Sport is strong on power and price, weak on practicality ….
Driving a Range Rover Sport feels a bit like embarking on a world cruise.
Rovers are designed and built in England. Yet Rover is owned by the Indian firm Tata. And the tested Sport SE was bathed in Giola Green. For the uninitiated Giola is a natural sea lagoon in Greece, filled with distinctive blue-green sea water. That color is striking on the Rover and happily only adds $710 to the SUV’s impressive bottom line.
The tested Sport’s sticker was $90,245. For those of us who paid a bit less for our house, it’s hard to wrap our heads around any vehicle costing this much. Those monthly payments! I know what my mortgage was, and that was spread over 30 years.
Yet luxury and performance (both found in abundance here) come at a price that’s to be expected.
For 2023 Rover mildly tweaked the Sport’s styling so you’ll not really notice much difference from previous models. It’s still handsomely tailored, but may appear somewhat more streamlined as it’s now 2.5 inches longer than its predecessor and features retractable flush door handles (a trend popularized by Tesla) along with thinner headlights. This one also added a black roof for a measly $1,000.
Oh, this truck looks like money!
Performance throbs from a 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine that is both supercharged and turbocharged. No turbo lag here as I’d witnessed in earlier Rovers without the supercharging. No, just mash the accelerator and 355 horses thrashing out 369 pound-feet of torque rush the Rover up to highway speeds as quickly as an all-pro safety closing on a rookie wide receiver with a bum knee.
For the record, Rover says top speed is 140 mph and Car and Driver testing puts 0-60 mph at 5.7 seconds. Hey, even with that power it takes a bit to motivate a nearly 5,400-pound beast.
Yet, an 8-speed automatic (made in Germany) mates with that engine and Rover’s all-wheel-drive system seamlessly and while there’s power, the interior is symphony hall quiet. That’s pretty amazing for a truck riding on massive 22-inch Michelin tires wrapped around $1,550 Diamond-Turned wheels with satin gray contrasts. Often such tires hum like a possessed 3-year-old.
Ah, and this tester added a full-size spare and fancy wheel for another $500 so if you’re mudding and pop a tread you’ll be able to continue your off-road safari. Note too that you can ford a stream or pond that’s 35.4 inches deep as the Rover is an expert at wading. Ground clearance is 8.5 inches normally, but can be adjusted to 11 inches for off-roading.
One should note that handling is fairly responsive, but with a slight bit of play in the wheel. But that will be fine once off-road where you don’t want the steering snapping too quickly on you as you crest a knobby ridge. And this Rover, like all others, is prepared to go off-road at any opportunity with its Terrain Response 2 system. There are six modes such as mud/ruts and snow so there are plenty of buttons to select virtually everything here, explaining the cost.
Low-traction launch and a hill descent feature also are standard and there’s a rear air suspension too. Ride is absolutely sublime for a big heavy truck.
One may also want to consider adding optional all-wheel steering. That allows the rear wheels to turn 7.3 degrees in the direction of the front wheels to improve handling and increase stability.
For the power hungry another option is a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 523 horsepower. That’ll cost you $122,975 because it only comes in the top-end Sport P530 First Edition.
That V8 is rated at 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway while this version’s spunky 6-cylinder is rated 19 and 26. I got 20.7 mpg mostly around town.
Inside the high-rider (it’s a stretch to climb aboard) is a premium soft Windsor leather interior that smells like it’s fresh off the steer. This one was a gun metal gray and the trim was a smoked chrome that is highly reflective, but looks posh. Black veneer throughout adds another $410.
Seats are relatively flat and comfy with good hip support front and rear and the front seats offer three heat levels. Rear seats also are heated, but none of the seats, front or rear, are cooled. Rover also delivers a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, but it takes a $640 cold climate package to add a heated steering wheel, heated windshield, and heated washer jets for the windshield.
Luckily the heated wheel’s engagement button is easily found on the hub, along with a bevy of other buttons. Sadly the seat heat is controlled via the large info screen.
While I appreciate that Rover has gone away from the two giant info screens, the one that remains is still overwhelming to use and adjust while driving, too many choices with 16 icons on the home screen. For instance, just to turn on the seat heat one must first select Seats from among those 16 icons, then Seat Heat, then press a circle button to activate three heat choices and then press arrows to raise or lower the heat. Too much!
Put the seat heat settings on a console button and, boom, it’s done.
Overall the Rover’s interior is exquisitely quiet and the Sport now touts a giant sunroof to let in more light as you glide down the highway, another plus.
Behind the second row seat is a good amount of storage space, 32 cubic feet, to be exact, and if you need more the rear seats quickly fold flat to roughly double cargo capacity.
As swell as this all is, there are a few niggling concerns. First, the driver’s door on the test ute did not always latch easily when pushed shut, requiring a second try, with increased effort, about half the time. Mysteriously there’s hidden storage under the cup holders too, not sure why, but a few have insinuated nefarious intent.
Add to that an oddly placed door release handle far forward on the door and blended into the armrest so it’s hard to even see. Despite being a short driver with the seat positioned fairly far forward that release required I slide forward and reach down to use it. Tall drivers with the seat well back will have an even longer awkward reach.
Rover’s three-memory seat functions are built in to the power seat position buttons on the doors. That’s easy to reach and see, but is an unusual way to set the memory functions.
And it remains hard to ignore the giant A-pillar/side mirror blind spot. Rover has tried to help that with a small vent-style window, but still the pillar and mirror are so big they partially block side views at 4-way stops and such.
Finally, the power tilt/telescope wheel may be easy to adjust, but when in a comfortable driving position it can partially obscure the driver’s instrument pod. One might think designers would check that out with both tall and short drivers before settling on such a layout.
While some of these drawbacks might be tolerated in a low-cost, entry-level vehicle, they seem untenable at the Range Rover Sport’s $84,475 (including delivery) starting price. And remember, as previously stated, this crept up to $90,245.
There’s simply so much competition in this segment, much of it starting at $45,000 to $50,000, that the Rover’s plush ride, handsome looks and Grecian color scheme seem to come at quite a premium.
FAST STATS: 2023 Range Rover Sport SE
Hits: Muscular yet sophisticated looks, good power, nice handling, solid off-road ability (6 settings), giant sunroof, three-level seat heat and heated wheel, 3-memory seat settings, flat soft comfy leather seats, power tilt/telescope steering wheel and super quiet interior.
Misses: Big A-pillar/mirror blind spot, interior door release too far forward and camouflaged, big step up entry, driver’s door hard to latch, steering wheel partially obscures instrument pod, overwhelming info screen home page.
Made in: Solihull, England
Engine: 3.0-liter turbo/supercharged 6-cyl., 355 hp/369 torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 5,387 lbs.
Wheelbase: 118 in.
Length: 194.7 in.
Cargo: 32-66 cu.ft.
MPG: 20.7 (tested)
Base Price: $84,475 (includes delivery)
22-inch wheels, diamond turned w satin dark gray contrast, $1,550
Black roof, $1,000
Giota Green paint, $710
Cold climate pkg. (heated steering wheel, heated windshield, heated washer jets), $640
LED headlights w/signature DRL, $600
Full-size spare and wheel, $500
Black veneer trim, $410
Wi-Fi w/data plan, $360
Test vehicle: $90,245
Sources: Land Rover, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage