2023 Range Rover Sport review, first drive
While the full-size Range Rover that sits at the top of the pile has a stately, regal king-like air about it, it’s the Range Rover Sport that exudes youthful, prince-charming vibes with its smaller footprint, more aggressive styling and a sportier approach to the driving experience.
I’ve always liked the Range Rover. It’s stylish without being loud or in your face, the cabin feels special, it’s nice to drive and it has an unmatched air of royalty about it. It’s a car that seems fit for kings and queens, the rich and famous, ones who are at the top of their game.
Personally, though, it isn’t exactly my type of car. I prefer something that feels younger, sportier, and something a bit bolder. The Range Rover Sport fits that profile. If the full-fat Range Rover is the king, then the Sport is the prince and that’s certainly more my type.
The styling follows the same principles of minimalism showcased by the new Range Rover, albeit with a slightly more aggressive undertone. For starters, it’s more compact and couple that with the relatively more raked A and D pillars and an ever-so-slightly sinking roofline, and the result is a more aggressive-looking SUV with a sportier stance. Those slim LED headlamps and tail lamps help further accentuate that design ethos.
2023 Range Rover Sport
I’ve used the word compact above, but the Range Rover Sport is by no means a small SUV. It’s almost 5m long and just over 2m wide and, in fact, it has the same wheelbase as the standard wheelbase Range Rover. It’s the size that plays a crucial role in giving it immense road presence, something pictures might not be able to relay well enough. There are no needlessly sharp cuts and creases, no massive grille. Forget restrained use of chrome, there’s a complete lack of it, at least in the spec the Range Rover Sport test car was sent to us.
It’s understated with just the right amount of aggression and I don’t know about you, but it works really well for me. In this Firenze Red shade with the blacked-out roof and Satin Dark Grey rims, the Sport looks rather fetching, but if you want a more discreet look there’s a slew of darker shades on offer, including multiple grey options. Wheel sizes range from 20 inches to 23 inches. The petrol variant is available only in this Dynamic HSE trim. There are more options to choose from if you pick the diesel variant.
The cabin too exhibits elegance and style rather than shock and awe and over-the-top use of touchscreens. And yet, feels properly modern with its 13.1-inch infotainment screen that gently curves outward along the dashboard and the crisp 13.7-inch digital instrument cluster with its configurable screens. In a world where every car maker seems to be trying its level best to rid the car’s cabin of buttons and knobs, Land Rover is not only bucking the trend but doing it in a way that feels modern and not out of place even in a high-end luxury SUV. More modernism comes in the form of the choice of materials Land Rover offers its customers to spec their Range Rover Sport with including sustainably sourced, leather-free options. As one would expect from a vehicle that costs close to Rs 2 crore on-road, all of the switches, controls and surfaces one would interact with scream quality.
With an increase in size over its predecessor, there’s more space within the cabin and more in the boot as well, although a two-row layout is the only option as there’s no three-row format available. The front seats are supremely comfortable, complete with 22-way adjustment, heating, cooling and massage functions. The rear bench is fairly comfortable as well. The backrest angle can be adjusted electrically and in the spec we had the car in, the seats featured heating and ventilation along with two individual aircon zones as well as USB type-C ports, a three-pin socket and sun blinds for those seated in the back. Those manual sun blinds do seem a little out of place in a car that costs as much as the Range Rover Sport does though. Also, much of the kit the test car came with in the Dynamic HSE trim is offered as optional equipment, including the rear sun blinds, the 22-way electrically adjustable front seats, black contrast roof, four-zone climate control, domestic plug socket and the front centre console refrigerator compartment.
While markets elsewhere in the world get plug-in hybrid variants of the Range Rover Sport, India only gets 3.0-litre petrol and diesel engine options, both with mild hybrid tech. The 3.0-litre diesel, the D350, produces 350bhp and a peak torque of 700Nm resulting in a 0 to 100kmph acceleration figure of 6s. The one we tested was the P400 with a 3.0-litre straight six producing 400bhp and 550Nm paired with an 8-speed torque convertor along with an AWD setup shuffling power between all four wheels. A sub-6s 0 to 100kmph time for a car this big and heavy says all you need to know about how quick it is in a straight line. And while it does score higher than its elder sibling in terms of agility and dynamic abilities, it still is an SUV that’s more at ease going fast in a straight line, not so much through corners. Even in Dynamic mode which stiffens up the air suspension, sharpens throttle responses, and adds heft to the steering wheel, the Range Rover Sport isn’t one that’ll let you carry as much speed while cornering as certain German rivals would.
But that’s all right, right? Range Rovers are meant to be luxurious and comfortable, wafting along making roads seem like they’re of a higher quality than they actually are and in that sense, the Sport hardly gives anything to complain about. Still, at low speeds, sharper bumps do filter into the cabin, thanks in part to those massive 22-inch wheels, so it doesn’t exactly feel very settled at those speeds over bad roads. One can opt for a smaller tyre size and that should help improve ride quality, but smaller wheels just won’t look as good. In Dynamic mode, the engine sounds lovely, but that’s a bit of a gimmick where the sound isn’t entirely natural as it is channelled through speakers. In its sportiest setting, the 8-speed torque convertor isn’t the sharpest and takes a smidge longer to respond than I would have liked.
There’s a long list of driver assistance features as well that’ll keep the car in its lane, maintain a preset speed and distance to the vehicle in front, and pull up into parking slots without steering inputs from the driver. There are sensors to warn you in case the car’s too close to comfort to something, and the sound is emitted from that specific direction to give the driver an aural sense of the portion of the vehicle they need to be careful with. SUVs like the Range Rover Sport are highly unlikely to find themselves off the road, but this is still a Land Rover and has you covered with a slew of tech including the terrain response system with preset modes for various off-road conditions, a suspension that can be raised for more ground clearance, 900mm of water wading ability and tons of cameras to give the driver a peek at the terrain not just around the car, but underneath as well.
In its latest generation, the Range Rover Sport has gotten quite expensive, but it is now more desirable than ever, has improved vastly in terms of tech, space and features, and then of course there’s the high-value Range Rover badge to top it all off. It blends the understated elegance of the new Range Rover design philosophy with just the right amount of aggression to make heads turn. It’s quick in a straight line, not so much through corners, though, but the comfort level is high and that’s what matters more to Range Rover buyers. The prince of the Range Rover line-up then is certainly quite charming.
Range Rover Sport Dynamic HSE specifications and price
- Engine 2,996cc Inline 6-cyl Petrol Mild Hybrid
- Power 400bhp@5,500-6,500rpm
- Max torque 550Nm@2,000-5,000rpm
- Gearbox 8-speed auto
- Wheelbase 2,997mm
- LxWxH 4,946×2,047×1,820mm
- 0-100kmph 5.7sec
- Top Speed 242kmph
- Wheels 22-inch
- Price Rs 1.68 crore (ex-showroom, w/o options)
- On sale Now.