Our review of the £100,000 Range Rover Autobiography a couple of weeks ago prompted one Scotsman Motoring reader (we’ll call her Outraged of Banchory) to pen a letter suggesting that only an “egotistical show off with more money than sense” would buy one.
Fair comment, but let’s see if an entry-level Range Rover Sport SE TDV6 can get the brand back into O of B’s good books. In its favour, the Sport looks every inch as classy as its bigger brother and boasts most of that car’s little luxuries and off-road prowess, but takes up less space, uses less fuel and can even be specified with a couple of extra seats. What’s not to like? Best of all, it costs about half the price of the Ego-ChariotTM.
True, £51,550 is still more than most of us would dare to spend on a car, but even the bottom rung of the Range Rover Sport ownership ladder is a very comfortable place to be. Standard fare includes leather on the seats, doors and fascia, dual-zone air-con, cruise control and a touchscreen.
The TDV6 uses a 255bhp de-tuned version of the 288bhp 3.0-litre SDV6 engine that appears higher up the price range. Don’t read too much into that drop in power, though – it develops the same 442lb/ft of torque as the SDV6, is only 0.3 seconds slower to 60, and emits marginally less CO2. Coupled to Land Rover’s excellent eight-speed automatic transmission, the TDV6 is quick to pick up its heels from slow speeds, and will charge right up to – and beyond – 70mph without pausing for breath. There’s plenty of punch when you pull out to overtake, too. It can’t match the big Range Rover’s V8 diesel in the smoothness stakes, but that’s a bit like saying a £200 bottle of Bollinger lacks the finesse of a £400 bottle of Krug.
Our test car came with extras that added £8,500 to the basic price but, if it means keeping our Banchory barometer of ostentatiousness happy, we could live without the £1,500 sliding panoramic sunroof, the 825-watt stereo (£1,000) and the 20-inch alloy wheels, for which you’ll pay a £1,200 premium over the standard 19-inch rims. If passengers want to watch DVDs on the headrest-mounted screens, let them fork out £1,500 for the privilege.
And, having tried to squeeze six adults into the Sport, we can only really recommend the £1,500 third row of seats to parents of two tiny children, or a troupe of contortionists. Access to the very back involves climbing over a half-folded middle-row seat, only to discover once you get there that legroom and space for your toes appears to have been forgotten about. To be fair, Land Rover chiefs don’t claim that the Sport is a proper seven-seater, referring to it as a “5+2” in sales literature, but we’d go further and call it a 5+½+½.
We put the Sport’s on-and-off-road credentials to the test when the car was launched last summer. It bounded through deep water and across muddy slopes at Land Rover’s Eastnor Castle proving ground in the Malverns without fuss, crept effortlessly over an assault course in the guts of an decommissioned jumbo jet, then zipped down a runway at nearly twice the legal limit.
To save a bit of money, the TDV6 SE is built on a simpler 4x4 drivetrain than the set-up found in more expensive Sports. There’s no low-ratio gearbox and the way the car distributes torque between the front and rear wheels is different but, extreme off-roading apart (and how many Range Rover Sports will ever see that sort of action?) we can’t imagine the car getting stuck. The 850mm wading depth and 3,500kg towing limit are unchanged.
Copious use of lightweight aluminium body panels means the latest Range Rover Sport weighs up to 450kg less than the car it replaced, which means better fuel economy and sharper road manners. It’s still heavy enough to smash most uneven road surfaces into submission, but lithe enough to keep its composure in high-speed corners.
Almost 39mpg in mixed motoring is promised, although my daily diet of motorway miles and Edinburgh traffic queues meant my running total never bettered 30mpg. Not brilliant, but not bad for such an accomplished all-rounder. And, one wonders, thrifty enough to appeal to more than just egotistical show-offs?
Car Range Rover Sport SE TDV6
Price £51,550 (£60,050 as tested)
Engine 3.0-litre, 6cyl, diesel, 255bhp, 442 lb ft
Performance Max speed 130mph; 0-62mph 7.1s
CO2 emissions 194g/km