Luxury, utility abound in Range Rover Sport
By ANDY MIKONIS For Sun-Times Media May 23, 2012 2:10PM
2012 LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER SPORT
ENGINE: 375-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8
TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic
DRIVETRAIN: four-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 13 city/18 highway
BASE PRICE: $60,045 plus $850 destination
AS TESTED: $70,595 including destination
Since a significant reworking for the 2010 model year, changes to the Range Rover Sport, not surprisingly, have been incremental. For 2012, its crisp, contemporary styling is undisturbed by some subtle cosmetic changes with enhanced infotainment as the main event.
Range Rover definitely puts the sport in sport utility with the magnificent 5.0-liter direct-injected V-8. Yes, it still burns a lot of gas, so we’ll get that out of the way up front. I do believe there is still a place for this type of vehicle, though if you are not using it for its potential there are other vehicles that would probably suit you better.
Meanwhile, enjoy one of the most velvety V-8s out there. It’s perfectly refined and balanced for a quiet and vibration-free power delivery. Highway passing maneuvers seem effortless with a slight tip-in of the throttle.
If you are still feeling guilty about fuel consumption, rest easier knowing this high-tech piece achieves ULEV2 (ultra low emissions vehicle) status. If zero to 60 in 7.2 seconds isn’t fast enough for you for some reason, the 510-horsepower supercharged version is available.
Though the Range Rover Sport is still blessed with the Land Rover family’s prowess for off-pavement adventuring, the Sport’s ride and handling is tuned for solid ground. Spring rates are sufficiently stiff to keep it from feeling top heavy in the corners as well as offering a firmly planted ride. The compromise is hitting bumps hard and even transmitting a lot of smaller imperfections to the occupants. The optional, and fashionable, 20-inch wheels probably contribute to that.
In the utility department, the Range Rover Sport can tow a respectable 7,716 pounds of trailer. A new power lift gate is a nice addition for access to the rear cargo area. You can operate it from the instrument panel or the now-more-compact key fob, as well as close it via a button on the tailgate itself.
Folding the rear seats is more of a procedure than average, but with good results. First you have to tip the back of the bottom cushion forward, which requires the front seat(s) to be well forward on their tracks. Then you can fold the rear seatbacks down. They firmly click into place for a perfectly flat load floor. The bottom of the bottom cushion then acts as a stop, protecting the nicely upholstered backs of the front seats from shifting items.
Ultimately, while some other SUVs may be a little quicker to convert, the Range Rover Sport offers one of the safest, most useful and sturdiest platforms in the cargo area.
The 2010 model year upgrades included a rethinking of the hard controls on the instrument panel, particularly the center stack. Those changes are holding up. Switches are easy to find and have a quality feel.
Luxury is still a Range Rover hallmark, of course, and this tester with the luxury interior package did not leave me wanting. The seats were most comfortable, with power lumbar and bolstering adjustments. The appointments were elegantly styled and nicely finished.
Beautiful, powerful and capable, the Range Rover Sport is my pick of the Land Rover lineup. It’s the right size for an SUV: big enough to be useful, yet more manageable than the larger selections out there. It’ll do about anything you need a truck to do without compromising much to the big boys.
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