(Continued: Page 2 of 2)
As with the satellite navigation system, the Range Rover's rear-seat DVD entertainment system is controlled via the in-dash LCD touch screen or by a dedicated remote control that lives in the center console when not in use. While the choice of movie and other controls (including the ultimate parental leverage of the on/off button) can be controlled from the front seats, the system's six-disc changer lives behind a removable panel in the rear cargo area, which means that the playlist has to be determined before the family sets off or, more likely, that executives being chauffeured to their next meeting will have to request the driver to stop and pop the rear hatch when they want to watch the latest corporate DVD.The supercharged 2006 Range Rover Sport comes equipped with a brawny 4.2-liter V-8 power plant that puts out 390 horsepower. Billed as the fastest thing ever to come out of the Land Rover factory, the Sport reaches 60mph from standing in an impressive 7 seconds and boasts an electronically limited top speed of 140mph. This is plenty potent to leave most other SUVs and many cars at the lights and to live life permanently in the left-hand lane of the freeway, barring the arrival of a sports car in the rearview mirror.
For those interested in the same look with a little less muscle, the less swift--and less expensive--Range Rover Sport HSE comes with a 4.4-liter naturally aspirated V-8, which delivers 300 horsepower. Around town--which, despite its off-road heritage, is where it will mostly be driven--the automatic six-speed gearbox copes well with hauling the supercharged Sport's 5,670-pound bulk. With 410 pound-feet of torque, the Sport eats even the steepest San Francisco hills for breakfast and has plenty in reserve for passing on the freeway or getting through that amber light.
Handling, assisted by cornering the brake control, dynamic stability control, and dynamic response systems, is assured and solid, even at high speeds. The Sport's four-corner electronic air suspension (EAS), however, left a little to be desired when tackling the rough and ready roads of San Francisco. Set to standard mode (there are separate modes for access and off-road driving), the suspension failed to damp out even small bumps, leading to a bouncy and jarring ride. Adding to this sensation are the Sport's four-piston Brembo front brakes; they may help to take the wind out the car's sails when needed on the freeway, but they make for uncomfortably sharp braking around town.
For the minority that will take this car off-road or for those driving in the snow, a dial in the center console enables the driver to use Land Rover's Terrain Response, which optimizes the car's electronic traction control and braking systems according to road conditions.
Despite flaws with the cabin tech and a few niggles with the ride, the biggest drawback of the supercharged 2006 Range Rover Sport is its appalling gas mileage.
The EPA rates the Sport at 13mpg in the city and 18mpg on the highway. To put that in context, the EPA rates the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is the least efficient SUV it has tested, at 14mpg city and 19mpg highway, and we observed 11.6mpg in our test of that car. In our experience, the Sport was even less economical than the Jeep, averaging an abysmal 10.5mpg in a mixture of highway and city driving. That translated to around 170 miles from the best part of an $80 tank of gas.The supercharged 2006 Range Rover Sport is a very safe car, packed with a range of active and passive safety features. The Sport is the first Land Rover model to feature adaptive cruise control (a $2,000 option), a radar-based feature that allows the driver to set the car to cruise at a set distance from the car in front. When a regular cruise-control speed has been set, a button on the steering wheel allows the driver to select one of four distance options, which will then hold the Sport at a constant distance from the next car up. If that car brakes, the Sport slows its speed to maintain the preset distance. As with regular cruise control, the driver overrides ACC by stepping on either the brake or accelerator pedals.
Other electronic safety aids include front and rear parking sensors that alert the driver with a chorus of beeps when the car is too near to an obstacle--and are also activated by people crossing the road in front of the car. While these sensors are helpful, we would have preferred a rearview camera, an easy addition with the existing LCD screen. Adaptive bixenon headlights, rain- and speed-sensing wipers, and a child seat sensor for the front passenger seat also come standard on the Sport, as does the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system in the rear seats.
The list of built-in standard driver-assist systems on the supercharged Range Rover Sport is impressive. As well as the predictable ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, and four-wheel electronic traction control systems, the car comes with a couple of active safety systems to counter loss of control and reduce the risk of rollover. Using data from a series of sensors, dynamic stability control applies brake force to wheels that it detects as having lost traction, while active roll mitigation senses when the Sport is heavier on one side than the other and uses corrective braking to prevent rollover. In the event of an impact, the Sport comes with a collision-activated inertia switch, which automatically unlocks doors, turns off the fuel supply to the engine, and turns on hazard lights.
The Sport comes with a full set of air bags: front and seat-mounted side air bags for driver and front passenger and side-curtain air bags for everyone on board.
The supercharged 2006 Range Rover Sport comes with a four-year/50,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty, a six-year, unlimited-mile rust warranty, four complimentary scheduled maintenance visits, and Land Rover's 24-hour road recovery service.