Auto123 conducted a 2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport first drive.
Madrid, Spain – The Range Rover has always lived a parallel existence with the other luxury SUVs that populate our boulevards, our highways and, yes, our trails. It has its competition, of course, but the story behind it, its evolution from its beginnings as a workhorse to a luxury car standard, is quite unique.
When the smaller Sport model appeared, the focus changed somewhat. The Sport kept its luxury elements, of course, but its more compact shape and slightly more angular lines made it look spiffier, while its entry-level price made it a bit more accessible. It also means the pool it competes in is a bit deeper. Models such as the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 and Audi Q7 were and still are big sellers and make a very compelling case. The Sport may have a steeper hill to climb than its bigger sibling. But beware when it comes to climbing hills, all Range Rovers are equipped for off-road use.
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For 2023, the Sport received a completely new design, which is more robust than the previous one, more exclusive and has a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variant. Called the P440e ($123,050), this joins the P400 48V mild-hybrid model ($101,750) as well as the V8-equipped P530 Edition One version ($133,650).
There’s a lot of variety here – once you get past the somewhat confusing nomenclature – but it’s a good indication that Land Rover took a hard look at the Sport competition and thought it was time to play the game. One thing to note: the availability of a third row of seats is gone; for 2023 it will be reserved for the full-size Range Rover.
We were able to put all three variants through their paces on the twisty roads in and around Madrid, but Land Rover being what it is, wanted us to take them off the beaten track too. The Sport may be firmly rooted in the luxury SUV niche, but it’s definitely a Range Rover, and with the classic oval badge on the nose, it should be able to hold its own on smooth, hard and soft surfaces.
Of the three models, Edition One is the best equipped; it’s the only way to get a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 with its 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, and even with the big engine, it’s not the heaviest model on the list, the PHEV variant being the heaviest of the trio.
Stylistically, several details stand out, but the overarching theme – especially with a Florence red truck like this one – is one of contrast. The side grilles, hood, Range Rover badging, grille, wing mirrors and everything above the beltline are black, giving an athletic look that Land Rover said customers referred to as the Range Rover’s tattooed little brother.
As appealing as it may be, the wheels are the real draw. For the first time at Sporten, they measure a whopping 23 inches in diameter. This helps lower the profile further to the ground, adding muscle, confidence and panache to the whole package. These tires are great, but I find that despite being 285mm wide, they don’t feel wide enough when wrapped around the big hooves. The all-season Pirelli Scorpion tires on our test model are fine, but for a truck like this, I know I’d want performance summer tires. It might not be the heaviest Sport, but at 2,429kg you can be sure it will put its tires through the paces when you start pushing.
Inside we find all the usual Land Rover elements that we love. The seats are in premium leather, the panel gaps are so narrow you’d be hard pressed to get a playing card through them, there are excellent carbon inserts with a granite coffee table finish, as well as cool stuff like a partial fabric door liners that doesn’t look cheap.
The old model’s two-screen center console now sees its lower screen replaced by two large dials and a touchpad, while the main screen has been enlarged. The gauge cluster is still digitized and looks decent in high definition, and a digital rearview mirror is standard. It offers a wider angle, unhindered by the frame of the rear window, high loads or tall passengers.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also present and can be paired wirelessly, while the wireless charging pad itself is neatly tucked away under a panel that houses the volume rocker, power button, drive power mode selector and the electronic gear lever.
Although I don’t like the fact that some of the climate controls – windshield defroster, defroster, etc. – is part of a touch panel, I like how the two main buttons act as both room temperature and seat heating/cooling. Simply press the rotary knob to switch from one to the other. All this helps to reduce clutter in the cabin.
The main infotainment screen is a slim, concave element with crisp graphics and a responsive touchscreen. Let’s also mention that it no longer fights for your attention with an inferior screen like before. The latter looked a bit cheap and was quickly covered in fingerprints.
At low speeds, in normal drive mode – which is selected by pressing the drive mode button – the Sport is a true Range Rover, delivering smooth steering feedback that’s a joy to turn effortlessly, a generally good roll that only stumbles over the roughest bumps. – probably due to the huge rolling stock – and provides a fantastic view out, even if the windows are a bit smaller than in the regular Range Rover.
It’s truly luxurious, but when the road opens up and it’s time to unleash the beast, it all flies out of the slightly smaller windows.
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