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SPORT/L320 INTRODUCTION

The Range Rover Sport brings to fruition the desire of Land Rover to expand the number of models in the lineup and increase market share with a slightly smaller, more sporty luxury SUV. It is aimed squarely at the "sports car SUVs" such as the BMW X3 & X5, Mercedes ML, and Porsche Cayenne, with the idea of equaling their on-road performance while blowing them away in off-road capability. When a "Range Stormer" concept vehicle made the rounds of auto shows, everyone hoped that Ford would not debase the Range Rover name by using it on something with less than superior off road capabilities. As it turns out, Land Rover has done a creditable job, and the resulting vehicle is so impressive that thousands were ordered months before its mid-2005 availability date.

The new model was officially unveiled in November 2004, and was shown at the January 2005 Detroit Motor Show, with availability scheduled for June 2005. Based on the Discovery 3 (LR3) platform, the Range Rover Sport uses the same hybrid chassis and body construction, with wheelbase reduced by 6 inches and the overall stance lowered. The more stylish, less bulky bodywork has traditional Range Rover styling cues such as the "floating" roof and clamshell bonnet/hood. The Discovery's double-wishbone air suspension with "Terrain Response" system is utilized, along with its base engine -- the 300 horsepower Jaguar-derived 4.4 liter V8.

The Sport's reduced bulk gives it better highway performance than the Discovery, further enhanced by a sophisticated dynamic stability system. More exciting is the upscale version with a 4.2 liter supercharged version of the V8, developing about 400 horsepower and giving a zero to 60 time of about 7.2 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph. Even this version will not quite keep up with the fastest "poseur" SUVs from Porsche and Mercedes, but it's good enough to provide a serious alternative for those looking for something with real off-road capability.

Overall, the Range Rover Sport seems to have achieved the design goals set for it, resulting in a compact package with superb high speed pavement performance and handling. Off-road capabilities are slightly compromised, but should still be adequate to leave the pretenders from BMW, Mercedes and Porsche stuck in the ditch.

BODY AND FRAME DESIGN

The Range Rover Sport shares the Discovery 3's "integrated body-frame", with a full box section frame directly attached to a body that has almost unibody strength. This gives it serious off-road underpinnings combined with the body stiffness needed to reduce rattles and improve crashworthiness. About 6 inches has been cut out of the Discovery frame, making the Sport's wheelbase 108 inches, the same as the 4.0/4.6 Range Rover and about 7 inches shorter than the current model Range Rover.

The bulky, spacious Discovery body shape is replaced with a more compact, aerodynamic, lower-profile body that looks more like a Range Rover. The roofline slopes down towards the rear spoiler, and the use of black trim on the window pillars retains the "floating roofline" styling cue of the Range Rover. Other Range Rover cues include the clamshell bonnet/hood (which, however, has lost its castellation) and a high "command" seating position.

The inevitable nested headlights adorn the front (probably a style that will soon go out of fashion), and racy looking grille and side vents convey the impression of speed. One loss compared to other Range Rovers is the traditional and very useful tailgate -- this is replaced in the Sport by a clever hatch back design that allows you to open either the top window only (for access to put small items in the back), or the whole hatch for full access. Sadly, however, no more tailgate parties! 

In spite of the 6 inch wheelbase reduction, overall length is only 2.4 inches (6 cm) shorter than the Discovery. And the Sport is actually 40 lbs (20kg) heavier, tipping the scales at 5468lb (2480 kg). Compared to the standard Range Rover, it is about 6.5 inches (15 cm) shorter and 90 lbs (40kg) heavier. This reflects the less efficient (from a strength to weight point of view) body and frame construction compared to the BMW-designed monocoque Range Rover.

The lower, more aerodynamic body of the Sport coupled with the same engine and transmission gives it better high speed performance than the Discovery, with a top speed of 130 mph for the base version and 140 for the supercharged version.

Overall, the body design sheds some of the grace, simplicity, subtlety and refinement of the standard Range Rover, in favor of a more flashy, sporty appearance reminiscent of a Detroit concept vehicle. But it still succeeds in conveying "Range Roverness" in a more compact sporty package. The Sport's interior is similarly more "sporty" than the standard Range Rover, with leather, wood and metallic finishing materials conveying the feel of a high performance machine.

ENGINE AND DRIVE TRAIN

Like the chassis and suspension, the standard 4.4 litre V8 engine comes directly from the Discovery 3/LR3. (After mid-2005 it also serves as the base engine for the standard Range Rover). This Jaguar-developed engine has been modified by Land Rover to optimize it for off road use, with better low speed torque characteristics and the ability to run at extreme angles. It is an aluminum alloy design with 4 valves per cylinder, developing 300 hp at 5,500 RPM and 315 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.

New for the Sport model (and also as an option for the standard Range Rover) is another Jaguar-derived power plant, a 4.2 liter supercharged version of the V8 which turns out 390 hp at 5,750 rpm and 400 ft-lb of torque at 3,500 rpm. Both engines unfortunately continue the Range Rover tradition of requiring premium unleaded fuel. For Sport drivers who are less interested in sport and more in fuel economy, a more pedestrian diesel version is also offered. This uses a 2.7 litre turbo diesel.

The transmission for the new model is also directly from the Discovery -- a 6 speed ZF HP26 unit with normal, sport, and manual shift modes -- the latter being particularly useful in low range. On the supercharged model, a "positive torque" feature is added to enhance gear changes. The transfer case, also from the Discovery, has an excellent low range ratio of 2.9 to 1 and an electronically controlled locking center differential. I am not sure yet whether the optional rear diff lock available on the Discovery will also be offered on the Range Rover Sport.

Land Rover's now-standard 4-wheel electronic traction control and Hill Descent Control systems are included on the new model. The latter is designed to limit speed and maintain controllability in steep downhill descents, by manipulating the throttle and ABS systems to achieve a target speed of 1.6 mph in low range. Also included is the new "Terrain Response" system that was introduced on the Discovery 3. A 5-position dial on the center console allows the driver to select the type of terrain being negotiated -- pavement, snow, mud, sand, or rocks -- and the computer adjusts such parameters as allowable slip on the traction control, suspension height, and gear ratio to optimize drivability, comfort and traction.

The LR3/Discovery 3 and Range Rover Sport can use the same wheels, but the tire size on the Sport is a tad smaller, at 255/50R19, while the supercharged version has very low profile 275/40R20 tires. The Sport has special brakes to go along with its high speed abilities; the supercharged model uses bigger discs (both front and rear) in combination with special Brembo 4-piston calipers on the front. (Note that models with the Brembo brakes are not compatible with all wheel choices).

SUSPENSION

Like the rest of the Sport's mechanicals, the suspension derives directly from the Discovery 3, but with some variations to optimize it for higher speed performance on road. This suspension was in turn derived from the Range Rover independent electronically controlled air suspension introduced in 2002, but uses double wishbones both front and rear.

Like previous Range Rover air suspensions, it can be raised for off road use and lowered for convenient access. The controls for the suspension, high and low range selection, hill descent control, and terrain response are all grouped together at the rear of the center console. To improve on-road dynamics, the Range Rover Sport adopts a somewhat lower stance than the Discovery, resulting in a loss of ground clearance in all modes. On the Sport, the maximum ground clearance under the differentials is 8.9 inches, compared to 9.5 on the Discovery and 11 on the Range Rover. As a result, the ramp break over angle is somewhat diminished at 25 degrees in off road mode, compared with 28 degrees on the other models. (Of course, 25 degrees is still much better than the average competitor -- for example a Jeep Grand Cherokee scores somewhere around 17 degrees). However as an added bonus, the Extended Profile mode last seen on the Mark II/P38 has returned on the Sport, giving an extra 1.5 inches of clearance when the computer senses that the vehicle is high centered. In this mode, the driver can hold the "up" switch on (for 3 seconds with a foot on the brake) for another 1.5 inches or 3 inches over the normal off road mode -- a total of almost 12 inches of clearance.

The use of cross-linking for both front and rear air springs when off road, allowing air to slosh rapidly between left and right, was pioneered on the Range Rover Mark III, copied on the Discovery 3 and is carried over to the Range Rover Sport. This has a highly beneficial effect -- softening the ride over bumps and maximizing ground contact force at the drooping wheel (thereby increasing traction).

INTERIOR & LUXURY FEATURES

The Sport's interior is more "sporty" than the standard Range Rover, with grey and metallic colors dominating the leather and wood trim, to convey feel of a high performance machine. All the off-road controls (high and low range, terrain response, suspension height, hill descent control) are conveniently grouped together at the rear of the center console behind the gearshift. As would be expected in any Range Rover, the Sport comes with a high level of luxury trim and features to make life easier for the driver. A premium navigation system similar to that in the standard Range Rover includes off-road features facilitating finding your way back from your off-road adventure. It incorporates an "advanced 4X4 information center" which displays information relevant to off-road driving such as the direction the wheels are pointed, the Terrain Response mode selected, and which wheels are in contact with the ground. An available Personal Telephone Integration System includes voice-activated and steering wheel controls. The 14-speaker, 550 watt Harmon Kardon Logic 7 sound system includes an in-dash CD changer, MP3-player interface, and separate controls for front and rear passengers allowing them to listen to different music.

ON ROAD ATTRIBUTES AND PERFORMANCE

Range Rover engine power traditionally lags behind what is really needed to get to the head of the pack among SUVs. The Sport model is designed to address that deficit, and goes a good way towards doing so. The supercharged version can even keep up with a Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland on the drag strip, getting to 60mph in 7.2 seconds, and is probably far better in overall handling. The 140 mph top speed of the supercharged model is impressive. The lesser engines are still no slugs -- the 4.4 litre V8 model has a top speed of 130, and a 0-60 time of 8.2 seconds, while even the diesel version can do 120, but is a bit more leisurely in acceleration, making it to 60 in 11.9 seconds.

In tune with the Range Rover Sport's on-road cachet, a clever new "adaptive cruise control" allows the driver to keep a set distance behind the vehicle in front. The smart steering system varies power assistance level and thereby steering "feel" according to speed. Dynamic Stability Control system helps keep the enthusiastic driver out of trouble by intervening to save your life when a wheel threatens to lift off the pavement while negotiating a bend at 130 mph. The system monitors cornering forces and senses when a wheel is about to lift off. It can apply corrective action such as limiting throttle input, activating or deactivating sway bars, and selectively applying braking forces to one or more wheels. The system also acts on the anti-sway bars to improve body control in corners; the bars are decoupled on the straights for greater ride comfort and off-road for maximum wheel articulation -- another advance in Range Rover suspension design innovation. It can be switched off if the driver prefers. Adaptive headlamps are connected to the steering so they can swivel to preview what is around the bend, like the old Citroen DS21 of the 1970's.

In an initial road test, the ride was reported to be superb at high speed, but a bit firm and fidgety on poor surfaces, indicating that the engineers have not yet mastered the art of providing the velvet ride quality of the Classic in an updated form, but this model is clearly aimed at the sports enthusiast who probably will not mind. For details of RangeRovers.net test drive go to the Sport Test Drive page.

OFF ROAD FEATURES

Off road ability is the one area where skeptics of the new Range Rover Sport may still need convincing. First the bad news: even though a vehicle might incorporate every technological aid known to man, in real-life off roading there is no substitute for adequate ground clearance. Here the Sport is slightly handicapped in comparison with Land Rover's traditionally excellent standards. As pointed out above, its clearance and ramp break over angle do not compare favorably to previous Range Rovers and Land Rovers.

The good news is that in every area except ultimate clearance, the Sport has remarkably good off road attributes. It is built like a tank, as indicated by its massive weight, and the sturdy underpinnings will easily withstand the harsh treatment of real off road driving.

Approach and departure angles, 34 and 29 degrees respectively, are very good, and the designers have done a great job of shaping the rear end so there are no protruding pieces such as an exhaust tip that will get broken off when exiting a deep ditch or washout. Unfortunately, on the supercharged model you get bonus chrome exhaust tips that do protrude, but they could probably be removed. The spare tire is mounted under the rear end, and for serious off road trips one might want to move it so it won't get damaged. However it is notable that a full-sized spare is provided, in contrast to its competitors which come with a space-saver version that you wouldn't like to have to use on a 4WD road -- in my experience the most likely place to et a flat. This highlights the difference between the Sport and the Cayenne and its ilk -- the latter do not have serious off-road capability.

Wheel travel is very respectable, and the various aids to traction such as the electronic traction control and the suspension cross-coupling are a big help. The various traction aids make it superior on slick mud, snow and ice, and all that horsepower is a real boon on sand. Measured by the standards of competing models such as a Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Sport is superior in all off road attributes and should have no problem leaving them in the dust (or mud). It will have even less trouble from the BMW and Mercedes pseudo-SUVs that are its main market competitors. Unlike them, it can even be ordered with a factory winch accessory! It is only when compared with the high standards set by other Land Rover vehicles that it falls slightly short.

Overall, it is heartening that the route taken by the Freelander was not followed in the Range Rover Sport. Compared to that vehicle, the new model is infinitely better off road, and only falls slightly short of its sister Range Rover and Discovery/LR3 models. Certainly, the average driver will be surprised at where it can go -- only experienced off-road drivers will occasionally run up against its ground clearance limitations in certain situations encountered on rocky trails, crossing berms and ditches, etc. For those wanting to further improve the off road performance of the Sport, it is good to know that the 255/55R19 Goodyear MT/R tires used on the Range Rover in Land Rover's recent G4 Challenge should fit perfectly.

BUILD QUALITY

Time will tell whether Ford has succeeded in forcing Land Rover to improve build quality and help erase the reputation it has for prolific oil leaks and electrical problems. Hopefully it will do better than the new Range Rover did in registering second to last in the July 2003 JD Powers initial quality survey. This was before the Ford ownership had time to take hold, and it is notable that Ford-owned Jaguar had risen well into the top half of rankings in the same survey. Meanwhile, an extended warranty is well worth considering if you are thinking of buying a Range Rover Sport.

WHAT MODEL YEAR?

In selecting a Range Rover it is helpful to know when main mechanical, functional and comfort changes occur. Below is a brief overview for each year. For detailed specifications, illustrations of different models and their distinguishing features, see the Model Year Specifications section.

SPORT/L320 CHRONOLOGY

2005 (summer) New Range Rover Sport model becomes available (sold as a 2006 model in the US).

2006: No significant changes

2007: Minor option changes -- bluetooth became standard, Supercharged had Sirius radio standard and extra wood and leather trim choices.

OVERALL SPECIFICATIONS

Dimensions, Weights and Capacities

Length 188.5 inches (4788 mm)

Width 75.9 inches (1928 mm); 85.4 inches (2170 mm) outside mirrors

Height 71.5 inches (1817 mm) (sunroof open)

Wheelbase 108 in (2745mm)

Track Turning Circle 38.1 feet (11.6 metres)

Ground Clearance 8.9 in (227 mm) Hi profile; 6.8 inches (172 mm)

Standard Fording Depth 27.6 in

Approach Angle (Hi Profile) 34 deg

Departure Angle (Hi Profile) HSE: 29 deg with spare tire. Supercharged: 27 deg w/spare tire

Breakover Angle (Hi Profile) 25 deg (Hi Profile)

Luggage Capacity ? cu ft (rear seat up), 71 cu ft (2013 litres) (rear seat down)

Curb Weight HSE: 5,468 lb (2480 kg); Supercharged: 5670 lb (2572 kg).

GVWR HSE: 6768 lb (3070 k). Supercharged: 6889 lb (3125 kg)

Payload 1,300 lbs (590 kg)

Max Roof Rack Load lbs

Max Trailer Wt 7,716 lbs (3500 kg) with brakes, 1653 lbs (750 kg) without brakes

Max Tongue Wt 550 lbs

Fuel Capacity 23.3 US gallons (88.1 litres)

Engine Data Engine Type Jaguar-derived aluminium 90 degree DOHC V8, 4 valves per cylinder

Displacement 4.4 litres (HSE), 4.2 litres (Supercharged).

Bore/Stroke HSE: 3.465x3.555 inches (88x90.3 mm). Supercharged: 3.386x3.555 inches (86x90.3 mm)

Compression Ratio HSE: 10.75:1; Supercharged: 9.1:1

Power HSE: 300 bhp @ 5500 rpm; Supercharged 400 @5750 rpm.

Torque HSE: 315 lb ft @ 4,000 rpm; Supercharaged 420 lb ft @3500 rpm

Engine Management Sequential multiport fuel injection, mass airflow sensor

 Ignition System Distributorless, 4 knock sensors, dual mode electronic throttle, engine drag torque control, one touch starting.

Alternator

Fuel Premium unleaded

Drivetrain Data Transmission ZF 4 speed electrically controlled with "Command Shift" manual shifting, locking torque converter.

Shift Modes Normal, Sport, Manual

Transmission Ratios 3.57, 2.20, 1.51, 1.00, 0.80:1. Reverse: 4.10:1

Transfer box Two speed chain-driven, electric shift w/Torsen torque-sensing differential, shift on the move capability

Transfer box ratios 1.00:1 (hi), 2.69:1 (lo)

Differentials 3.73:1 ratio.

4WD type: Permanent 4WD Traction Control: 4 wheel electronic

Wheels 19x8 inch alloy (US models)

Tires 255/55HR19 mud & snow radials

Brakes 4 channel ABS, swept area 469 sq in

Suspension and Steering Front: Independent (MacPherson struts with double pivot lower arms) Anti-sway bar Electronically adjustable cross-linked air springs Rear: Independent (double wishbone)

Electronically adjustable cross-linked air springs

Shocks: Conventional telescopic gas-filled

Wheel Travel: 10.75 inches front, 13.0 inches rear

Steering Rack & pinion, engine-speed sensitive power assist

Turns lock to lock 3.5

Turning Circle 38 feet

Brakes Front: 13.54 inch ventilated discs Rear: 13.94 in solid discs ABS: 4 channel, all terrain Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBA), cornering brake control (CBC), Hill Descent Control (HDC), and all-terrain dynamic stability control (DSC)

Standard Appointments

Park Distance Control (front and rear)

Heated, power folding, automatic dimming outside mirrors; passenger side mirror also dims in reverse

12-way driver,

10-way passenger electrically adjustable (heated option) front seats

3 driver memory for drivers seat, steering wheel and exterior mirror positions

290-watt Harman Kardon/Alpine audio system; 12 speakers, DSP, speed-sensitive volume control, Radio Data System (RDS), 6 disc CD changer in glove box, cassette player behind GPS nav system

3-zone climate control with programmed defrost and outside temperature display

Heated windshield and rear window w/power wash (heated on windshield)

Pollen filter for sealing out off-road dust

One touch open/close on all windows & sunroof; convenience close with one action for all windows and sunroof

Power tilt/telescopic steering wheel with auto tilt-away

Integral Class III trailer hitch receiver

Blenheim leather seats

Burled walnut or American cherry wood trim

Retained accessory power after ignition switch-off for windows and sunroof

GPS off-road enhanced navigation system

Power wash and wipe

Halogen headlights (Bi-Xenon optional)

Auxiliary fog lights front and rear

Full instrumentation with tachometer and analog clock

Comprehensive message center and trip computer

Fuel filler door indicator

Dual-blade sun visors

Cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls

Full size glovebox and multiple storage containers;

5 cup holders

Tinted glass aft of B pillar & on sunroof

Security system with keyless entry, central locking including fuel filler, and "super locking".

Front crumple zones and collapsible steering column

8 airbags and four side door impact beams

Pre-tensioning front seatbelts and height-adjustable anchors on all outboard belts

Head restraints for all 5 passengers

Driver and front passenger knee bolsters

Child seat anchor system

Child locks on rear doors and power windows

Home Link system for garage doors and security gates

4 year/50,000 mile warranty 6 year unlimited mileage corrosion protection warranty

Optional Bi Xenon headlights

Optional Heated Accessories Package: Heated front & rear seats and steering wheel; Ski/hatch bag integrated into center rear armrest

Performance

Data 0-62mph 9.2 sec

Standing 1/4 mile

Top Speed 130 mph (Claimed)

EPA city/hwy 12/17 mpg

Observed fuel use 14 mpg (Car & Driver)

Braking 70-0

Skid Pad g