First drive: New Range Rover Sport
James Bond star Daniel Craig drove it through New York at its launch, now James Baggott gets his chance behind the wheel of the new Range Rover Sport... in the equally glamorous Cotswolds.
What is it?
For years the Range Rover Sport has reigned supreme in the SUV market and now Land Rover is back at it again – with an all-new variety. The king is dead, long live the king! Lighter, faster and more capable than ever before, the new model is no longer based on the Discovery, but now takes its underpinnings from the full-fat Rangie. Design DNA has been taken from the incredibly popular Evoque and is mixed with the luxurious surroundings from the daddy of the line-up – it's a potent combination and we're in no doubt it'll be an absolute winner.
What's under the bonnet?
A choice of diesel and petrol units, plus there's a diesel hybrid on the way later this year. But forget those earth-hugging iceberg pleasers, what you really want under the bonnet is the petrol station-crushing supercharged 5.0-litre V8. Not only does it sound like a spitfire, it'll catapult you towards the future at warp speeds. Stats? Well, the 510bhp lump hits 60mph in five seconds dead and on to a top speed of 155mph. Ok, it emits 298g/km and returns 22.1mpg, but it's so worth it. If you're really into getting smelly hands at the black pump, the SDV8 arrives later this year and will be worth waiting for. In the meantime you can pick from the 3.0-litre V6 diesel in 258bhp and 292bhp guises – the more powerful of the two hits 60mph in 7.1 seconds.
What's the spec like?
Palatial. The new Sport is awash with fresh technology, from wade depth sensors to traffic sign recognition. A real innovation is the two extra seats in the boot – these are for occasional use only, but the electrically powered perches will come in handy with families. The front seats are adjustable 14 ways, are heated and cooled and so too are those in the middle row. There's a powered tailgate, cooled centre console that you can fit a bottle of champagne in and soft-close doors. The Meridian 1700W stereo is brilliant and buyers can choose from nine different wheel designs in sizes from 19 to 22-inch.
New Range Rover Sport
First drive: New Range Rover Sport
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Land Rover chalk up the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne as the biggest contenders, but it's only the latter of that trio that really gives it any serious challenge. The German firm's badge might hold a little more brand cache – and only a little – but we'd pick the Sport over it every time. As a combination of jaw-dropping looks mixed with ability and agility, it's hard to beat.
What's it like to drive?
With 420kg shaved from the weight, heavily revised steering and all-new lightweight suspension, the car feels incredibly different to drive on the road to its predecessor. In 5.0-litre form it's ludicrously quick on all road surfaces and can claim the title of the fastest ever production Land Rover. Flick it into Dynamic mode and it becomes a different car – the steering quickens, it corners harder and the throttle response sharpens. It's worlds apart from the standard mode which is far more sedate. We tested the Sport on a variety of terrains and even though it's about as likely to see mud as a stiletto, it's good to know it's amazingly capable at tackling pretty much anything you'd want to throw at it. As all-rounders go, this Sport is without doubt one of the best.
Make no mistake – this is the new benchmark in the SUV market. Its capabilities are truly astonishing. I've been racking my brain for faults and if I'm picky the plastic feel of the paddle shifters is a little cheap and the infotainment system looks a little old in terms of graphics and speed. But that's about it. This is a car that would please sports car drivers as much as traditional SUV owners, and the best bit? It's considerably cheaper than the equally brilliant Range Rover – so it's a bargain too...
Range Rover Sport 5.0 V8 Supercharged Autobiography Dynamic
Engine: 5.0-litre, V8 supercharged
Max speed: 155mph