Like its brethren, for the past five years the Range Rover Sport has had an adaptive suspension and Land Rover's Terrain Response system, which lets the driver select an appropriate traction control program with a dial on the console for whatever surface the car is traversing. Next to that dial are controls to change the ride height, engage hill descent, and put it in low range.
We ran the Range Rover Sport over some muddy and rutted roads, setting the dial to the mud program. It automatically put the vehicle in its low range, and it faithfully pulled and pushed its way along the course. We got some sideways slip in the mud, so the program isn't foolproof, but it felt like the Range Rover Sport could tackle a lot worse.
Down a dirt road with hill descent on, it maintained a nice, slow speed as it came down the slope evenly. The air suspension gives the Range Rover Sport good ground clearance, raising it more than 2 inches from 6.8 inches in standard mode to 8.9 inches at its top height. This clearance helped it over some of the rutted roads we ran. We were also impressed with its stability on a section of slanted dirt road that tilted the car sideways.
With a Range Rover, off-road prowess is to be expected, but we weren't quite prepared for the curve-handling of this model. We wouldn't normally have pounded the Range Rover Sport through the corners if it weren't for the transmission's sport mode and the Terrain Response system's Dynamic setting.
Engaging both of these tech tricks, and taking advantage of the engine's ridiculous power, we pushed the Range Rover Sport into the corners. We took it carefully at first, but jumped up the speed when we felt how flat it remained as its almost 3-ton bulk tried to obey inertia. At greater speeds, we felt a little rotation in the corners, giving us even more confidence in its speed.
Its main failing in this type of driving came when we braked hard before a corner, causing the whole vehicle to pitch forward. The suspension does a good job of controlling roll, but forward and back motion isn't damped as well.
The Dynamic setting not only adjusts the suspension, but also increases engine response. The transmission, a six-speed automatic, has an aggressive sport setting. Hitting the brakes before a turn, it downshifted fast, keeping the engine speed up and letting us tap most of that 510 horsepower, which peaks at 6,000rpm, as we accelerated out.
There is also a manual mode, shiftable with the stick or the paddles on the steering wheel. Shifting this way gave reasonably quick gear changes, although torque converter slushiness was evident.
During normal cruising, the Range Rover Sport was a delight, the suspension delivering a comfortable ride and the cabin contributing to a luxury experience. If it weren't for the dismal gas mileage, it would make a very nice road trip car.
There aren't many places the 2010 Range Rover Sport can't go, as its Terrain Response system tailors driving dynamics for a wide variety of driving surfaces. The addition of excellent sport driving capabilities helps the truck earn an outstanding rating for performance tech, with the only downside being the poor fuel economy.
However, the vehicle's cabin tech is just satisfactory, with the Harman Kardon audio system giving it an extra boost. The navigation system lacks traffic or other external data sources. The cabin tech interface design is also rough, and doesn't lend itself to selecting music from an iPod while driving. Holding up the design score is the Range Rover Sports iconic styling, along with the luxury improvement to the cabin.
|Model||2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport|
|Power train||Supercharged direct injection 5-liter V-8|
|EPA fuel economy||12 mpg city/17 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||13 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-disc player|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||USB drive, Satellite Radio, HD radio|
|Audio system||Harman Kardon 480 watt 14 speaker surround sound system|
|Driver aids||Adaptive cruise control, backup camera|
|Price as tested||$79,645|
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