The world’s demand for ‘sportier’ SUVs has seen recent arrivals like BMW’s X6, enjoying growing popularity in the US and emerging markets like Russia and China. With style and sport providing bigger catchment areas to SUV sales, than a vehicle’s proficiency in sand and slush, the Landy boys have infused greater dynamism to the Range Rover’s chassis refinements for 2010. These include Active Damping, new brakes and updates to the Terrain Response system. One even has the option to of F1-style flappy paddle-shift gearchanges on the steering wheel.
The new Adaptive Dynamic system was honed at the legendary Nurburgring so it must be fairly efficient and good enough for Landy’s in-house engineers to achieve a sub 8min 50secs lap time. That’s is pretty incredible, considering it’s offroad armoury and burly 2.5 tonne kerb weight.
The new system works in conjunction with the Active Ride Control (ARC) on the Supercharged models, by adding a road focussed Dynamic Program to the user friendly Terrain Response system. The Sport’s conventional shocks have also been replaced by new continually adjustable damper units, which refine comfort, body control and damper pressure at a rate of upto 500 times per second. In the Dynamic Program, which is activated via a click to the left on the Terrain Response toggle, the Sport feels more poised, while it’s steering is sharper and more meaty. Body roll is also better contained in the Dynamic Program, but ultimately still trails the X6 in terms of agility when changing direction.
The difference is that the X6 is comparatively useless offroad and there in lies the rub. Because even if 90% of Sport owners never ventured further than their office parking lot, they’d still buy it, thanks to the confidence of knowing they can conquer Klipbokkop if they wanted to.
Despite the Sport’s proven dominance in the dirt, there are still some improvements to its chassis. In soft sand for instance, the Sport features a new ‘sand launch control’ system, that reduces the risk of the wheels digging in when pulling-away. A new Gradient release control function also refines the HDC (Hill Descent Control) by inhibiting the initial rate of acceleration and lurch, when releasing the brake down very steep declines.
Visually, the designers have retained the slab styling of its predecessor, which is a good thing as navigation remains easy through trees and tight forest confines. One is always aware of where the bodywork ends, which can’t always say for the more bulbous Toaureg or Cayenne. A new surround system camera also aids navigation from every angle with the ability to enlarge, zoom and traverse tight roads in parallel via the touch screen.
The display on the touchscreen is borrowed from the Jaguar XF, but is updated to hard disk form so its functionality and nav system is far smoother and slicker than the leaping cat. New interior trim and a broad centre console enrich the twin cockpit feel of the interior while the dashboard, like the exterior, is less cluttered and has for more sophisticated lines.
Although European customers will enjoy the new twin-turbocharged 3.0 TDV6, it will only be introduced in our market when the existing TDV8 is discontinued. Land Rover SA aren’t saying when this will be, but its unlikely to be soon, as the 3.6-litre version has just been introduced into China for the 2010MY. The new 5.0-litre V8 Supercharged petrol however will be available locally and features 625Nm of torque and 375kW. At 15L/100km the big eight potter is still a thirsty beast, but offers an improvement of 6.2% in terms of fuel economy and a 7% reduction in CO2 emissions (to 353g/km) over the previous unit.
Due to the lack of demand Land Rover SA have dropped petrol derivatives like the V8 HSE from the Range Rover Sport range, but have said that the naturally aspirated version can be ordered on demand. Pricing will be released at the vehicle’s local introduction inOctober.
Look out for a full report on the new Range Rover Sport in the Novemeber issue of topCar magazine, on sale next month