2023 Range Rover Sport

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —  Fifty three years ago, Rover decided that its landmark product — the Land Rover — needed a bigger brother more suited to m’lord and m’lady to patrol the castle grounds. Thus was born the boxy-yet-iconic Range Rover, loved by queens and commoners alike for its room for five with picnic hampers, plus Landie off-road ability. Leather and wood became part of the RR package years later as it aimed for the landed gentry. 

By the third-gen in 2001, the Range Rover had become a fave ride for the rich and famous, and kept its ability to climb anything like a goat. Gen 4 in 2012, then Gen 5 in 2022, saw sleek styling make the Range Rover an all-aluminum rock star.

Then the gang in England decided to add very stylish — and different — models to the mix, including the compact Evoque, 2017’s Velar, and a smaller Range Rover Sport just under the Queen Mother in size and prestige.

Now, we get the fully-redone RR Sport First Edition — it almost looks too posh to go play with in the dirt — but we did.

Our rakish, metallic red 194.7-inch aero-carved Range Rover Sport is about four inches shorter than the standard wheelbase (5-seat) Range Rover’s 198.9-inch length, although both live on the same 118-inch wheelbase. The Sport is about two inches less in height, and a tad lighter 4,990 vs. 5,240 pounds.

Both share that pulled-back, wind-carved sleek bluntness that amazingly gives the Sport a .29 coefficient of drag – not many cars can match that - and that distinctive squared-off character. But the Sport has a drawn-back tautness that begins with a slimmer black grill and thinner slices of quad-element LED headlights with thin DRL slashes that wrap around the blunt nose’s curved corners, lined up with the clamshell aluminum bonnet. There’s a more aggressive lower grill and gaping intake over black-tipped air dam, with functional side intakes and more aero accents. Lower corners get LED fog light slits.

The overall look is similar to the last-gen Sport, but much smoother, with tighter detailing. There’s minimal front and rear overhang, just right for a Range Rover with dreams of rock climbing. And tucked neatly (at least when suspension is lowered) into gently flared fenders are massive 23-inch Pirelli Scorpions seemingly aimed more at on-road handling than off-road prowess. The rubber rides on gloss black-bladed alloy wheels that neatly show off large disc brakes with Rover-badged calipers.

The doors are substantial in weight, and power close as you slide into a luxurious-yet-subdued leather-clad black-over-white cockpit, supple skins on supportive, cocooning buckets with heat, cooling and massage, plus stereo speakers in head restraints and subtle red accent lighting.

The overall look amid smoked chrome and black veneer wood accents is similar to the last-gen Sport, but with finer detailing and less buttons – which has its so-so points. Split laterally by thin air vents and gloss black, every surface is clad in leather or padded leatherette.

The wide digital screen has three configurable designs. There’s a classic with 170-mph speedometer and 7,000-rpm tach, the center showing navigation, audio, mileage, four-wheel-drive system and more. You can go widescreen navigation map with basic information, or a central digital speedometer with info displays left and right.

The thick leather-clad steering wheel has paddle shifters behind, and touch controls in front for audio, smart cruise, phone and more. What’s really different from the last-gen is dashboard center – one vs. the last version’s two screens, this one a large 13.7-inch touchscreen that incorporates navigation, audio, performance and mileage screens, apps, and more. A row of touch-buttons on the left access those, with basic dual-zone climate knobs and buttons underneath, split by an inset inductive phone charging slot.

The wide center console has a minimum of controls — stubby gearshift, volume, Start/Stop and Drive Mode knob with hill descent and low range. Those temperature adjust knobs are multi-function – tap them to access seat heat or cooling; pull up for fan speed. It’s nice to minimize controls, but not intuitive at first. There are cup holders aft of those controls. They slide aft to access a deep storage area with twin USB ports — more storage under the wide center armrest. And classic height-adjustable armrests that Range Rovers have had for years pivot down outboard of the console.

Range Rover Sport power comes from a hybrid; two six-cylinder gasoline engines with mild hybrid technology; and our Sport’s new BMW-sourced twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V-8 with 523 hp, 553 lb. ft. of torque, and an 8-speed automatic transmission plus multi-mode four-wheel-drive with low range, hill descent and dual locking differentials.

There’s Eco, Normal, Dynamic and multiple off-road drive mode settings as well as a Sport Shift mode. In Dynamic with Sport Shift, we launched this 5,355-lb. SUV to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds with launch control. It reared up its bonnet, dug in all four Pirellis and snarled a sonorous exhaust tune as it whipped each shift quickly. Eco saw a more sedate launch, throttle dialed back for fuel economy – we still hit 60 mph in a still respectable 4.6 seconds. The RR Sport read a solid .84Gs as it moved out.

    The New Range Rover Sport SE starts at $83,000; our First Edition starts at $121,000, pretty well loaded. But we had a number of options that apparently run the final price north of $141,000, we are told, although the model isn’t on the Range Rive .

Safety systems include emergency braking, 3D surround camera with parking sensors, wade sensing and adaptive off-road cruise control that lets the driver to set speed and comfort level over rough surfaces to focus on steering. Terrain response automatically detects the surface to adapt the chassis to deal with the situation. And smart cruise maintains speed and distance from the car in front, with full start and resume.

— Dan Scanlan (MyCarData)