Reviewing the 2010 Range Rover Sport

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Reviewing the 2010 Range Rover Sport front view

Reviewing the 2010 Range Rover Sport, How many sport-utilities are actually "sporty"? Utility - ok. They usually have lots of room and can carry lots of stuff. Most are good in the snow (or at least, better than a car). But sporty? That's another story!

Among high-dollar SUVs, only two really qualify. One is the Porsche Cayenne; the other is the Range Rover Sport, subject of this review.

WHAT IT IS

The Range Rover Sport is - you guessed it - a sporty (and slightly smaller) version of the Range Rover, the high-end, full-size 4WD SUV built by Britain's Land Rover. It's about half a foot shorter, four inches narrower through the hips and weighs about 150 pounds less than than the regular Range Rover.

It's also a lot less expensive - $59,645 for the HSE and $73,345 for the more powerful supercharged version - vs. $78,425 for the regular (slightly larger) Range Rover and $94,275 for the supercharged version.

WHAT'S NEW FOR 2010

2010 Range Rovers (both the Sport and the regular Rover) get a larger, more powerful standard 5.0 liter V-8 as well as a new six-speed automatic transmission and several key upgrades to features and equipment, including revised automatic 4WD programs and a new (hard drive-based) GPS navigation system.

WHAT'S GOOD

The price is a steal - basically the same Range Rover for almost $20k less.

Half the price of a Benz G550 (the only other uber-premium SUV that matches the RR's cachet as well as its off-road prowess). Supercharged version is $27k less than comparably powerful Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

Acceleration now appropriate to price - and better than some of the comparably priced competition

It does handle better, is easier to park/maneuver than the standard (larger/heavier) Range Rover - while giving up nothing as far as presence/exclusivity and features/amenties. Same tremendous off-road capability, too.

WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD

Headroom's a little tight (the price you pay for the extra sportiness). Gas mileage (13 city for the non-supercharged version) limits the range of this Rover - even with a 23.3 gallon tank. It's not hard to run it dry in 200 miles of real-world driving.

Fill-ups are forbidding - even for the affluent clientele that shops Land Rovers: About $70 a pop at current prices of $3 per gallon. Way too nice to actually take off-roading - just like all the others in this segment!

UNDER THE HOOD

The 2010 Range Rover Sport is equipped with a new (larger) and much more powerful 5 liter V-8 for 2010, with or without a supercharger. Without the supercharger, the V-8 produces 375 horsepower. With it, the power jumps to 510 hp - making it on of the strongest engines on the market, period.

Porsche's $99,900 Cayenne Turbo offers a "mere" 500 hp; to top the RR's power you'll have to pony up a staggering $126,300 for the 550 hp Turbo S.

The Mercedes-Benz G500, meanwhile, carries a 5.5 liter V-8 that makes 382 hp - about the same as the RR Sport. But like the Cayenne Turbo, the G500's base price of $104,400 puts in another orbit, almost.

With the new 5 liter, 375 hp V-8, the non-supercharged '10 Range Rover Sport accelerates from 0-60 as quickly as the 2009 supercharged Range Rover sport (7.2 seconds). With the supercharged version of the 5 liter engine, the 0-60 time drops to an extremely quick 5.9 seconds - quicker than the price-comparable Cayenne GTS (6.1 seconds for $72,400) and enough to harry the enormously more expensive six-figure Cayenne Turbo (4.9 seconds).

Impressively, gas mileage for the '10 RR is actually slightly better than before, too - even though the new model has larger and much more powerful engines. The non-supercharged 5 liter V-8 manages 13 city, 18 highway vs. the old 4.4's slurpalicious 12 city, 18 highway.

Both versions of the new 5 liter V-8s are teamed up with an also-new six-speed automatic transmission and Land Rover's impressively capable full-time 4WD system, which comes with multiple settings for different types of terrain and conditions such as Mud and Snow, Sand and Rock Crawl - as well as driver-selectable 4WD Low range gearing.

Maximum trailer towing capacity is 7,700 lbs. - same as the Cayenne but more than twice the Benz G500's startlingly meager 3,500 pound rating.

ON THE ROAD

The additional power is literally transformative - and equalizing. Last year's Range Rover Sport with the 300 hp 4.4 V-8 was on the borderline of slow - at least, for a vehicle at the top of the proverbial food chain in terms of brand status and snob appeal.

It took the '09 RR Sport about 8.2 seconds to reach 60 - about what a Toyota Corolla can manage. No one who buys a nearly $60k (to start) vehicle wants to be looking at the cheesy rubber bumper of a $13k car.

The Range Rover's just to heavy for even 300 hp to be sufficient. In '09, it was almost mandatory to buy the much more expensive supercharged version - which even then wasn't actually quick, just acceptable.

So, the new 375 hp is wonderful news - and not only because it makes the standard RR quick enough and responsive enough to stand up to Porsches.

The broader point is it's no longer essential to spend the additional $14K to upgrade to the supercharged version. The 510 hp engine now truly optional - in the sense that it's something you decide to buy because you want neck-snapping speed, not merely enough reserve on tap to pull safely onto a busy road or make a fast pass.

The other aspect of the RR is that, relatively speaking, its handling is sporty - at least, much more so than the very capable off-road but horribly clumsy on-road Mercedes Gelandewagen. That thing is a beast - one of the few new SUVs you can buy that still feels as though it might roll over taking corners at normal, posted speeds. The traction/stability control system come on constantly if the G is driven even a little bit aggressively on asphalt. There's really no comparison; the RR is exponentially more civilized - yet manages to remain just as capable of hitting the dirt (or crawling over rocks) as the G550.

The Cayenne beats the RR on-road, with 911-sharp steering and excellent reflexes overall. But it's more car-like design limits what it can do off-road (at least relative to the hunky Range Rover) and if you really do need the 4WD toughness, it's advantage RR.

A wild card: The Lexus GX460 offers similarly poised on-road manners as well as beefy off-road capability, but like last year's RR, the Lexus is underpowered, with just a 301 hp 4.6 liter V-8 under its hood (and no stronger optional V-8 available).

All in all, nothing else out there can match the straight-line acceleration (even in base trim), off-road bona fides and curb appeal of the Range Rover Sport - at least, not for $59k and change.

AT THE CURB

Land Rovers have a classic upright/boxy shape you either like - or don't. The current model could be parked next to a 1970s-era model and though there are numerous small changes and upgrades, the basic profile is like father-to-son.

It's a handsome vehicle in my opinion. Not brutal-looking like the Benz G550 (a vehicle whose military origins are obvious). It stands out, too - something the plain-looking Lexus GX460 doesn't do.

The RR Sport is physically smaller than the standard Range Rover (the RR Sport's wheelbase is 108 inches vs. 113.3 for the standard RR) but visually it's hard to tell the difference unless you park them side-by-side. In no way does the RR Sport seem less substantial or downgraded.

Both the RR Sport and the regular Range Rover seat five and - surprisingly - there's actually more front and rear seat legroom in the physically smaller RR Sport than in the larger overall regular Range Rover (42.4 inches/front seat legroom vs. 38.9 inches and 37.6 inches of rear seat legroom vs. 35.5). Headroom is tighter in the Sport, though (38.5 inches up front vs. 39.3 in the regular Rover) which can be a problem for taller drivers.

Cargo capacity is almost identical: 71 cubic feet for the RR Sport vs. 74 cubic feet for the regular Range Rover.

The fact that the Sport has about the same interior/cargo room as the larger-on-the-outside standard Range Rover is pretty cool. The fact that it handles/maneuvers more nimbly as a result of its arguably better use of space even more so.

You don't really lose anything by going with the RR Sport over the regular Range Rover - except sheer bulk and perhaps a bit of off-road capability under extreme conditions (the regular RR has a bit more ground clearance and its wheel/tire packages are more dirt-oriented than the aggressive performance rubber fitted to the RR Sport).

THE REST

The Range Rover appears to be meticulously put-together but it is a very complex vehicle with extremely complex sub-systems, most notably the Terrain Sensing 4WD. Previous Land Rover models have sometimes had bugs and could sometimes be unusually expensive to maintain. That said, there's a helluva cushion built into the RR Sport's $59k starting price - which is nearly $20k less than the base price of the larger on the outside but otherwise very similar standard Range Rover. That makes up for a lot, even if some bugs do crop up.

Land Rover provides a better-than-average four-year, 50,000 mile basic/powertrain warranty, too - which roughly tracks when most typical Rang Rover buyers would be about ready to trade-in.

Safety-wise, the RR comes with "everything" - including Hill Descent Control (electronically controls throttle and brake action to prevent the RR from building up excessive speed going down a steep grade) and (in supercharged versions) an emergency braking function that will slow (and even stop) the vehicle automatically if the cruise control is on and the driver doesn't notice traffic slowing down and begin to brake on his own.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It's a bit weird to be talking about any vehicle with a nearly $60k starting price as a "bargain" - but that's what the Range Rover Sport is. The new V-8s, meanwhile, fix the one real flaw this model had.

The end result is a very appealing high-end Sport Ute that can honestly be called sporty - without making a fool of oneself.

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Tags: #Land Rover