my stomach feel weird, like a roller coaster, when going over a bump or turning a corner."
Our editors in Chicago had the same impression after driving a different Range Rover Sport, saying it rides better but is less of a handler than the previous generation.
My test car was equipped with the optional Terrain Response 2 system (part of a $1,300 Extra Duty Package). In the base Terrain Response system, drivers have the ability to toggle between General; Grass/Gravel/Snow; Mud/Ruts; Sand; and Rock Crawl settings, helping them find the most appropriate traction setting. The upgraded Terrain Response 2 system takes the guesswork and human error out by automatically choosing the best setting.
Our Chicago editors said the Range Rover Sport's all-wheel drive should be enough for a Land Rover driver's snowy commute, but it isn't as capable off-road as the top Range Rover. The Terrain Response 2 system's automatic mode adapts well to most situations, but it still allows too much wheelspin.
The 2014 Range Rover Sport HSE, with its new 340-horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine gets an EPA-estimated 17/23/19 mpg city/highway/combined. This puts it much closer to its competitors, the Cayenne (17/23/20 mpg) and the X6 (17/24/20 mpg). Last year's base engine, a V-8, was rated 13/18/15 mpg.
We found the smooth-revving supercharged V-6 to be more than adequate, but it understandably doesn't overwhelm you with power like Land Rover's supercharged V-8 can. The extra power costs you in more ways than one: It's rated 14/19/16 mpg. Though this is essentially the same engine as last year's optional upgrade, a new eight-speed transmission, reduction in weight and attention to aerodynamics and stop/start technology (the engine shuts itself off when it's not needed, like when waiting at a stoplight) result in better gas mileage over last year's Supercharged trim level, which got a paltry 12/17/14 mpg.
An optional self-park function in the Range Rover Sport worked great and was a cool party trick for the kids when trying to squeeze into a tight parallel-parking spot in front of a restaurant. I'm amazed at the precision. While it definitely takes some experience to trust your car to park for you, after I used it a few times I was hooked. My kids were a little baffled that our test car wouldn't "unpark" itself as well. Have no fear: The unparking feature, otherwise known as Park Exit, is a separate option.
The Range Rover Sport I drove came equipped with a heated windshield. While this would theoretically be a great feature in icy climates, its faint squiggly wires running vertically throughout the windshield were a problem. While slightly annoying during the day, at night those seemingly benign little lines become severely distracting, making a small light the size of a pea illuminate with a glaring halo the size of a tennis ball. Multiply that by headlights, taillights, streetlights and reflective street signs, and driving at night is like constantly squinting through a filthy windshield.
For all its exterior size, the Range Rover Sport doesn't overwhelm you with space inside. The interior does, however, definitely show Land Rover's attention to aesthetics. The supple ivory perforated leather seats in my test car were buttery soft, perfectly comfortable and easy to wipe clean. Smaller details, however, weren't quite as well-thought-through, and what are you spending almost $80,000 for if not the details? One of our editors also noticed harder materials below knee level.
The cupholders, both up front and in the rear seat's middle armrest, were lined snugly with a rubber lining — too snugly. The cupholders were so snug that once you got a cup in, it required two hands to get it back out (not a safe feat while driving, I must say). A few times, I actually pulled the entire liner of the cupholder out along with my water bottle, only to notice once in my house that I'd brought a portion of the vehicle inside with me. This same issue persisted for the kids in the backseat, where pulling a water bottle out of the armrest cupholder caused the entire armrest to raise up.
Without side steps, my three daughters (ages 9, 11 and 13) each had their own challenges climbing into the Range Rover Sport, even with the vehicle automatically lowered to its entry and exit height. My youngest two girls had to lean in over the seat to try to find something to grab onto, then heft themselves up and into the car. A handle down low on the B-pillar to assist smaller people and kids would have been a thoughtful feature. While my 13-year-old is tall enough to make the big step up and in, she has some limited mobility due to a bum knee and its accompanying bulky knee brace. Getting back out was equally tough. I myself misjudged the height and tumbled out, smacking my kneecap on the edge of the in-door storage bin. My younger daughters had to do a butt scoot and slide maneuver off the edge of the backseat before then dropping to the ground. A deployable side step is available as a dealer accessory.
The standard huge panoramic moonroof is spectacular. During the day, it allows sunlight to pour in and feels airy and open. At night, it really was a treat to look up and see the stars and moon. This is a feature I'm starting to enjoy; panoramic glass lets the beauty in without the perils of the weather.
Another feature that's fast becoming one of our favorites is the heated steering wheel, which is optional. It seems excessive, but it is honestly so comforting to get into the car on a cold morning and be able to wrap your hands around the warm leather.
The available heated/cooled seats were also great, though the computer was a little slow to respond when I turned them on to heat up first thing in the morning. And we're always frustrated when an expensive luxury vehicle doesn't offer remote start, a feature found on a growing number of more affordable vehicles.
Ergonomics & Electronics
Though one of our editors thought the capacitive touch-sensitive buttons flanking the touch-screen responded fast enough, we all thought the Range Rover Sport's conventional, pressure-sensitive touch-screen itself — which operates the heated seats mentioned above, among many other features — had too much delay.
I did like the option of turning off the large, bright home screen at night by just pressing a single button. Many other vehicles require you to toggle through several menu screens to find the "screen off" option, which takes your eyes off the road and impairs your night vision for 30 seconds after finishing the task.
I also really appreciated the ability to pair multiple phones. We could listen to music played from my daughter's iPhone, but then it paused automatically while I took a hands-free call from my husband on my own phone.
The Range Rover Sport has a standard backup camera, and also offers a Surround Camera System as part of the Vision & Convenience option package. Several of us found the surround system not clear enough to function well. The "junction view" did not give enough reference points to allow me to really judge what I was seeing in the picture. The "fisheye" view was a little better, but the picture was very grainy.
The Range Rover Sport's gear selector is an electronic lever, which some of our editors don't like. One acknowledged he might have acclimated to it over time, but that he was constantly putting it into Neutral instead of Drive and Reverse instead of Park.
Cargo & Storage
The Range Rover Sport has 62.2 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume. That falls in the middle of the pack, just under the Cayenne's 62.9 cubic feet and above the X6's 59.7 cubic feet.
While the seats didn't quite fold flat, they did fold down. One of our editors commented that there should be release levers in the back to lower the second row, as it's too far to reach from the cargo area.
Crash-test data is not currently available on the 2014 Range Rover Sport.
The Range Rover Sport is chock-full of available highly advanced safety features. A forward-facing camera mounted next to the rearview mirror aids several systems, including a lane departure warning system that gives you an alert via a steering-wheel vibration if you're swerving out of a lane. This system is customizable so you can choose its sensitivity level, or even turn it off entirely.
What I really love, however, is the new Traffic Sign Recognition system. The camera watches for speed limit signs and more, and this information then displays in the instrument cluster, where it gets smaller the farther you are away from the sign the camera "read."
Land Rover also offers Flank Guard, which alerts the driver to potential impacts on the sides of the Range Rover Sport during tight maneuvers. The system warns by means of beeps and an instrument panel graphic, with distance bars similar to those used with front and rear sonar sensors.
The Range Rover Sport also offers cross-path detection and blind spot monitors, which are increasingly becoming must-have features for me.
My kids appreciated how easy it is to pull the seat-belt buckle webbing out smoothly and buckle their belts easily. However, due to deeply recessed lower Latch anchors and oddly placed top-tether anchors, installing child-safety seats using Latch rather than seat belts may be an exercise in patience.
See all the standard safety features listed here.
Value in Its Class
The Range Rover Sport is a natural fit with the rest of the iconic and instantly recognizable Range Rover line of upscale SUVs. People with $80,000 or more to spend on an SUV may naturally gravitate toward how a Range Rover Sport may complement their image.
While the Sport was engineered to perform at its peak off-road, I'd be shocked if many consumers spend this much money on a vehicle and then risk body damage and the need for expensive repairs. However, as another editor suggested, "It should suit the typical off-road use of a Land Rover driver — that is, a snowy commute or grassy soccer-field parking."