Ride and Handling
While its performance can justify the ‘Sport’ branding, a 2.5-ton kerb weight and a very high centre of gravity mean its dynamics were always going to face a tough test doing the same. And compared to the sharpest large SUV on sale, Porsche’s Cayenne, this is a car that can’t help but feel a little aloof, and it never shrugs off its bulk or shrinks around the driver quite like its German rival.
Yet with the assistance of the active locking differential that’s fitted to the rear axle of more powerful variants, and switched into its more focused dynamic mode (accessed by a rotary dial which also switches between the car’s varying ‘Terrain Response’ modes, it sharpens up the steering, damping and throttle response and loosens the stability control), it can demonstrate a remarkably tail-led balance when really pushed. It’s not a car that feels natural driven at (or slightly beyond) its limits, though, and a calmer, slow-in, fast-out approach to corners helps quell understeer and imbue the car with a more natural flow.
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Of more importance to many buyers will be ride quality, and on the whole the Range Rover Sport impresses. From the driver’s seat it’s a hugely cossetting thing to pilot, and long journeys are dispatched with ease thanks to its smooth ride (Land Rover claims class-leading wheel travel) and exemplary noise insulation. Things aren’t quite as relaxing in the back, where the car’s reaction to bumps is more clearly felt, while at typical motorway cruising speed the roar of the rear tyres can creep into the cabin over some road surfaces.
"Both the refinement and the speed that the Sport can carry over challenging roads are mightily impressive... The suspension soaks up anything and everything you can throw at it and that V8 delivers plenty of performance. Turn the DCS off and the Sport is surprisingly tail-happy when pushed, and with the optional torque vectoring, the chassis dynamics are never less than impressive.
"Yet the feeling of bulk never really goes away. We weighed our test car and while Range Rover claims a kerb weight of 2310kg (only 20kg less than a Range Rover), we recorded 2494kg, which is some 324kg more than the claim for a Cayenne Turbo..." Harry Metcalfe, evo 186.
The Range Rover SVR is an altogether different beast: 'Looseness in the steering makes the Range Rover an unnatural car to really pedal along quickly, and when the road narrows you’ll find yourself hoping that it’ll stay between the lines rather than being unwaveringly certain that it will do so. It also relies quite heavily on its electronic safety systems in cornering. Throw it hard into a turn and the high centre of gravity drags the body over, which trips the car into scruffy momentum-induced oversteer – which is hurriedly arrested by the stability control. That said, it is possible to keep the SVR in shape at a decent lick by being very smooth with your steering inputs, but it’s ultimately not as dynamically capable as BMW or Porsche's rival models. Like the Cayenne, it also crashes noisily over potholes.
There are strengths, though, such as the quality of the damping into compressions, the smart cabin design and the drivetrain. The supercharged engine offers the best response to throttle inputs here, and with the exhaust not being muted by turbochargers its voice is the most amusing. In fact, the SVR’s drivetrain is the most characterful of the lot.' Dan Prosser, road test editor, evo 212.