2018 Range Rover Sport SDV6 HSE – $132,000 (plus on roads)
Price as tested – $179,630
(4 / 5)
How many new Range Rovers have you seen heading off into the bush? Thought so. Time to see if these cars live up to their heritage, by heading into the rough stuff.
Walk into an electronics store and the visuals can be quite overwhelming. Even more so as you approach the TV section.
Ridiculously rich colour, clarity which makes you take your glasses redundant, and immersive 3D images. Taking home their shiny new panel, they plug it into the wall and watch A Current Affair.
It seems incongruous that we get mesmerised by the explosions of colour and how visually accomplished these screens are, but once it gets home, its put to menial work projecting images of daytime TV.
The same happens with SUVs. People can sink half a million bucks on a W12 Bentayga, but draconian speed limits limit its full potential. So why do people buy it, if they’re not going to use it?
It’s a question we asked ourselves about the Range Rover Sport. It’s a fabulous machine to look at and to drive, but there’s so much ability on offer, too.
The real question is, will people actually use it?
Our mission was to see what’s possible. So, we took a Range Rover Sport and actually did what most people won’t – went off-road.
Our test car was the top of the line HSE, which costs AU$132,000, but with options it jacked up to nearly AU$180K – more on that later.
What’s so special about it?
Under the bonnet is JLR’s fabulous 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6, which produces 225kW and 600Nm, which is slightly more power than the Jaguar F-Pace with the same engine, but a whopping 100Nm less than the Jag.
Still, you don’t want for more grunt with a wave of torque arriving 1750rpm and helping to get the big beast to 100kmh in 7.2 seconds. It’s not the quickest machine out there, but there’s a smooth unrelenting feel that keeps it ahead of traffic very easily.
And when you visit the bowser, if you’re doing things the way that governments test cars for consumption, you’ll be using 7.0 litres of diesel per 100kmh. Not bad for a 2134kg machine.
How does it go on the road?
On the road it handles beautifully, too, easily besting the rest of the Land Rover range for its ride versus handling balance. With accurate steering and plenty of feedback (and weighting that’s just right) it can be hauled into a corner far more urgently than most people would dare.
It never feels like it’s struggling for grip, nor does it plow into understeer. In fact, it’s extremely balanced and people who are sensible will be backing off before its ability starts to run out.
Rest assured, it will blast down a back road at a lot quicker rate than most people will be comfortable with.
How is it inside?
It’s beautifully built, with first class materials, soft leather, plush padding and solid feeling switchgear. Everything about the interior looks high end, and in the light coloured trim of our test car it feels massive.
That’s probably because it is. The front seats are separated by a wide padded lid which covers a deep cubby hole, plus there are fold down armrests creating captains chairs.
And with the low, and wide window sill, it’s easy to find yourself with both wings out, fingertips on the steering wheel, cruising along.
The back seats have acres of space, and three abreast is easy, however the rear bench is definitely sculpted into two outer buckets and a flat centre seat.
Try to pick those two, if you can.
The boot is huge, too, with 784 litres of space with the rear seats up, but can be increased to 1,761 litres when you fold them flat.
The InControl infotainment system is easy to navigate, looks great and is fast, especially when typing in addresses and such.
Its voice control is not up to Audi or BMW standards (it doesn’t understand natural English phrases), but once you learn the right commands, it works quite well.
So, it’s spacious, practical and is built to perfection. What’s the catch? The options.
Land Rover went a bit nuts with the options on this particular car. A few of the highlights are the Sliding Panoramic Roof with powered blind for $4,330, the Meridian Digital Surround Sound System (825W) with 19 speakers for $2,990, InControl Connect Pro Pack (InControl Remote Premium, InControl Pro Services and Wi-Fi Hotspot, InControl Apps for Warranty Period) which is $2,200, Surround Camera System for just $1,850, and Heated front and rear seats which costs you $1,600.
Other options fitted were Body-coloured side sills and bumpers – $2,470; Black contrast roof – $1,440; Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) – $1,420; Privacy Glass with Infrared Reflective windscreen – $1,390; InControl Secure for Warranty Period – $1,300; Tow Hitch Receiver – $980; Ebony Morzine headlining – $910; InControl Protect (includes SOS emergency call, optimised roadside assistance call, smartphone remote essentials app for warranty period) – $850; and Advanced Tow Assist – $400.
Wow. But when the people from Land Rover sent through the build sheet for our test car, one item stood out.
“Verbier Silver – Satin Finish SVO Premium Pallete Paint – $14,600”. It certainly looks more matte than satin, but that’s not what grabbed our attention. Rather, it was the cost.
The car’s list price was $132,000. The paint was $14,600. When was the last time you heard of someone ticking a paint colour box on a four-wheel-drive which cost 11 per cent of what the car did?
This isn’t a finish where you can just buff out a scratch. It needs to be handled with care.
You can imagine, then, that it would be quite easy to run around with it for a week, say nice things and hand it back, lest we leave a mark on that precious paintjob.
Instead, in a moment of brain-fade, it was decided to put it through its paces on the Mundaring Powerline Track, east of Perth, Western Australia.
Okay, so what’s it like off road?
Sharp rocks, thick mud, piercing gravel – yep, looks like the perfect place to take a matte-painted Range Rover.
It certainly raised the eyebrows of the hardcore Patrols, 70 Series Crusiers and Jeeps that were gathered at the entrance of the track.
But we weren’t there to be mocked. We were there to see if this Range Rover lives up to its heritage.
It is a Sport, so it’s automatically hamstrung in comparison with the Vogue and even the Discovery, which both have a more plush ride and slightly more height available to them.
But surely 278mm of ground clearance will help, right?
Time to find out. Using the wheel-size for lowest tyre pressure rule, we dropped the hoops to 22psi, left the Terrain Response in auto and headed off up the hill.
With the first section being firm sand, and the car being constant all-wheel-drive, it was no challenge at all.
With not a lot of rain, the mud puddles had shrunk, however a few lurking branches meant we kept away from the water holes.
Some of them are notorious for dropping steeply away, too, and we did want to hand the car back without drowning it – better to be safe than sorry.
The real test, though, was heading up the gravel-strewn hills.
With a slippery surface atop compacted rock and clay, the car’s brain would have to work out what the wheels were doing and keep a careful check on how much grip is actually there.
In auto mode, the Terrain Response system leaves the car in high range, using the low gearing of the superb eight-speed auto as a virtual low range, thanks to the short first and second gear.
Bear in mind, that having low range isn’t standard in the Sport. The On/Off Road Pack (which includes Terrain Response, Twin-Speed Transfer Box (High/Low Range), All Terrain Progress Control (ATPC), Dynamic Response, Torque Vectoring, Terrain Response® 2 Dynamic Program) costs a whopping $8,900. How many Sport buyers are going to tick that box? If they want to head off-road, it’s a must.
For this section of the track, we could do without it, and as it turns out, it was never needed.
With the front wheels moving skyward, there’s a little scrabble for grip, but the slip is quickly reined in by the traction control, and for the most part the tyres are pushing into the dirt enough for it to not have to worry too much.
Only when the undulations start getting bigger and there are wheels in the air does the need to clamp down on spinning wheels become necessary.
The car bounces around for a split second while the torque shuffles from one side to the other and then we keep going.
In auto mode and in these conditions, it’s all you need. And because you can activate the hill descent control separately, the Sport will happily trundle downhill at a speed you are comfortable with.
Occasionally, a little more ground clearance would have been nice, not because it would get grounded over objects, rather to give it a fraction more approach angle.
It was its approach that limited the Range Rover Sport, as it would nose into the ground in some sections, producing an audible scrape (and wince from inside) which was where it was hitting the sacrificial plastic underneath.
Upon inspection, no damage was done, but without care, plenty could have been.
Further up the track, we decided to test the rock crawl function of the Terrain Response system. And here is where it demanded that low range be selected.
Stop, shift to neutral, press low range, wait a sec – okay, the light is now on the dashboard and away we go.
Instantly, it’s a different beast. The throttle response is a lot sharper (perhaps too much) as a consequence of shortening the gearing. It’s also a lot more eager to clamp down on any wheelspin.
While the auto mode relies mostly on physical grip, rock-crawl is monitoring grip like a hawk, grabbing any little millimetre of spin, making sure that nothing slips at all.
Because of this, the brakes chatter constantly.
It works well, of course, but in auto mode it’s no less effective. Mind you, it would be a different story if it had been raining and there was nothing to grip at all.
If that happened, you’d be grateful for the over-eager traction control, and in mud, its ability to eke out grip is unsurpassed.
The ride off road is also excellent – not quite as supple as the Vogue, of course, but again considering its ability on road, the Range Rover Sport acquits itself admirably.
Here’s the deal
Despite a few close calls with a few close walls, we finished the track without any scratches. And heading to the car wash on the way home, the dust made a few people smile; finally someone has taken a Sport up more than just a kerb.
It’s a shame that more people don’t actually use their Range Rovers where they really shine. To be fair, they do take their cars where they really shine, because they are very, very good on the road. But half of its strength is how well it can go off-road.
And that’s just in the dustbowl of the Powerline Track. On mossy grass, deep mud, snowy mountains or any manner of surfaces, it’s just as impressive.
But how reliable it will be is a question for another time.
In the warranty period, at least, it’s a brilliant vehicle and it offers Vogue quality at a fraction of the price. That’s until you start ticking a few options boxes.
Suddenly the Vogue starts to look like a bargain…
2018 Range Rover Sport SDV6 Specifications
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 225kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 600Nm @ 1750-2250rpm
0-100kmh: 7.2 seconds
Fuel use: 7.0L/100km