The new Range Rover Sport provokes mixed emotions. There is so much to love about this car; even more so now that you can run it entirely on electric power for most of your motoring commutes.
During a recent cold snap, it wafted along frozen country roads without the slightest drama. Running in electric-only EV mode for the guts of 80-100km, the only sound was the rumble of tyres on frosted tarmac and the occasional whirr from the heating air-con. Nothing screams luxury like the sound of silence.
A mobile leather armchair, driving this Rangie is a bit like engaging in some ultra-realistic driver simulation from the comfort of your sittingroom. You need reminding every now and again that what’s happening in front of the windscreen is real life.
Then reality bites. It might seem like a luxury sitting room on wheels but that’s because it costs as much as a small house. The test car carried a price tag of €123,785. This is the sort of car for people whose furniture doesn’t come with an Allen key.
Can you justify such excess on a Range Rover? My heart says yes, my head says no; the woman at the bank just laughs in my face.
The Sport is the sweet spot in the Range Rover line-up. Some find it a little too aggressive, a bit too in-your-face. Yet, the flagship model is ridiculously expensive, even if it’s off-road capabilities can match many tractors. It also struggles to shake off its image of Barbour-wearing grumps who spend their non-driving time griping about how things were much better in the good old days. Behind the wheel of a vehicle crammed full of more tech than a Currys store, they long for the era of cogs and levers. At the other end of the scale, the Evoque is the motoring equivalent of leather trousers.
The Sport sits neatly between the two, urbane enough for town commutes but ready for the rough and tumble when called upon. You get the same cabin and chassis, but a better drive thanks to the twin-chamber air suspension set-up. It also delivers the most sublime on-road driving traits of a large saloon, yet it can do all the off-road antics you’d expect of a Land Rover product.
The problem – or concern – is always about build quality. Land Rover has always yo-yoed up and down the reliability ratings. When spending this sort of cash, you don’t want to have any doubts. Thankfully, based on rankings from the likes of JD Power, the signs are promising. Its Initial Quality Study in the US, which measures problems per 100 vehicles, saw Land Rover rise up the ranks in 2022, ranking ahead of brands such as Alfa, Jaguar, Volkswagen and Volvo.
According to JD Power, infotainment systems remain the most problematic area for carmakers and the Range Rover Sport’s system did have its moments during our week at the wheel. Most owners will opt for either Google’s Android Auto or Apple CarPlay to take over the big centre screen, but for those who opt for the automaker’s system, things are a bit choppy at times.
Other foibles we spotted included that the door flaps on both the petrol tank and the plug-point always seemed slightly ajar rather than flush with the car, while on one trip the front wipers didn’t respond to turns of the stalk, though once we stopped and restarted the car operations returned to normal. Still, it’s not the sort of experience you want, having handed over €100,000-plus.
In terms of creature comforts, you couldn’t be more cosseted. This is an imperial mile muncher, seemingly impervious to the elements. It’s big – there’s no mistaking its size on tight back roads – but it’s incredibly agile and doesn’t slouch through the bends like similarly-sized rivals.
We mainly ran the car on battery power, clocking up 80kms or so per charge. We topped up the battery most nights from a standard three-pin plug, and the three occasions we had to stray further afield, found the three-litre six-cylinder petrol adept at keeping us moving rapidly. It’s also got a deep raspy engine note when you kick down, not the usual plug-in hybrid whine from an underpowered ICE engine.
This is not the Sport’s first foray into the plug-in hybrid format. The earlier generation also offered a PHEV version, but it seems something of a token gesture now, delivering just 40km of EV range (officially if not in reality) and a less than stellar emissions figure of 80g/km. It was also twinned with a smaller two-litre petrol engine. Charging from a socket in the front grille, the battery delivered the sort of EV performance that was more about token gesture than earnest move to electric.
The new Sport PHEV claims an official range of 114km on a full charge, boasts WLTP of 0.8 L/100km (353mpg) and emissions of just 18g/km. On the fuel consumption figure, that’s heavily weighted on using the EV. When we drained the battery power and leaned on the three-litre engine for power, we were getting far closer to old-school SUV economy figures, circa 10l/100km (28mpg).
Yet the beauty of this new Sport is that it delivers EV practicality with the backup of a meaty petrol engine. It lives up to the Sport in its moniker. Its ability is broader than ever, from the tarmac to muddy terrain, but for most owners it is the agility on the road that will most impress.
The Sport simply shouldn’t be this much fun to drive, given its size. It’s only when you find yourself in traffic that you realise you’re at eye level with Ford Transit drivers. You may be perched high, but the Sport still manages to hug the road. Its illogical, but impressive. Luxurious, but expensive.
Lowdown: Range Rover Sport P440e Dynamic SE
Power: three-litre four-cylinder petrol engine combined with electric motor to deliver 440hp
0-100km/h: 5.8 seconds
CO2 emissions (motor tax): 18g/km (€140)
Fuel consumption: 0.8l/100km (353mpg)
Claimed official EV range: 114km
Price: €111,400 (test car was €123,785)
Our rating: 4/5
Our verdict: Sporty, sublime and with liveable electric range – but at a hefty price