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2014 Land-Rover Range Rover Sport Pros and Cons: Why (Not) This Car?

2014 Range Rover Sport front quarter view
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Introduction

Early SUVs could handily venture off the road, carry your stuff, or tow your trailer. But on-road performance and handling generally weren't part of the bargain. Then their market success enticed even BMW and Porsche to create tall, high-riding vehicles that an open-minded driving enthusiast might enjoy. To the horror of less open-minded enthusiasts, these creations sold well.

Beforehand, Land Rover had owned the Euro-badge SUV segment. To properly defend its territory, the storied British marque needed something akin to the new German machines. So, for the 2006 Range Rover Sport (RRS), Land Rover rebodied an LR3 (a.k.a. Discovery) chassis to deliver much of the style and luxury of the range-topping Range Rover. Alas, sportier suspension tuning being quite relative, the RRS fell well short of the BMW X5 (much less the Porsche Cayenne) in on-road capabilities. During a drive of the 2006, my predominant impression was "ponderous." Granted, sport takes many forms, but to a driving enthusiast the suffix didn't seem warranted.

Eight years later, both the Range Rover Sport and the X5 have been redesigned, so I drove each for a week (X5 review). To my astonishment, between BMW's pursuit of a broader market and the continued innovation of the plucky little Indo-British firm, the tables have turned.

Tested: 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

4dr SUV supercharged 340hp 3.0L V6 8-speed shiftable automatic AWD w/low range

Compared: 2014 BMW X5

4dr SUV turbocharged 445hp 4.4L V8 8-speed shiftable automatic AWD

Why the 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport?

  Compared to the X5
Brand reputation & image
Brand reputation & image: Better Better Worse

Nothing against the latest redesign--it's quite impressive--but the Range Rover Sport's attractions begin with what's decidedly not new: Land Rover's traditional focus on SUVs. Land Rover doesn't build sports car or sedans (though sister Jaguar does). Instead, like Jeep in the U.S., Land Rover focuses on off-road vehicles because that's what it has always done.

In contrast, the German parvenus wouldn't bother with the things if they weren't so popular and profitable. If you're willing to pay the price they'll build you an SUV (or a crossover, if you prefer that term for the more car-like sort), even a very good one (if you check the right boxes), but their heart and soul aren't in it.

Then there's the matter of what Land Rovers were developed to do in the postwar period, and who they were developed to do it for. No, not trips to the mall for suburban housewives. When the Queen and landed gentry of England toured their estates, they did so in Land Rovers. And when the Queen's subjects had to venture through the largely unpaved reaches of her vast, increasingly former empire, they ventured in Land Rovers. Mutual of Omaha didn't introduce American children to Africa's wildlife from the seat of a BMW. Buy a Range Rover, and you're gaining a connection to these traditions.

Plus some exclusivity. Land Rovers sell in much smaller volumes than the big German makes. Between this and their idiosyncracies, they seem more special.


Exterior styling
Exterior styling: Much better Better Worse

A tight focus on SUVs means that your styling can be optimized for their tall, high-riding proportions and traditional applications, not adapted from whatever you've been doing with your cars. Range Rovers, the upscale offshoots of Land Rovers, have always been handsome vehicles, and the latest are the most attractive yet. Though the new Range Rover Sport's basic shape remains quite square, and maintains a clear visual link with the original 1970 Range Rover, near-perfect proportions and subtly curved lines and surfaces form an artful whole that is at once classic and thoroughly up-to-date.

The Range Rover Sport can be fitted with lower profile tires than the 255/55R20s on the tested HSE. But the look remains unapologetically that of an SUV, and aesthetically it doesn't require them.


Range Rover Sport Reviews: 2014 Range Rover Sport rear quarter view

Tapered tail and flared fenders make for a sporty box.

Range Rover Sport Reviews: Range Rover Sport instrument panel

Shifter and touchscreen could be easier to use.

Interior styling
Interior styling: Much better Better Worse

Land Rovers and even Range Rovers didn't begin as luxury vehicles. As noted above, they were developed to perform certain tasks. But the company has never been a large one, and for a long time its plants were among the auto industry's least efficient. To turn a profit (or even get within a stone's throw of one), Land Rover had to charge relatively high prices. To justify these high prices, the interiors got nicer and nicer. The latest, like the exterior, manage to be at once classically British (fine wood, rich leather) and at the forefront of automotive design. You won't find as artful or as welcoming a cabin in a BMW SUV.


Driving position & visibility
Driving position & visibility: Better Better Worse

Land Rover holds that a high, commanding driving position is a crucial, defining element of its vehicles. Though there's decidedly more sport in the new Range Rover Sport, it retains such a driving position. You sit very high over a shallow instrument panel. Contrary to the current fashion, the windows remain large.

Still concerned about objects beneath the high base of the windows? The Range Rover Sport can be fitted with blind spot warning and an around-view camera system (though the latter cannot provide a single top-down image the way others can).


Handling
Handling: Much better Better Worse

If the Range Rover Sport didn't remain so strong in the make's traditional strengths, handling would rank higher among the reasons to buy one. I wasn't sure I'd enjoy driving the new Range Rover Sport. I ended up enjoying it a great deal. The base suspension BMW X5 feels sloppy, unwieldly, and artificial in comparison. I enjoyed driving it much less, a complete reversal of my 2006 experience. How did this happen?

To start, switching from a V8 to a supercharged V6 and from steel to aluminum construction has shaved over 700 pounds. This leaves a still substantial 4,700-plus (about the same as the BMW X5), but thanks to excellent steering and suspension tuning the new Range Rover Sport feels almost agile. It doesn't only not resist turning--it wants to turn. The steering, somewhat heavier than the new BMW X5's, is also more nuanced and naturally weighted.

Lean in hard turns? With the V6 at least, there's still a fair amount of it, if considerably less than before. No matter. The body might lean, but the RRS maintains your requested line with reassuring, even encouraging precision and composure. The centers of roll and rotation feel like they're exactly where they should be; this large, heavy vehicle feels like a natural extension of your body, no conscious adjustments required. Though both axles are constantly driven, the attitude of the chassis can be modulated with the throttle. Push the Range Rover Sport too far, and a sophisticated stability control system seamlessly intervenes. The entire package simply feels right.

The Range Rover Supercharged adds active stabilizer bars (to reduce lean) and torque vectoring (to further reduce the vehicle's already minimal understeer), so it should handle even better. A possible downside: the V8's additional weight over the front tires could reduce perceived agility and could be a reason why it gets torque vectoring while the V6-powered trims do not.

The new Range Rover Sport out-handled the X5 on the pavement even though it also remains more capable off the pavement. The standard air suspension can raise the RRS to increase its ground clearance. Unlike with the BMW, you can get a two-speed transfer case, and the tested vehicle was so equipped. The off-road package also includes a new automatic mode for the Terrain Response system, which offers specialized electronic systems calibrations for mud, sand, snow, and so forth. With so much capability, the Michelin Latitude Sport tires are likely the weakest link. If you're among the few people who'll take a Range Rover Sport well off the road, you might need a second set of wheels and tires for the task.


Why Not the 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport?

  Compared to the X5
Price or payments
Price or payments: Worse Better Worse

With such a fine combination of styling, luxury, and handling, why don't more people buy Range Rover Sports? This is an easy one: even compared to BMWs and the like they're expensive. The base RRS starts at $63,525. The tested modestly optioned HSE listed for over $73,000. (A 19-speaker Meridian audio system accounts for $1,950 of this. A contrasting roof color, which you can't get on a BMW, $650.) Add more options or step up to the V8-powered "Supercharged," and you can spend well over $80,000, even over $9,000. A similarly equipped X5 is over $5,000 less. Add options to both, and the gap widens.


Reliability & durability
Reliability & durability: Worse Better Worse

The second thing that has kept a lid on Land Rover sales has been a reputation for poor reliability. Unfortunately, TrueDelta has no data on the Range Rover Sport. What we do have on the LR3 and LR4 is mixed. With the LR4, owners haven't reported many problems during the first few years of ownership, but as I write this the picture for the 2011 and older isn't pretty. Maybe the latest ones will do better? Maybe, but it's a bet many potential buyers aren't willing to make given Land Rover's near-bottom rankings in reliability stats elsewhere.

I have a smidge more faith in the X5's reliability. While the X5 has traditionally been among BMW's least reliable models, no owners have reported repairs for the 2013 in our survey. And recently redesigned BMWs have been more reliable than those they replaced.


Range Rover Sport Reviews: 2014 Range Rover Sport front view

Road presence even without an over-sized grille.

Range Rover Sport Reviews: Range Rover Sport rear seat

Comfortable but not roomy rear seat. A big step up to get in.

Controls and instruments
Controls and instruments: Worse Better Worse

JLR's touchscreen-based infotainment interface is as needlessly fiddly in the RRS as it is in other Jaguars and Land Rovers. Undersized virtual buttons are often packed too tightly. This said, I could live with it.


Cargo capacity
Cargo capacity: Worse Better Worse

For a vehicle of its size and weight, the Range Rover Sport can't hold much cargo, with a maximum of 62 cubic feet. A Honda CR-V, though much smaller and lighter, can hold over 70 cubic feet. Blame the RRS's high load floor (a huge full size spare, part of the Tow Package, fits beneath it), intrusive suspension, and stylishly sloping roof line.

If you want more space for rear seat passengers or cargo, and are willing to give up style, luxury, and handling, Land Rover offers the LR4 (the taller, squarer body of which can hold 87 cubuc feet).


Ride smoothness
Ride smoothness: Worse Better Worse

In another reversal, the new Range Rover Sport has a choppier, noisier ride than the new BMW X5. But this says more about the latest BMW than the RRS, and I personally found the Range Rover Sport's ride sufficiently smooth and quiet even on Michigan's polar vertex-ravaged roads. The 255/55R20 Michelins effectively soak up even large bumps and deep potholes. But your tolerances and priorities might differ. Anyone seeking the smoothest, quietest ride won't find it here.


Other features of the 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

  Compared to the X5
Front seat support & comfort
Front seat support & comfort: Worse Better Worse

The Range Rover Sport's front seats are fairly comfortable, and their side bolsters can be adjusted to provide effective lateral support. But, compared to the BMW X5's multicontour front seats, their bottoms are overly hard and their headrests jut too far forward for my personal, relatively upright build (your experience could easily vary). Put another way, the seats aren't bad, but they don't feel as comfortable or as luxurious as the interior appears.


Rear seat room & comfort
Rear seat room & comfort: Better Better Worse

The Range Rover Sport's second row seat, higher off the floor and more comfortably contoured than that in the BMW, provides adults with adequate room and comfort. If you need generous rear legroom, though, you'll have to step up to the non-sport Range Rover.

An optional third-row seat (not on the tested RRS) deletes the spare tire and is very tight.


Powertrain performance
Powertrain performance: About the same Better Worse

With the redesign, a 340-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V6 has replaced the first-generation Range Rover Sport's 375-horsepower 5.0-liter V8. The lost 35 horses aren't missed, especially with the vehicle's curb weight reduced by over 700 pounds. I found the new engine easily quick enough. For those who want their large SUV to be brutally quick, a 510-horsepower supercharged 5.0-liter V8 remains available for another $9,000 or so.

On paper, the BMW's turbocharged six-cylinder engine is 40 horsepower weaker than the RRS's. In practice, it's at least as quick. BMW tends to under-rate its engines.

The engines' performance differs more subjectively than objectively. The Range Rover Sport's powerplant makes much more mechanical noise, and its power comes on less smoothly and linearly. I didn't mind this difference, even finding that the louder, less synthesized under-hood noises added character. But some people will prefer the quieter, more seamless power delivery of the BMW engine.


Fuel economy
Fuel economy: Worse Better Worse

I'll end with a final surprise: fuel economy no longer ranks among the reasons not to buy a Range Rover Sport. Thanks to a lower curb weight, a more efficient engine, and two more gears in the transmission (for a total of eight), the Range Rover Sport's EPA ratings jump from last year's 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway to 17 and 23, respectively.

This jump looks less impressive when compared to the 2014 BMW X5 xDrive35i's 18/27. But still impressive. Perhaps more of an issue: BMW offers the X5 with a diesel engine in North America, and its good for 23/31. Land Rover doesn't offer its diesels over here.

In my suburban driving, the Range Rover Sport's trip computer reported averages as high as 25. Even when I was making healthy use of the supercharger the average remained about 18. But the speed with which the gas gauge's needle traveled made me wonder whether the trip computer was accurate. My guess: it was about ten percent high.


Conclusion

The first-generation Range Rover Sport looked great, but guzzled gas and didn't handle well. The new one looks even better, no longer guzzles (with the V6), and easily out-handles the typical new BMW X5. The main downsides remain the same: a high price and questionable reliability. The latter might no longer be dismal--but this won't be knowable for a few more years.

If you can swing the price and the possibility of a repair ever year or so doesn't unnerve you, then the Range Rover Sport is the high-end midsize SUV to get. I've never been a big fan of Land Rovers in the past but, especially when combined with its smashing good looks, the experience of driving the new Range Rover Sport thoroughly won me over.

Range Rover Sport Reviews: Range Rover Sport V6 engine

The new supercharged V6 is both powerful and efficient.

Range Rover Sport Reviews: Range Rover Sport cargo area seat folded

High floor contributes to less volume than in many compact crossovers. But how much do you need?

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2014 Land-Rover Range Rover Sport pros and cons, according to Michael Karesh: the best reasons for buying (or not buying) the 2014 Land-Rover Range Rover Sport. Join TrueDelta to post your own impressions.

Response from zcd1

4:17 pm July 29, 2014

I test-drove this vehicle not long ago, and really liked it.

I was smitten by the styling to begin with, but the interior and the driving experience sealed the deal for me. It was one of the few test drives in my recent memory that had me actually lusting after the vehicle...


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Response from mkaresh

5:35 pm July 29, 2014

Sounds like your experience was very similar to my own. I really liked driving the Range Rover Sport, and I generally dislike heavy vehicles, and especially large SUVs.

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Response from zcd1

10:29 pm July 29, 2014

What I didn't have time to post earlier was that this was a day when I drove, in succession, the RRS and then a Hyundai Santa Fe Limited. Wait, what?!?! Hear me out:

Our dearly loved Acura MDX is about to roll over 120K miles, and while it's been all but trouble-free (one bad wheel bearing), we're just getting a little bored with it. In other words, we don't NEED to replace it, we just sort of WANT to replace it. So, why the wild disparity between the vehicles I drove that day? Easy, actually. We want a vehicle that can seat 6-7 in a pinch, drives better than average at the very least, and looks good. As it turns out, both the Santa Fe Limited and the RRS meet 2 of those 3 criteria. I hoped that the Santa Fe would prove to be an MDX- (rough) equivalent at 70% of the price. I hoped that the RRS was as good as I'd read it was...and good enough to justify the price premium.

The Santa Fe looks decent (IMO) and can certainly seat 6-7. What it doesn't do is drive decently. As with most Korean vehicles of the current generation, the "stuff" is all there, but the polish/refinement isn't. There's way too much road noise, the steering is wonky and the suspension alternately wallows and crashes - not even in the ballpark of our active-damper-suspended MDX, in other words.

Liked all the toys and the packaging, hated the drive.

The RRS looks great, drives great, but really doesn't seat even 6. I mean, the 3rd row seat is a joke. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, given that even our much-larger MDX's 3rd row is marginal for anyone taller than about 5' 5", but at 6' 2", I CAN actually sit back there, albeit uncomfortably.

No such luck in the RRS - anyone over 5' need not apply.

In the end, the Santa Fe Limited was removed from consideration due to lack of refinement.

The RRS? Still under consideration, IF we decide to spend the $$$$$ AND decide that we can live without a truly useable 3rd row. What a seductive vehicle it is....

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Response from mkaresh

5:51 am July 30, 2014

The new MDX also drives very nicely, though with a much different character than the RRS (the Acurs feels much more car-like). It's not looking good in our reliability stats, but this is fairly common for first-year Acuras. The 2015 MDX will likely score better.

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Response from zcd1

8:12 am July 30, 2014

I've also driven the new MDX and it's very nice. I thought I'd miss the active-damper suspension, but the amplitude-reactive shocks seem to have struck a nice ride/handling balance with less complexity, which was the point after all. It's also much quieter inside, and better-finished as well. Not really a fan of the double-screen dash setup, but I can live with it. I really appreciate the fact that Acura (Honda) was able to cut ~350 lbs from the curb weight while maintaining structural stiffness and crash-worthiness. Owners report 30 mpg highway in some cases, which is plain impressive for a large-ish CUV, and WAY better than ours, which touches 22 mpg if we're careful.

I'm also wary of the first-year blues, which is the reason we own a 2008 and not a 2007 (2nd year of the previous generation), so it would be a 2015 if we get one.

In the end, my heart says RRS, but my head says MDX.

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Response from jaguar

2:45 pm March 21, 2015

I've owned my 2014.5 Range Rover Sport HSE for 10 months now, I traded my 2013 Sport in on it. Yes, as mentioned above, the price can be a little daunting, after all, out the Door mine came in at $89,000, that is with Tax, Licence etc which adds up to about 11% here in So cal. I was lucky enough not to have to pay the $5,000 " market premium" otherwise it would have been more.
Having said that, the sum of it's parts is what made it such an awesom Vehicle, the climate pack, which includes Heated/cooled seats and refrigerator, vision package which includes 360 cameras, parking sensors etc. It also came with rear seat entertainment, the upgraded Meridian sound system. A must have, the standard sound system is rubbish, people have traded their sports in for one with Meridian, the standard is so bad. Mine also ha the park assist, which automatically parallel parks.

After 10 months I have had zero problems, it's never been back to the. Dealer once apart from a TPMS TSB. Reliability has been perfect, not even a rattle or squeak.

My only complaint is the ECO auto stop, which shuts the engine down when idling at Traffic Lights, but I got into the habit of turning it off every time I get in.

The 340hp V6 is very quick, it will cruise all day at freeway speeds with more than enough power for passing. If street racing is your thing then you might want the V8, street racing is a felony here in CA by the way, so think twice.


Summary: The price only hurts once if like me, you don't finance. I heard lease rates still hurt. I love my RRS, absolutely love it, and would do it all over again. In fact, I think I will when it's 2 years old. Resale value is awesome, low mileage used ones are still fetching msrp of a new one, probably due to the 5-6 month wait on a new one.



Questions? I'd be happy to answer them.

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Response from mkaresh

5:05 pm March 21, 2015


Thanks for posting this. You should consider writing a review yourself.


I'm a big fan of surround camera systems. I don't think LR's version stitches the images together to form a single top-down image. Or, if it does, I've not been able to find the correct mode.

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Response from jaguar

12:09 am March 22, 2015

No, the surround Camera system doesn't have the top down view.

What it does have: Junction views, Kerb view, reverse view, forward terrain view ( at bumper height) and Trailer hitch assist view. I would give the resolution about 6/10, less at night. At first the Camera views are a novelty, I only ever pay attention to the reverse camera now. It has approaching Traffic/pedestrian alert which let's you know if a moving object is approaching when reversing out of a parking space.

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Response from jaguar

2:24 pm October 12, 2015

I just traded my 2014.5 on a 2016 HST. The newer Camera resolutions are a lot better, even at night.

True, still no top-down, which is a pity. But it does have auto access mode and motion activated Tailgate opening and closing. Somehow it feels like it is better put together than my 14.5

This is my 3rd new RRS, the only "problems" so far out of all three is a TPS fault and check engine light, all fixed while I wait, otherwise they have been absolutely perfect.

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