First Drive: Range Rover, Sport, Diesel, facelift, offers, luxury, driveability

The Tata Motors-owned British sports car maker Jaguar Land Rover has introduced the 2018 Range Rover Sport, which is a midlife update. Arguably, it is one of the most popular and highly respected names in the world of luxury SUVs globally.

The Range Rover Sport is smaller than the full-sized Range Rover, but boasts the same road presence as its elder sibling and also comes equipped with the best of off-roading tech from Land Rover, a brand that needs no introduction as the maker of some of the most luxurious yet immensely capable SUVs in the world.

The facelifted Range Rover Sport HSE comes with the sharper looks due to the new full-LED headlamps, which, on top-spec variants, have ‘Pixel LED’ adaptive beams. The new bumpers, front and rear, and the attractive 21-inch wheels look great on this size of the SUV. With that the Range Rover Sport remains a well-proportioned vehicle and sports a great road presence whenever you go. Many motorists and pedestrians that passed did stop and take a second glance, even in this simple but classy shade of white.

Inside, things are largely the same too. It offers generous front seats with thick cushioning that give you a commanding view forward. Quality is really superb, and some of the materials used in this particular car’s cabin is top notch. For instance, the window switches are now finished in a cool brushed metal, which feels significantly more luxurious than the rather basic old plastic switches, and a lot of the control buttons such as mirror adjusters and the steering controls, for instance now use touch-sensitive glossy black surfaces that light up when you use them.

The Range Rover Sport HSE is also packed with the brand new infotainment system – InControl Touch Pro Duo – which made its debut on the Range Rover Velar SUV. It is based around a pair of touchscreens rather than just one, as before and undoubtedly the graphics are brighter, smoother and crisper like the HD stuff. The upper screen functions as before – music, navigation, phone, apps and settings, while the lower one is dedicated to climate control, seat heating and drive modes.

The top screen can be tilted forward to avoid glare but is all-touch. The digital instrument cluster screen too is much brighter and of a higher resolution this time.

The Range Rover Sport is available with four engines – supercharged V6 and V8 petrols, a turbo-diesel V8 and the base turbo-diesel V6. I did a long distance with the 3.0-litre turbo-charged V6 diesel engine and came back mighty impressed.

Producing 190PS of power and 600Nm of torque, this motor comes paired as standard with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The car produces enough power for a thrilling experience as this car can sprint from 0 to 100 kmph in just 7.7 seconds and it dies feels that quick too. For a diesel V6, it is indeed great news for those who love some speed. Also the eight-speed automatic gearbox is simply smooth and builds up the power smoothly. You will be surprised to note how this massive SUV sails along effortlessly through any curves along the way.

Out on the highway, the SUV masks its speed very well and cruises in silence at speeds in excess of 100 kmph. Gear changes with light throttle are very smooth too but pinning the accelerator does not get you an immediate response. There is a slight delay before kickdown, which is followed by a surge in acceleration, but with a 20-80 kmph taking 5.29 seconds, it's no slouch.

The SUV also manages most bumps and potholes quite well. Even with those big 21-inch wheels, the ride quality is comfortable, though sometimes sharper bumps will be felt and heard inside.

Like any Land Rover, the new Sport does manage a good deal of off roading. The suspension permits a good deal of articulation when raised to the off-road setting. Even with the road biased Pirelli Scorpion tyres, it can get itself out of some really mucky spots with ease. This is where the gentle throttle response and relaxed steering come in handy as the Range Rover Sport does what few luxury SUVs can, even while riding on big 21-inch wheels.

Its safety features include a rear view camera, an optional 360-degree view camera, all round parking sensors, ABS with EBD and airbags. Other features include lane keeping aid, roll stability control, cornering brake control, hill launch assist and the newly added adaptive cruise control. The adaptive cruise control works very well but it is not all that easy to use on Indian roads. With traffic sporadically swerving in an out of lanes, the setup makes the car brake quite hard, even if there is a 2-3 car distance between you and the vehicle ahead.

Undoubtedly, very few other luxury SUVs could dare come near to a Range Rover in terms of its off-road power and ability. It just sailed over all kinds of terrain, including muddy and roads with fresh rains without any problems. The vehicle is also equipped with the radar-based features like adaptive cruise control and a collision warning system, and there are even other sensor-based safety features like lane-keeping assist.

Should I buy one?

Interestingly, Jaguar Land Rover offers its car models with so many variants and with such a wide price range, picking the right model could be quite confusing. Undoubtedly, while the big Range Rover remains the choice for ultimate luxury, the Land Rover Discovery is the one to choose for practicality, versatility as well as fun, and the Velar is now the ‘sporty’ one in the range with better on-road dynamics.

So where does this Range Rover Sport stand? Driving it a real long distance through all kinds of terrain, one is convinced that it is the do-it-all model which does have a little bit of everything in it. And it is irresistible.

At Rs 1.30 crore at pan India showroom is certainly a bit high but it certainly offers value for money such as the head turning looks, proper luxury, unbeatable off-road ability, and the power and the prestige the Range Rover badge boasts of.

Michael Gonsalves