With a total of just over 5,000 SUVs sold in Canada in 2022, Land Rover is not what one would qualify as a mainstream brand. To put things into perspective, Mercedes-Benz sells more than six times as many vehicles in this country.
But within its niche market, the renowned British-born, Indian-owned builder of adventure-ready luxury SUVs still has its own superstars. One would assume that the brand’s best-selling vehicle would be its flagship, the almighty Range Rover. Yet, it isn’t.
The best-selling Land Rover is actually the retro-inspired Defender, with 1 630 units sold in Canada last year. And right behind it, is this one: the Range Rover Sport (1,166 units), which gets a complete overhaul for the 2023 model year.
One area where this new Rover Sport betters the competition and, arguably, every other Land Rover in the lineup, is in looks. Designed by Gerry McGovern, the Range Rover Sport looks all business from all angles. It is properly stanced, aggressively raked, beautifully streamlined, and both elegant and purposeful all at once. This is arguably one of the most attractive SUVs I’ve ever driven. Most of the people I passed during my time with it agreed.
My model, a P400 SV-Dynamic, is right in the middle of the lineup with a hefty starting price of $108,450. Of course, as these press units typically are, mine was packed with a few optional packages totalling $18,000. The Ostuni Pearl White Range Rover Sport you see in these pictures carried with it a $131,641 sticker price, including freight and other fees.
But of course, a high price tag comes as no surprise coming from this nameplate. Range Rovers were always designed to attract high-dollar consumers looking for something considerably more exclusive than, say, a Cadillac Escalade, or a Porsche Cayenne.
Powering my example is JLR’s now familiar turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. It’s good here for a healthy 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. It’s equipped with a 48-volt mild hybrid system for reduced emissions and fuel economy and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Of course, this being a Land Rover means all-wheel drive and an adjustable air suspension all come standard.
Leather and Tech
I had driven the standard Range Rover about a month before driving this Sport, so I was able to compare the driving dynamics of both. If the bigger one felt a bit too much like a wallowing boat, leaning considerably more towards comfort, this Range Rover Sport presented a much more formidable blend of comfort, sophistication, and athleticism. Granted, this has always been the Sport’s promise, but it didn’t take me much time at its helm to realize why consumers love it so much.
Mind you, it’s not like I was missing out on creature comforts. My tester’s white leather interior was sublime to say to least, with thick, infinitely adjustable seats that offered both great comfort and support during spirited driving. Land Rover adds an extra armrest inside between the seat and the center console. It’s a nice touch, but this author’s larger frame felt a bit cramped with them in place. Luckily, they can be tucked.
Leather in a Range Rover Sport doesn’t end on the seats. It covers the door inserts and the dashboard, further adding to the sense of exclusivity. Just like the truck’s styling, the cabin has a clean, modern, and uncluttered theme. It’s very minimalistic, with a 13.1-inch screen resting at the center of it all, acting as the main command screen and infotainment system.
In typical JLR fashion, the system’s interface is generally quick to react, beautifully presented, and generally easy to operate, but some basic functions, like removing the vehicle’s start-stop feature do require a few unnecessary steps. It’s the same story for accessing the heated seats. Yes, the fact that one needs to push the HVAC buttons to unlock them is a cool touch, but it’s one step too much when it’s -20 degrees outside and the darn thing decides to lag.
Finally, while a centre console acting as a fridge is definitely one of the coolest features an SUV can have, it did compromise the Range Rover Sport’s available storage solutions. If one chooses to shove a few cool drinks in that box, there’s basically nowhere left to stow anything else.
General build quality and fit and finish in this Range Rover Sport is exquisite and rear seat comfort is never an issue, even for tall passengers. Cargo space is also class-competitive at 1,492 liters when those rear seats are lowered flat.
But is it Sporty?
In this configuration, the Rover Sport isn’t exactly fast, but it’s not slow either. Its performance is what I like to call adequate in the sense that once it picks itself up and goes, it does it in a swift, no-nonsense sort of way.
There is some delay in the drivetrain’s response, however, and it feels like the result of too much stuff going on underneath the hood and, well, too many gears. Even in its sportiest Dynamic setting, the Sport doesn’t immediately react to a floored throttle. One must wait a few seconds before the thing gets going.
But once it does, it darts forward effortlessly with a generous wave of low-end torque. It’s always smooth and never thrashy. It’s the same story for the suspension tuning. Land Rovers have a reputation for riding like a cloud on rough surfaces, and this Sport is no exception. Road imperfections are barely felt.
That being said, there was an elephant in the room the entire time I drove this thing: it never really felt, well, sporty.
Entering a corner quickly felt like I was bothering it. When pushed, this sport-oriented version of Land Rover’s infamous utility vehicle felt clumsy rather than motivated to perform. Then there were irritating cabin squeaks that revealed themselves when driving over broken roads, a somewhat disappointing realization considering how mind-blowingly expensive these things are.
Perhaps one needs to up the ante for the V8-powered version of this vehicle to really appreciate its performance claims. An all-new SV model was recently added to the lineup, boasting the fastest 0-100 km/h time of any Land Rover in history. I’m sure that one is fun to drive on a twisty road.
But this one, the P400, is at least sportier than its big brother, but it’s definitely not a performance SUV in the likes of a Porsche Cayenne S or a BMW X5 M. But then, when you think about it, do Range Rover buyers care about acceleration times and g-force-generating capabilities? I think not. The Sport is therefore only a Sport in design and in format. It’s yet another pretty face within Land Rover’s posh portfolio of shiny SUVs, and it’s the model that Canadian consumers prefer driving.
RANGE ROVER SPORT P400 SV-Dynamic
Front engine, all-wheel drive
3.0L turbocharged I6 (395 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm / 406 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm).
: 8-speed automatic
: 13.1 L/100 km (city) / 9.1 L/100 km (highway) / 11.3 L/100 km (combined).
OBSERVED FUEL CONSUMPTION
: 11.8 L/100 km
645 liters (1,492 liters total)
$131,641 (as tested)
WEBSITE: Land Rover