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Although I still felt its bulk, the Range Rover Sport let me push it hard on twisty mountain roads, and I only rarely came close to the limits of its traction and handling. Land Rover did not completely dial out understeer, and I found the Range Rover Sport a bit more capable off-road than pushed to the limits on paved turns. It might not beat a Corvette on the road, but it's near the top of the SUV pile for handling.
For mere tooling around, excursions up and down highways, the Range Rover Sport is nicely comfortable. Every time I nestled my head in the over-padded headrest, I let out a sigh of contentment. The on-road ride quality isn't as soft as you'd get in, say, a, but it would do fine for lengthy road trips.
On those long trips, the Range Rover Sport can take up some of the driving work. This one was equipped with adaptive cruise control, which matches the speed of slower traffic up ahead and can bring the car to a full stop if needed. I found it worked very well, even gently compensating when other cars cut in front of me. Available for the Range Rover Sport, and something I would consider a necessary option given the size of the vehicle, is a blind-spot monitoring system and around-view cameras. My example was not so equipped, but still had the basic rearview camera, which helped quite a bit when parallel parking.
To make the highway miles more enjoyable, Land Rover offers a few different audio systems for the Range Rover Sport. At the top level is a Meridian-branded system with 23 speakers and 1,700 watts, but the vehicle I was driving came equipped with the midlevel system, also from Meridian, with 825 watts and 19 speakers.
I'm sure the top-level system would be very nice, but I was completely satisfied with the audio quality from the midlevel system. I played music from all the usual digital sources -- satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming, and the car's USB port -- and for each the sound came through with excellent clarity and full-frequency reproduction. As with any really good system, I was hearing notes and instruments in tracks I played that get buried in lesser systems. The 825-watt amp gave the sound a rich depth and made bass palpable in the cabin.
Land Rover even includes three different surround-sound settings: Meridian, DTS, and Dolby. Or, for more traditional audio reproduction, I could just leave it in stereo.
For cabin electronics, Land Rover keeps it simple, embedding a touch screen in the middle of the dashboard with a few soft-touch buttons to either side. The design keeps the dashboard nicely uncluttered, and the touch screen responds reasonably well to inputs.
A few functions can also be controlled through voice command. I could place calls by saying the name of a contact on my Bluetooth-paired phone, but I couldn't ask for music playback by artist or album name. When entering destinations through voice command, I had to say each part of the address separately, unlike with newer, more advanced systems which let you say the address as a single string.
The navigation system was decent for guiding me to destinations, and included live traffic, but the maps had a washed-out appearance. I had all the usual destination options, such as address, a points-of-interest database, and previous destinations, but there was no online search.
In fact, the Range Rover Sport's biggest lack is any connected features in the cabin electronics. Besides no local search, there was no integration with online music services or apps, and no ability to look up nearby fuel prices.
In many ways, the 2014 Range Rover Sport is an extraordinary vehicle. It showed incredible capability off-road and impressive handling when pushed through on-road turns. At the same time, it was well-mannered in heavy traffic and city driving. Despite the huge amount of power from the supercharged V-8 engine, I found it easy to modulate acceleration, and the automatic transmission shifted seamlessly.
Land Rover's Terrain Response System is nothing short of miraculous, letting the luxuriously appointed Range Rover Sport tackle serious off-road challenges. Unfortunately, there is no magic for fuel efficiency -- the big engine is thirsty, even with the idle-stop feature.
For cabin tech, the Range Rover Sport covered the basics, but didn't include any advanced features. I liked how the navigation worked, and the Meridian audio system, even at the midlevel tier, was a high point. The digital audio sources worked well, letting me play music from my iPhone or a USB drive. I would, however, like to see some connected options.
Of production vehicles, only Jeep competes with Land Rover for off-road capability. And when you look at luxury SUVs, Jeep can only pit the Grand Cherokee against the wider offerings of Land Rover. The 2014 Range Rover Sport makes a nice alternative for those who don't want the larger Range Rover model.
|Model||2014 Range Rover Sport|
|Power train||Supercharged direct-injection 5-liter V-8 engine, 8-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||14 mpg city/19 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||17.2 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard flash memory-based with live traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Digital audio sources||Bluetooth streaming, iOS integration, USB drive, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Meridian 19-speaker, 825-watt system|
|Driver aids||Adaptive cruise control, rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$90,585|