Range Rover Sport 5.0 V8
Supercharged HSE review
by David Finlay (30 October 2009)
Who (add the words "in their right mind" here if you wish) would buy a five-litre V8 supercharged Range Rover Sport? Someone with more resources than responsibility, perhaps? Or someone who can afford to have a very dramatic automotive toy in their garage, and who does not believe themselves to be personally to blame for any current or future change in the climate? If you go for the first option you probably think the car should be banned; if the second, I imagine your view would be more charitable.
There is no question that this is the Wrong Range Rover Sport. It's a great deal more expensive than the diesel-engined versions in the range (there's a choice of a three-litre V6 and a 3.6 V8), it gulps down fuel at a stupid rate and it costs so much to tax you could reasonably ask to have your name displayed in ten-foot high letters on each wall of your local hospital. It's very good at off-roading, of course, but that's of no importance because you won't be doing that.
Basically, if you think you want a supercharged Range Rover Sport, you should pull yourself together, stop being silly and go and buy something else instead. End of.
On the other hand, nobody ever said that the purchase of a car costing more than £60,000 had to make sense, and this one has an undeniable appeal. It's aimed, as the name suggests, at potential buyers of the "real" Range Rover who want something a little racier, but in fact it is based on the Land Rover Discovery, which as you'll known by now has recently been revised.
The Sport has undergone similar treatment, most of it concerning the styling of the exterior (which is not quite as in-your-face as it used to be) and the interior (which has much more of a luxury feel). Our launch report of the new Discovery explains all, and you can take it as read that most things in that article apply also to the Sport.
One thing that doesn't entirely apply is the Discovery's astonishing combination of ride and handling. In diesel form the Sport is somehow not quite as good. I can't quite put my finger on what the difference is, but somehow the Discovery feels just that little bit more agile (a strange description of a large SUV, but a true one).
However, we're not talking like-for-like here because the Discovery doesn't get the supercharged V8 petrol engine. This is the same 503bhp unit that also features in various Jaguars, such as the XKR tested recently, and the first thing you have to know about it is that it sounds absolutely wonderful on full throttle.
For the full effect you have to stand outside and let someone else drive the Sport, which I did recently on the main straight of the now-disused Charterhall race circuit. (Very evocative sound. Not going to forget that in a hurry.) Even from inside, though, the noise is just fabulous.
Now, for something which is basically a Discovery, 503bhp might sound like an awful lot of power, and indeed it is. The Sport's straightline acceleration is very dramatic - 0-60mph in just under six seconds, for heaven's sake - and the fact that its top speed is "only" 140mph tells you all you need to know about how much wind resistance the shape produces.
Straightline performance is relatively easy to achieve, though. What's really impressive is that the Sport can also handle that power through the corners. It's not as much of a point-and-squirt car as you might think, and you're not likely to get into much trouble (though you certainly could if you tried, especially if you overestimated the brakes' considerable ability to scrub off speed).
In fact it is so well-mannered that I feel justified in my comment, made a few months ago, that the XKR now needs four-wheel drive, at least when fitted with this engine.
Wow. I've just suggested that a Range Rover Sport is in some ways better to drive than a Jaguar XKR. Didn't see that coming. It doesn't mean that it would be any wiser or more justifiable to buy this car than I suggested in the first paragraph, but I would understand if you did.