Land Rover's vehicles have a well-deserved reputation for both luxury and off-road capability. For most of us city dwellers, however, we just want the comfort and the cachet. Land Rover ups the ante for 2014, especially with the all-new Ranger Rover Sport. Both the Sport and the larger Range Rover are handsome and powerful performers.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE
Base price: $62,600, $76,270 as tested. 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, 340 horsepower, 332 pound-foot of torque, full-time four-wheel drive, single-speed electronic transfer box with Torsen differential, 8-speed automatic with Command shift, electronic air suspension.
Appearance: The Range Rover Sport has been completely redesigned, with design cues from the manufacturer's sleek Evoque. With its swept-back roof and bold character lines, the Sport looks like it should be parked in a wind tunnel. The midsize SUV's look has softened; it's now more urban sophisticate.
Performance: Land Rover says the Sport is "first and foremost a driver's car." Though we can quibble with their definition, there's no question the Sport places a premium on the driving experience. Our tester had the 3.0-liter 340-horsepower V-6, which is more than adequate in all situations. (A 510-horsepower supercharged V-8 is available in the upper Sport trims.) The acceleration is peppy despite the SUV's 4,727 pounds, which is actually 800 pounds lighter than its predecessor, thanks to an all-aluminum body. The handling is agile, and body lean is limited thanks to the antiroll control. Despite the Sport's refined road manners, this is a Range Rover, which means you get a Terrain Response system to tailor handling to driving conditions (gravel, snow, mud, sand, rocks). A smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic is standard. For a 6-cylinder, the estimated mpg is a mediocre 17 city and 23 highway.
Interior: The quiet cabin has a modernist mix of wood-grain and cool-to-the-touch metal surfaces. The plush leather seats sit high, which is good for visibility but difficult for shorter drivers to climb in. The panoramic sunroof makes for a more open and pleasant atmosphere. Third-row seats, which hold two small passengers, are available as an option. The center stack has a minimalist design and seemed not as refined as the rest of the cabin. The infotainment system controls are on the 8-inch touchscreen, but we find the system a bit convoluted. Cool touch: The Sport has puddle lights that shine "Range Rover" on the ground like an automotive Bat Signal.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Autobiography
Base price: $99,100, $137,795 as tested. 5.0-liter supercharged V-8, 510 horsepower, 461 pound-foot of torque, permanent four-wheel drive, 2-speed electronic transfer box with electronic center differential, 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters, enhanced air suspension.
Appearance: The full-size Range Rover may lack some of the sheet-metal flair of the smaller Rover Sport, but it has a more commanding presence. Land Rover's most luxurious SUV — with 22 exterior color choices — makes you feel as if you should be touring an English country estate rather that mixing it up with the commuter traffic. Our tester had the Autobiography trim package, which adds 21-inch wheels.
Performance: Peter drove the Rover to Orlando and it seems at its best in highway driving even though the estimated mpg is a dismal 13/19. But what do you expect from a 5.0-liter, supercharged V-8? If you are buying a luxury ride, efficiency probably is not your priority. What is a priority, though, is the 510 horsepower and 461 pound-foot of torque, which provides a throaty-sounding thrill and almost instant acceleration when you touch the gas pedal. (A supercharged V-6 is standard in lower trim levels.) The Range Rover, too, gets an 8-speed automatic transmission, but Lyra's not a fan of its rotary-dial shifter. Peter thinks the height-adjustable air suspension is of better use in the bigger Rover. Overall, the ride is stable and planted.
Interior: Hard to believe this is a vehicle that you can actually take off-road. It's one of the plushest interiors we've seen in an SUV — even more so than the Sport. The cabin is draped in leather — no detail seems too small to get wrapped. That's because the Autobiography package brings extra leather as well as 18-way adjustable front seats with massage and memory, rear entertainment system with seat-back screens, and a 29-speaker Meridian surround-sound system. Our tester also had rear executive seats, which replace a bench with two plush power-adjustable recliners. Other luxuries we liked: camera system that shows a 360-degree view, ultra-comfortable winged headrests, a cooler in the front armrest bin and a two-part rear hatch. (The bottom opens like a tailgate for easier loading.) A long wheelbase model is available.
The bottom line: There's a huge difference in price points between the two models. If you have the money to spend, you can option out your Range Rover to fit your style. And you can take them almost anywhere.