2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport - front three-quarter view

Truth be told, I have always considered the Range Rover Sport to be something of a poseur in the Land Rover lineup, but there's one big reason this SUV is so popular in chic cities like New York and Miami – it has the boxy, instantly recognizable looks of a classic Range Rover but with a sportier demeanor. In fact, if sister marque Jaguar ever does get around to building an SUV (as has been rumored for years), I have the feeling it will have the ride quality, performance and handling similar to the Range Rover Sport, albeit with a greater on-road emphasis.

Coming in at just under $80,000, the 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport is no easy financial pill to swallow, but even now, with its replacement waiting just off-stage, it's just hard to say anything that bad about an SUV that is equal parts off-road, luxury and performance. Land Rover has kept the Sport fresh with a mess of small tweaks (new wheel and interior color options, etc.), and we thought spending a week with this generation would be a fine sendoff before the all-new 2014 model arrives.

Driving Notes
  • First and foremost, the performance of the Range Rover Sport Supercharged is a result of the supercharged 5.0-liter V8 under the hood cranking out 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque. That's enough power to get this almost-three-ton SUV to accelerate from 0-60 in just 5.9 seconds, which is not too far off the pace from a Porsche Cayenne S. Moving that kind of mass takes a lot of fuel, and the engine isn't afraid to suck down the octane – I averaged just over 11 mpg for the week in mostly city driving.
  • My biggest disappointment with this Range Rover was how flat and uninspiring the exhaust note sounded (especially knowing how great the supercharged Jags sound using the same engine).
  • It's very unlikely you're going to see a Range Rover Sport tackling any serious trails, but that's not because it can't. While most Range Rover Sport owners likely consider off-roading to consist of splashing through big puddles in NYC or kicking up sand blown onto Miami Beach's Ocean Drive, the Sport is no less capable off-road than its brethren thanks to its height-adjustable suspension and Terrain Response System. There's even an off-road screen that lets the driver know the articulation of each wheel, whether the differentials are locked and the angle of the front tires.
  • Terrain Response takes the guesswork out of off-road driving by providing five simple modes that are all accessible at the push of a button (yes, the days of locking hubs and manual transfer cases are long gone for most modern off-roaders). Purists might take issue with this system – or similar ones used by Jeep and Ford – but it's hard to argue with the simplicity and user-friendliness that Terrain Response provides. Most of the Terrain Response settings are there to make off-roading easier, but the Range Rover Sport also comes with a Dynamic mode that tightens up the steering, throttle and transmission for a sportier feel.
  • Most of the time while driving the Sport, every bit of its weight and size is felt –especially when it comes to fuel economy – but I was surprised on numerous occasions by its small turning radius. At a local parking lot where some smaller sedans require a three-point maneuver for turning around, the Range Rover Sport managed the deed in one fluid motion. Another time while testing the off-road capabilities in loose sand, the tight turning radius again came in handy as I was able to confidently make some sharp turns without slowing down or stopping – very important when driving in loose terrain such as sand or snow.
  • Maybe it's the fact that I now live in Florida and have no need for a heated windshield, but my biggest pet peeve about current Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles is the tiny wires that run through the windshield for the heating elements. They are just small enough not to obstruct the driver's view but are also noticeable enough to be annoyingly distracting – especially at night when bright headlights are approaching. It's been years since I've had to worry about clearing thick ice from a windshield, so I'm not doubting this is a useful tool for owners in the North, but these thin, squiggly lines can sometimes be a distraction. Perhaps it should be an option.
  • Speaking of distractions, one of my favorites on the Range Rover Sport comes courtesy of the $1,200 Vision Assist Package, which adds a five-camera view around the vehicle. In theory, this is an excellent tool for off-road driving as it allows you to see nearby obstacles without actually having to get out of the car, but for some reason, the cameras operate at any speed, making for a pretty tempting distraction while driving.
  • An interesting part of the Range Rover Sport's design is that its instrument panel is actually positioned above the hood giving a commanding view of the road. Even with the seat in its lowest setting, I still felt like I was sitting up way too high. But this, along with Rover's relatively narrow window pillars, actually provided for excellent visibility while driving, a remnant of Land Rover's obsession with off-roading, where it's important to know exactly what immediately surrounds your vehicle.
  • In most of these pictures, I photographed this tester's air suspension in Access suspension setting to give it a lowered look, but its main purpose is to making ingress and egress easier. For optimal off-roading, the air suspension can also be raised (as seen above), giving it ample ground clearance. The vehicle automatically reverts to normal ride height when speed tops 30 miles per hour.