Driven: Range Rover Sport TDV6 HSE
Even though it’s nearly eight years old, the Range Rover Sport remains one of the finest luxury SUVs on the market. That’s evidenced by the popularity. The wealthiest, leafiest suburbs across South Africa are seemingly jam-packed with them, the tall-driving position and prestige proving too popular for well-heeled consumers.
To understand why they’re so loved, one only has to climb up behind the wheel of one. We did just that, with a stint behind the wheel of the supreme TDV6 HSE. The first thing you notice, sitting high up in the plush cabin, is the overwhelming sense of imperiousness. We don’t mean that in a bad way, either. You tower over most drivers, cocooned in the finest leather and luxury materials. It’s a special place to be.
Fire up the 3,0-litre V6 turbodiesel and you’re greeted with the slightest of diesel growls. When cold, there is a very slight clatter which goes away very quickly once on the move. It’s beautifully smooth, producing 190 kW and 600 Nm of torque. This is on par with rivals like the BMW X5 xDrive30d and VW Touareg. As superb as this powertrain is, we must confess that we’re saddened at the discontinuation of the lusty V8 diesel derivative.
Push the throttle and the Sport delivers. The turbodiesel always feels punchy and even produces a lovely soundtrack when pushed. Through corners, it certainly feels more top heavy than rivals, with a certain floatiness to the way it drives down the road. Make no mistake, though - it’s delightful. The Sport caresses the tarmac in a way that only a plush luxury car can, the air suspension turning even the roughest road into a silken avenue.
Another area it has the competition beat is off-road. Point the Range Rover toward the bush and it takes the rough stuff in its stride. Well we’re not saying other SUV’s in this class cannot handle rougher terrain, it comes more naturally to the Range Rover. The Terrain Select system allows the driver to choose which surface he is traversing and the car does the rest.
An updated infotainment system with a revised touchscreen does wonders for the cabin, which was starting to feel a touch dated. Apart from the tech and standard toys (of which there are many) the cabin ambience is something to behold. The Windsor leather is soft and luscious and contributes to the overall feeling of grandeur. A riposte to the all too common thick steering wheel, the Sport is equipped with a surprisingly thin tiller.
This makes it even more relaxing to drive, easily operated with one hand as you slide the leviathan in and out of traffic. The adjustable driver’s armrest is a joy, too. Set it just right and you’ve got yourself one of the most commanding driving positions, bettered only by the big-body Range Rover.
This being the HSE model, you won’t want for equipment. Indeed, the aforementioned leather seats are electrically adjustable (16-way) and offer heating as standard. Parking it won’t be much stress either, as parking sensors (front and rear) and a reverse camera are fitted at no cost. Matrix LED headlamps are part of the comprehensive HSE equipment, too. Fuel economy isn’t too bad for a car weighing over two tonnes. The manufacturer claims fuel usage of just 7.8 litres/100 km - we saw 8.1 litres in our time with the Sport.
It says something when a car this expensive is this popular. Some are sold on the rakish looks alone. Others, the prestige of the Range Rover name. But to appreciate the Sport, you need to drive it. Certainly, it’s a tad bit slower than rivals and perhaps the infotainment system (despite the update) is still behind the latest from Mercedes-Benz and Audi. But the Range Rover has an inexplicable charm - it encapsulates you in the greatest luxury, rolls down the road like a Bentley, and will tackle the desert with the confidence of a Land Cruiser. At just under R1.6 million, we would perhaps go for the more sensibly priced SE derivative. It’s nearly as well-equipped and offers all the brutish charm of the HSE for around R160 000 less.