Range Rover Sport: True Grit on and off Road

By Frank A. Aukofer, August 19th, 2017

More than anything, the 2017 Range Rover Sport imparts a feeling of superiority. It's not unlike imagining yourself with the trappings of Buckingham Palace. The feelings arise from the storied reputation of Great Britain's Land Rovers -- and their Range Rover offspring -- which are among the most capable passenger vehicles anywhere.

Manufacturer photo: The 2017 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 is a midsize, two-row sport utility vehicle
Manufacturer photo: The 2017 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 is a midsize, two-row sport utility vehicle

Obviously, there are others with the competences to evoke similar emotions, notably America's Jeep, though Jeep produces workman-like and middle-class vehicles, like the go-anywhere Wrangler and even high-performance versions of the Grand Cherokee.

Land Rover hews to the luxury side of the road in its modern iterations. Driven for this review was the 2017 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6, a midsize, two-row sport utility vehicle. The Sport can be ordered with diesel power -- a $1,500 option.

Though it can be equipped with a winch, the new Sport is as well outfitted as any luxury car. Amenities include automatic climate control, perforated leather seats, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, touch-screen infotainment interface with a navigation system, hands-free power tailgate, rearview camera, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a panoramic sunroof.

With all that, the tested Sport likely is a capable off-roader because it came with a powerful diesel engine and modern, computer-controlled off-road driver assists. Chief among them is Land Rover's Terrain Response system, which adjusts drivetrain components with driver-selectable settings for normal use, snow, mud, and sand.

Manufacturer photo: The 2017 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 is a midsize, two-row sport utility vehicle

There's also hill-descent control, emergency brake assist, hill-start assist, low-traction launch, and trailer stability control. The Sport can tow a load that weighs more than 7,700 pounds.

As a high-end HSE model, the tested Sport arrived with plenty of standard equipment and a long list of options, including quad-zone climate control, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control, reverse traffic detection, lane keeping assist, and adaptive headlights. All of this added up to a suggested delivered price of $86,445.

It is powered by a 254-horsepower, turbocharged V-6 diesel engine that develops a mighty 443 lb.-ft. of torque or twisting force, which likely could pull an elephant out of a mud hole. Urea injection controls pollution.

Power gets to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode. A single-speed electronic transfer case apportions the power.

The main thing you notice about the Sport HSE Td6 is what you don't notice: cabin noise. Land Rover's designers and engineers have so muffled the diesel engine sounds that most people would be hard-pressed to guess that it is a compression-ignition oil burner.

Manufacturer photo: The 2017 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 is a midsize, two-row sport utility vehicle

What it delivers -- as most diesels do -- is improved fuel economy. The city/highway/combined fuel consumption of the tested Sport comes to 22/28/24 miles to the gallon -- exceptional for a bulky vehicle that weighs 5,335 pounds.

On the road, however, you barely notice the bulk. The Sport has a hefty feel from its electric power steering and tracks well in a straight line. The air suspension system soaks up road irregularities.

For added safety, if the driver forgets to shift out of "Drive" when shutting off the engine, the transmission automatically shifts to "Park." Visibility to the rear is a bit restricted by large, back seat headrests; the collision warning sometimes voices false alarms; and setting radio presets is needlessly complicated. None of these small quibbles, however, impinge much on the feeling of superiority.

Specifications

Base price $73,645 (as tested: $86,445)
Curb weight 5,335 lbs.
Displacement 3.0-liter
Engine type turbocharged diesel V-6 w/DI
Epa mileage rating 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 23.5 gal.
Horsepower (net) 254 at 3750 rpm
Overall length 191.2 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 443 at 1750-2250 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger 4WD midsize SUV
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