Hear the name Land Rover and immediately, a reliable off-roader is what comes to mind. After all, the automaker has its history in developing military vehicles for outfield activities. And when the brand announced its plans to discontinue its popular utility SUV, the Defender, car aficionados everywhere rushed to make their last orders (which closed in September worldwide, according to a Land Rover representative). Clearly, there is a high level of trust in the car marque's quality of its four-wheel-drives.
And with the Range Rover Sport — the sportier version of the British carmaker's flagship luxury model, the Range Rover — I expect it'd be no different. And it certainly does not disappoint.
I turn on the ignition of the SUV; it roars fiercely and loudly to life. Make no mistake, this car is all about muscle. It is bold, assertive even. The powerful growl of the off-roader echoes off the walls of the car park, as if to tell other drivers to steer clear. The one I'm driving boasts similar engineering as the Range Rover but what's different is that the Sport version has been tuned for, well, a sportier and more responsive drive. So it comes fitted with a smaller steering wheel for better grip and control, as well as a sports gear shift that was first introduced in Jaguar's top-of-the-line sports car, the F-Type. Not to mention, it has also been installed with torque vectoring (commonly found in cars built for speed) to maintain its balance and improve the car's grip.
Couple that with its sleek coupe-like shape and the four-wheeler also speaks of impeccable style. The new Sport variant has been designed with a more streamlined, sloping roofline and more rounded profile for increased aerodynamics. And being 149mm shorter and 55mm lower than the current Range Rover itself contributes to that too.
Furthermore, the Range Rover Sport is designed to be 62mm longer than its predecessor at 4,850mm for a roomier cabin. Yet, this length is still shorter than most seven-seaters and E segment sedans, making it easier to manoeuvre and park in our crowded city-state: Porsche Cayenne S is slightly longer at 4,855mm, BMW X6 stands at 4,909mm and Jeep Grand Cherokee at 4,875mm.
Inside, the car is rather spacious for five and is easily convertible into a seven-seater with a simple push of a button, in which a part of the boot opens up into two more seats — though it may be a bit of a squeeze — in the third row. Which also means that at full passenger capacity, it leaves less space in the boot for your loot.
What I like is how Land Rover clearly thinks about its passengers' convenience in its design process. Despite standing at a height of almost 1.8m, it is equipped with a button that allows the SUV to be gently lowered nearer to the ground by about five to 10cm to let passengers climb in easily, so there's thankfully no room for a less-than-glamorous stumble in and out of the vehicle.
Thanks to the Terrain Response system that helps monitor and adapt to driving conditions, the Range Rover Sport ensures ride comfort on all surfaces, be it grass, gravel, sand or even snow. And to top it off, the four-by-four is crafted with first-in-class aluminium architecture that shaves off up to 420kg to enhance the car's agility and speed with the V6 supercharged engine. That explains why this hunk of metal, despite weighing more than 2,100kg, is able to complete the century sprint in 7.2 seconds.
Being significantly lighter doesn't mean the Range Rover Sport is any less sturdy. The car is still one heck of a tough guy: Case in point, I took the car off-road and unknowingly went over some debris on the ground that had tragically ripped the tyre. I only realised it much later, when the tyre had already dislodged itself from the wheel rims from the stress of the continued driving, which made the ride bumpy.
When pitted against its closest competitor, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz ML 400 4Matic, the Range Rover Sport unfortunately lags behind a little in performance. The former, also powered by a V6 engine, boasts a higher top speed of 247kph (as compared to the Land Rover's 210kph) and a faster acceleration time of 6.5 seconds (7.2 seconds). Furthermore, the Benz is also more fuel-efficient, consuming a maximum of 9.7L per 100km, while the Land Rover does 10.7L.
But these specifications aren't really much of a deal-breaker, simply because of the assurance that Land Rover fans have in the automaker's off-roaders, the Range Rover Sport included. So when it comes to choosing one that can be trusted to keep on going through rocky roads, petrol heads know the Land Rover name sits pretty much at the top of the list.
Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic 3.0 S/C
Engine: 2,995cc V6 supercharged petrol engine
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shift
Max power: 250kW @ 6,500rpm
Max torque: 450Nm @ 3,500-5,000rpm
Max speed: 210kph
Acceleration: 0-100kph in 7.2 seconds
Combined fuel consumption: 10.7L per 100km
CO2 emission: 249g/km
Kerb weight: 2,147kg