When Land Rover first mentioned the possibility of a driver-focused British-made sport-orientated SUV the motoring world roared with laughter – how on earth can you make a near-three-tonne Range Rover even remotely sporty, they chimed. Who’s laughing now? Land Rover, probably. Fifteen years since the first car rolled off the production line and Land Rover have gone from strength to strength; nearly 90,000 Range Rover Sports were delivered in 2016 and the Sport variant is now one of the most popular models that Land Rover produce.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive review of the latest Range Rover Sport, you know, the one with the dual-screen centre console, revised interior, and subtly-altered exterior styling, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed with what I have to say today. Before you click out, however, consider this – the Range Rover Sport I propose to talk about has been blessed with Land Rover’s new Ingenium 2-litre 4-cylinder Diesel, an engine that drops the starting price to just over 60k and therefore makes the prospect of a Sport slightly more accessible.
Granted, such an engine may fail to elicit the same WHAT IS THAT emotions as the ridiculously powerful 5.0-litre Supercharged V8 SVR, but to take such a view misses the point – you can now pick up a Range Rover Sport which gives you all the technology, screens, and entertainment you could ever want without breaking the bank. It should also be considered that a large proportion of the sales of this model will either be done through finance or leasing rather than an upfront payment, (it will undoubtedly be successful with company car buyers) meaning that, for many, the lack of outright brake horsepower will be of little worry when the fuel savings start to add up.
Upon landing at Faro Airport, and after what seemed like an eternity of baggage-carousel waiting, we were finally greeted by our brand new Range Rover Sport SD4 sitting in Bay 1 at the entrance of the arrivals car park. Even in the dim, splintered light of the airport car park it looked just right – a quick press of the key gave way to a flash as the thin strip of LEDs around the front headlights lit up, revealing a purposeful, muscular front-end. Even so, there’s no getting past the fact that the ride is set far too high and the wheels, being only 19-inchers, do hinder the overall stance.
Look past these flaws, however, and you have a sleek, dark grey beast ready to tackle whatever the Portuguese landscape wants to throw at it (which admittedly won’t be much – I’m ashamed to say the roads of Quinta Do Lago will be its primary habitat). Spirts were high as we softly rolled away, after all, purchasing a car from another country does have its complications; it was quite a miracle that the FIAAL Land Rover Algarve Dealer had agreed to leave the car at the airport, only for us to head to the dealership a couple of days later to sign on the dotted line and be taken through the features.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, there’s an elephant in the room – how is it possible that an 18-year-old can drive a Range Rover in southern Portugal? Let me explain. You see, unlike in the UK where it is notoriously difficult to get insured on anything above a 1.2 without paying an inordinate sum of money for someone who’s just passed their test, in Portugal it is the car rather than the driver which is insured. This means that anyone with a valid Driving Licence can technically drive any car. Unsurprisingly, I was chomping at the bit to have a go, eager to see how different it would be to drive on the other side of the road with the steering wheel on the left!
There’s certainly nothing missing in the size department; even though the ‘Sport’ variant of the Range Rover is branded to be a sleeker, nimbler, and less cumbersome machine than the full size Range Rover, it still felt absolutely massive on the road. After a while, however, it wraps around you and, as with most unfamiliar vehicles, spend enough time with it and it will become second nature to manoeuvre around. The power delivery was surprising – after driving the ballistic Supercharged Rangie I was expecting an unresponsive and cumbersome drive, but gently squeeze the throttle and the higher levels of torque provide the perfect degree of performance around town – you honestly don’t need anything more.
Coupled with fat tyres, pliant suspension, and a luxurious dark brown and beige interior (it looks better than it sounds, honestly; the official name is Almond and Espresso!) there really is no better car for cruising around the smooth tarmac of the Algarve. Perhaps a panoramic glass sunroof, but it’s really just nit-picking – for those who don’t want something as vast as the full-size Range Rover and aren’t bothered by the very latest technology, the Range Rover Sport with a four-pot is not far short of excellent.