DETROIT -- Since I test drove the Range Rover Sport in the middle of February I couldn’t tell you how sporty it is. Cold weather with its never-ending potential for snow always makes me reluctant to press down on the gas pedal, even when the pavement is dry.
Still, the Range Rover Sport gave me reason to think that it can really get up and go when needed. My test vehicle had a 300 horsepower V8 engine that made 315 pounds-feet of torque. It was mated to a six speed transmission that offered three driving modes: automatic, sport, and CommandShift which is Rover-speak for manual.
Being a purists, I’ve never bothered with the manual mode of automatic transmissions as was the case with the Range Rover Sport. A supercharged V8 that makes 390 horsepower is also available. But I found that the “smaller” engine had more than enough oomph.
The vehicle accelerated effortlessly when I was getting on expressways here. Lane changes were smooth. And for a very heavy vehicle, 5,468 lbs, I thought the Range Rover Sport felt awfully light on its tread.
A couple of times I had to make U-turns and there was no backing up. I came across a couple of sizable potholes that I couldn’t avoid and the Range Rover Sport flattened them right out without hardly a bump. And the vehicle had a very high seating position which gave me a real feeling of road command.
About the only thing that I didn’t like was that both side view mirrors tilted downward when the vehicle was put into reverse gear. That’s good for parking but it wasn’t so great when I was backing out of my driveway. The view through the back window didn't allow gauging distance.
The Ranger Rover Sport was equipped with an air suspension with automatic and multiple modes: access, standard, off-road and extended. There was also terrain-sensing software and cross-link valving for improved off-road performance. The front suspension was an independent wishbone with long air travel springs that provided 10 inches of vertical wheel travel. The rear suspension was also independent, double wishbone with long-travel air springs and 12.2 inches of vertical wheel travel.
The terrain response system modified the response of the engine, transmission, differentials, dynamic systems and the air suspension to maximize traction and control in a variety of driver-selectable settings: general, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, sand and rock crawl.
Despite its posh ambience, it’s easy to forget that the Range Rover is one of the most advanced off-road vehicles in the world; no matter how many of them you see traveling city streets. But the Range Rover (Sport) is also one of the most luxurious vehicles on the road, too.
It offers heated front bucket power seats with high grip seating surfaces. The rear seats are heated, too. There was an array of controls. You’d be wise to read the owners’ manual to see which button does what. There were dual zone climate controls and a power sunroof.
A programmable key fob can command the air suspension to lower the vehicle to facilitate easy entry. My Range Rover Sport also had Bluetooth which turned my compatible cell phone into a hands free car phone and parking assists in front and rear.
I was particularly impressed with the Range Rover Sports’ 4x4 information screen that displayed settings of the terrain response system, the steering angle, the vertical movement of all four wheels, the suspension setting; gear selected and transfer case range.
As crazy as it sounds, $62,550 seemed like a bargain for my 2009 Range Rover Sport HSE.