The Land Rover brand has always been the benchmark in the world of off-roading. Ever since the brand existed it has shown its skills in rough terrain. Over the years numerous models have passed by, but over its nearly 65 years in existence, it has really only offered four varied product lines. The brand new Evoque is number five. One of the members is the Range Rover Sport, introduced in 2006, and available now as the 2011 version after a facelift in 2010.
The Sport boasts its big brother’s lines in a comparatively trim package. The revised program offers new, more powerful engines, a revised chassis setup, and an upgraded interior. Visually the entire Land Rover family took on a fresh new look with a smoother, more attractive and more contemporary front end styling and revised LED lighting, without sacrificing any of Land Rover’s traditional persona.
Out of the Sport model line-up there is simply one choice for us, made available by the local Land Rover organization. The most potent version, the Range Rover Sport Supercharged, accompanied us during a multiday driving experience which included off-road and on-road kilometers. The package included numerous highlights from the engine to the interior setup and from the new Dynamic Program to the exterior design upgrades.
Last year, the Sport – and the rest of Land Rover’s V8-powered lineup – got access to the latest Jaguar V8 range. The Supercharged 5.0 liter V8 engine has been modified for off-road use and is truly gifted. With a compression ratio of 9.5:1, it lashes out at the road with 510hp and 625Nm of maximum torque. As your right foot firmly reaches the firewall, yourself, your passengers and the 2,644kg truck will reach, from a standstill, 100km/h in about six seconds.
The Range Rover Sport uses a ZF HP28 six-speed electronically controlled automatic with CommandShift manual control, featuring Normal, Sport and CommandShift manual shift modes, with available paddle shifters and a locking torque converter. In the end we had no desire to use the paddle-shifters thanks to the engine’s surplus of torque. Other technical highlights include a new braking system, Adaptive Dynamics suspension with Bilstein Damptronic valving, a variable steering system and Brake Stability Assist. The Range Rover Sport Supercharged model is also equipped with larger, more powerful brakes, featuring high performance six-piston front calipers.
A full list of options creates a high valued package together with the upgraded and award-winning Terrain Response system. The control knob sits on the middle console and by turning it the driver will be able to choose the six different on- and off-road modes, each tweaking the suspension, engine management, throttle mapping, traction control and three differentials. The driver can select for general driving, sand, rock crawl, mud and ruts and grass/gravel and snow. The Terrain Response system continuously monitors the vehicle to optimize performance for the road surface selected.
Revisions to the rock crawl program reduce roll when traversing boulders delivering a more composed ride over rocky terrain. The addition of a new ‘sand launch control’ prevents wheels digging in when driving away in soft sand thanks to revisions to the traction control system. The Hill Descent Control system has also been enhanced with the addition of Gradient Release Control, which inhibits the initial rate of acceleration when descending steep inclines. Just by taking the off-road path we experienced the true capabilities and heritage of this SUV.
In the Supercharged model, Terrain Response also includes a Dynamic Mode, which tailors the vehicle’s chassis and power train settings to deliver a more sporting and responsive on-road driving experience. The drive became a bit smoother creating a more well-balanced and confident-handling SUV. The differences were noticeable for an experienced driver, but most users will not immediately feel the smoother ride.
The exterior looks have been enhanced for the 2011 model. A more aerodynamically shaped front fascia includes new impressive-looking headlamps with LEDs, grille and front bumper. The tail got new rear lights and a revised rear bumper. Other than that the model is similar to its predecessor keeping its Range Rover classic design philosophy. Our test vehicle was outfitted with Range Rover’s five spoke 20 inch wheels.
The 2011 Range Rover Supercharged interior is luxurious, comfortable and a great place to stay. Leather is used extensively on major surfaces, in a wide choice of colors. There is contrast stitching on seats, center console and door panels. The quality levels and the used materials are of a high standard and provide a sumptuous feel of the interior architecture. The center piece of the dashboard is a touch screen providing general infotainment, information on the attitude of the suspension and access to the navigation system, radio and Surround Camera System. The system includes five digital cameras relaying to the touch screen a near 360-degree view from the vehicle. The cameras, which support easier parking, towing and off-road maneuvering, function immediately as the vehicle is started, and have options for selecting and zooming in to assist with close quarter parking and with towing.
The five inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) driver information LCD screen within the instrument cluster displays key information with relation to the Terrain Response System, radio settings and navigation system. The standard audio system now comprises 240-watt harman/kardon electronics and amplifiers and nine speakers (including subwoofer), an extra Premium Audio includes 480-watt harman/kardon digital surround sound, thirteen speakers plus subwoofer, HD radio, and satellite radio.
Other highlights on the list are the Blind Spot Monitoring system, Adaptive Cruise Control, Adaptive front lighting with Automatic High Beam Assist and Keyless Entry.
The 2011 Range Sport Supercharged is rather an evolution than a revolution with respect to its predecessor, but in any of the handling and steering characteristics it feels like a revolutionary step forward leaving no questions unasked and us with a feeling that the Sport is the one of the best handling Range Rover’s available to date. It is like a tank that was specifically designed for taking slaloms on- and off-road in any type of situation.
In the end the Sport boasts a decent level of off-road ability, and the acceleration and handling now deliver more of the verve promised by the name. The off-road capabilities are at the highest standard currently available in the market, but much of the competition is better to drive on normal roads. The combination between the off-road and on-road setup creates a vehicle, which completely covers the characteristics of a true SUV wearing an elegant, high-quality and tailor-made suit.