A car others love to hate, but it's an extraordinary driving experience

What is it?

This is the new, thoroughly re-engineered version of probably the most controversial model ever made by Land Rover.

As well as the redesigned, better-quality interior and redesigned front end, the most important changes lie in the drivetrain and chassis.

For most buyers the most significant upgrade will be the all-new supercharged 5.0-litre V8 engine, which now offers 503bhp and a monster 461lb ft of torque with a claimed combined fuel economy of 19mpg. The six-speed automatic gearbox has been updated and there’s also the option of wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

The Terrain Response set-up has been upgraded to include a new, sixth setting called Dynamic Response. This uses an adaptive damping system, in conjunction with the air suspension, which can make calculations about the road and driving conditions 500 times per second. This model also gets an updated Brembo braking system.

According to Land Rover, the new supercharged Range Rover Sport has lapped the Nurburgring (on road tyres and in the dry) in just 8min 49sec.

What’s it like?

This really doesn’t feel like a 2.5-tonne SUV. It’s extremely well balanced, tidy, controlled and contained, even when pressing on.

The real appeal of this range-topping Range Rover is the supercar-standard engine. Under the hard acceleration of a tricky overtaking situation, the new V8 is extremely refined. Only a background hum is emitted from the engine bay, adding to the turbine-like sensations.

The Dynamic Response system, active anti-roll bars and variable-ratio steering keep this giant in check to a degree that drivers could once not have been hoped for.

The side forces built up through cornering are controlled and then dispersed as the driver pulls back onto the straight. Even the ride is good on the 20in wheels. Overall, there’s a great delicacy in the way the chassis’ electronic systems work together when it’s driven briskly on winding B-roads.

The new, variable-ratio steering also has the kind of accuracy you never thought would be achievable in a car capable of hard-core off-roading.

As with the diesel-powered Sport, what is really appealing is the car’s extraordinary breadth of ability.

It will cross deep rivers and clamber up otherwise unwalkable mud tracks, but can then act either like a luxury car or a very rapid road car, depending on the driver’s mood.

I tried a full-bore 0-100-0mph sprint on a closed track and managed a time of just under 19 seconds. The new V8 is significantly quicker at both accelerating and stopping than the outgoing model.

Should I buy one?

This is a car others love to hate. Indeed, it was the subject of a Greenpeace-led invasion of Land Rover’s Solihull factory.

However, it also delivers the most extraordinary driving experience. Most of the time you can just bowl along, elbows perched on the door and centre tunnel, revelling in the V8’s huge potential. Occasionally, you can open the taps and really fly.

Back to top

And there’s no other car, not even the Range Rover itself, that offers such a sublimely relaxing driving position.

If you look past the Premiership-inspired bling and experience the V8 Sport, you’ll have to come to the conclusion that it is one of the most remarkable - if not politically correct - cars to come out of the UK.


Join the debate

Add a comment…
Holmstack 24 August 2009

Re: Range Rover Sport 5.0 V8 Supercharged

Give me another 100 bhp or 2 and I may consider one.

Lee23404 23 August 2009

Re: Range Rover Sport 5.0 V8 Supercharged

Steelydan wrote:
Hurrah for Hilton! Good man.

Seconded. I wonder if we heard from an Autocar staffer a but more often, yourself excepted Hilton, then some of the nonsense that goes on could be put to bed a bit sooner. I do understand though that you have jobs to do and must remain professional.

That said I doubt it would make any difference to Horse/Obama.

Jaydub 23 August 2009

Re: Range Rover Sport 5.0 V8 Supercharged

Or a retard! Worked with BMW in the late nineties and then at VWs UK HQ and never came across any chap or chapess visiting from Germany that had anthing but respect for what the UK produced, in fact we were asked to get hold of an XJ back before the launch of the last 7 series as the regarded it's driving ability as "quite remarkable" when being comparatively driven on a test not far from Slough