2006 Range Rover Sport New Car Test Drive
Land Rover chose its company name to highlight its mission: Build vehicles capable of roving anywhere there's land. It has perhaps succeeded too well, as car shoppers in the increasingly urbanized parts of the world have tended to look for vehicles intended more for paved roads than unpaved tracks.
Those shoppers have found some competent vehicles, some of which are actually fun to drive. The BMW X5, the Cadillac SRX, the Infiniti FX, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and the Porsche Cayenne created a new market: SUV-proportion vehicles that are also sporty, with ride and handling abilities previously unheard of in off-road capable vehicles, and luxurious in trim and features, to boot.
Land Rover has hit this highly competitive, high-price market with two new products for 2006: The Range Rover Supercharged is a full-size Range Rover with the most powerful engine ever in a Land Rover. But it isn't really intended for flicking through a set of esses on a favorite two-lane road.
The 2006 Range Rover Sport has a similar name, but it's a different vehicle. Built on a smaller platform derived from the Land Rover LR3 but with a thoroughly reworked suspension and a unique but instantly recognizable body, the Sport is everything, well almost everything, the Range Rover Supercharged wants to be but isn't. Spirited, sporty, agile, with a snazzy look; OK, maybe not all that snazzy, but for a Range Rover, it's snazzy. It's also something the LR3 doesn't want to be: a Range Rover that's more comfortable on road than off.
Not only does it fit between the LR3 and the full-size Range Rover in terms of form and function, but it also nicely splits the different in price. It's priced about $20,000 under the top Range Rovers and $10,000-$20,000 over comparable LR3s.
Land Rover makes shopping for the all-new Range Rover Sport easy. Just two versions are available, the HSE ($56,085) and the Supercharged ($69,085). The HSE comes with a 300-horsepower, 4.4-liter V8. Not surprisingly, the Supercharged has a supercharged V8 displacing 4.2 liters and making 390 horsepower. Both engines drive through a new-for-2006, six-speed CommandShift automatic (that's also fitted in the top-of-the-line Range Rover). Full-time four-wheel drive with a two-speed, shift-on-the-fly, electronic transfer case is standard, as is an electronically controlled, locking center differential. Optional is a rear differential lock ($500).
The marketing people at Land Rover didn't leave off much when outfitting and trimming the HSE. Standard amenities include dual-zone, automatic climate control; cruise control; eight-way power front seats; power outside mirrors, windows and central locking; three memory settings for driver's seat and mirrors; digital, 13-speaker, surround-sound AM/FM/CD stereo with six-disc, in-dash changer and auxiliary audio inputs; DVD-based GPS navigation system with voice recognition and dash-mounted, seven-inch, touch-screen LCD display incorporating a picture-in-picture monitor of 4X4 settings and status; sunroof; front and rear park assist; and five function-programmable key fob.
Ride and handling features include Dynamic Stability Control and Active Roll Mitigation, which combine to heighten directional control and rollover resistance; Hill Descent Control, which automatically applies appropriate braking on steep downhill inclines; Terrain Response, a manually selectable set of four, pre-programmed suspension and engine management settings for various off-road conditions; and, of course, Land Rover's trademark load-leveling, height-adjustable air suspension.
Options for HSE: a rear-seat entertainment system consisting of two displays integrated into the back sides of the front seat head restraints, a six-disc CD changer, touchscreen interface, two wireless head sets and a wireless remote control ($2500); hands-free cell phone/Bluetooth capability ($500); satellite radio ($400 plus subscription fee); 20-inch alloy wheels ($4000); the Cold Climate package ($1050) with heated seats all 'round and heated windshield and washer jets; the Luxury Interior package ($2750), which includes upgraded leather upholstery, cherry wood trim, a center console cool box, the Cold Climate package, and adaptive headlights that pivot when you turn the steering wheel.
The Supercharged model, or S/C, comes standard with everything on the HSE plus the Luxury Interior and Cold Climate packages, Brembo front brakes, the 20-inch alloy wheels, and the Dynamic Response System, which electronically adjusts the stabilizer bars for optimal cornering. Otherwise, the S/C offers the same options (same prices) as the HSE. The S/C also offers optional adaptive cruise control ($2000).
The Special Edition package ($5000) for the S/C, capped at 380 units, features unique 20-inch Stormer wheels like those on Range Rover's concept vehicle, the Range Stormer, along with hand-polished lined oak wood trim, the rear-seat entertainment system, special floor mats and tread strips, the satellite radio and a choice of Vesuvius Orange or Java Black paint.
Safety features on the Sport comprise twin, dual-stage front airbags; front seat-mounted side airbags for torso protection; full-coverage side curtain airbags to protect against head injury in side-impacts and rollovers; child safety seat anchors (LATCH); antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist; and all-terrain traction control.