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New York Auto Show: The name is Rover … Sport Rover

Daniel Craig helps Land Rover unveil newest model

Published March 28, 2013

It’s been a pretty good year for Jaguar and Land Rover, the pair of British luxury car brands that were acquired a couple of years ago by Tata, the massive Indian industrial conglomerate.

Sales of both brands are up by double-digit percentages in most major markets worldwide.

Two new Landies and two new Jags are being highlighted at this week’s New York auto show.

On the Land Rover side, the compact Evoque has been the fastest-selling Land Rover ever, due largely to its “evocative” styling.

An all-new Range Rover, launched eight months ago, was a bit of a challenge to the designers and engineers, since their customers said, “Don’t change a thing; just make it better.”

As difficult as that challenge seemed, they did just that.

Now it’s time for the middle entry in the Land Rover line-up, the Range Rover Sport.

The first-generation in 2005 was a bit of a puzzle to me — what did it offer that the Rangie didn’t? But the market lapped it up, with demand staying strong throughout its history, which included a major refresh in 2010.

The 2014 edition is essentially a clean-sheet design, although it shares chunks of oily bits with its big brother.

Styling is perhaps more Evoque-ish, with a rising belt line and downward-sloping roofline giving it a sleek look.

The biggest and best news is that, underneath, they’ve managed to carve about 400 kg out of the car, thanks largely to a new aluminum under-structure.

The lighter weight means that, when fitted with the 5.0 L 510-horsepower supercharged V8 engine, the new Sport will be the fastest Range Rover ever, with a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 5.3 seconds.

And, the new 340-horse 3.0 L turbocharged V6 will perform as well as the former V8 car: 0-100 in 7.2 seconds.

That’s what taking the equivalent of five passengers out of the car will do for you.

Speaking of, secret seats — two additional third-row seats that motor up out of the floor — can turn the Sport into a seven-seater.

The Sport will also be offered with a single-speed transfer case for the first time, for those who know they will never tackle serious off-roading. That alone accounts for an 18-kg weight saving compared to the two-speed version.

The Sport was revealed to the public during an extravaganza in New York Tuesday night — and who couldn’t use a little extra vaganza?

Daniel Craig, Mr. 007 himself, drove the car the last few hundred metres onto a stage in a being-restored Post Office building on the West Side.

He got out of the car, said a few words, waved to the throng, and disappeared. Ladies swooned; men were envious.

All I know is, I would have done it for way less than they must have paid him. And I think I might actually be a bit taller.

Jaguar showed two new variants on existing themes.

The R (for Racing, presumably) treatment, previously applied to the mid-size XF sedan and the XK sports coupe and convertible, now finds itself on the big XJ sedan, in both short- and long-wheelbase versions.

A deeper front chin spoiler for reduced front-end lift, a rear deck lip to balance that off at the rear, rocker panel extensions and quad tailpipes — all signature R tidbits — are complemented by lovely five-spoke alloy wheels, shod with big Pirelli rubber.

Inside, the sportier theme continues, with unique upholstery and the R emblem emblazoned on the headrests.

The suspension has been firmed up, the steering re-calibrated, and the ESC system now has a Track mode. Not sure how many luxury sedan owners will take their cars on the track. But racing has a long history at Jaguar, and this car is a further expression of that heritage.

So is the Jaguar XK-RS GT.

This is the most extreme Jaguar — maybe ever. Carbon-fibre aerodynamic aids, including a massive rear deck spoiler, make this thing look race-ready. Eibach springs and Jaguar’s first carbon-ceramic brakes (by Italian racing brake maker Brembo) mean it will handle and stop even better than it goes.

I hope you like the colour, because they’ll all be white. And get your order in early, because there will only be 30 built, and all are coming to North America.

The U.S. gets 25, so Canada only gets five. Proportionally, that’s twice as many as our population would suggest. Seems we’re sportier than our U.S. cousins.

No Canadian price has been established yet, but the U.S. number is $174,000. Given that this is about 40 grand more than the current hottest Jag, the XK-RS, which costs $139,000 in Canada, don’t expect much change from a $200,000 bill — if there is such a thing.

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