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2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport First Drive Review: Comfy, Capable, More Efficient

The latest generation of Land Rover's luxurious Range Rover Sport SUV hits the road (and the trail) this year with new mild-hybrid and plug-in powertrain options.

2023 Range Rover Sport
The stealthy Range Rover Sport P440e doesn't flaunt its hybrid system with loud badges or graphics.
Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The third generation of Land Rover's Range Rover Sport hits the road later this year. The midsize luxury SUV is a little larger and a touch more spacious this time around, but thanks to a healthy does of minimalist design, it sticks closely to broad strokes of the previous generation. Look more closely and you'll find new details inherited from the full-size Range Rover, such as retractable door handles, full-LED illumination and the latest generation big-screen infotainment in the dashboard.

But the most interesting changes happen under the hood, where you'll find a new turbocharged six-cylinder plug-in hybrid engine -- one of four powertrain options available, in addition to two mild hybrids and a twin-turbo V8.

Mild-hybrid or V8 power?

The new Range Rover Sport comes standard with a 3.0-liter, turbocharged, inline six-cylinder engine paired with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that powers various chassis controls and enables super-smooth stop-start fuel saving. This base P360 SE configuration makes 355 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. It goes from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. Stepping up to the P400 SE Dynamic spec bumps output to 395 hp and 406 lb-ft and quickens the 0-to-60 time to 5.4 seconds. Light-footed drivers should expect around 22 mpg combined for the P360 or 21 mpg for the P400, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

For the first year of production, Land Rover will also offer a P530 First Edition powered by a 523-hp, 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V8. With 553 lb-ft of torque on tap, this limited-edition Sport sprints from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds and pulls off effortless passes without breaking a sweat, even up fairly steep grades. Fuel economy, on the other hand, takes a hit, dropping to 18 mpg combined. The V8 is also the only spec to feature rear-wheel steering with up to 7.3 degrees of articulation, resulting in a tighter turning radius at low speeds -- especially helpful for trail maneuverability -- and more stable highway lane changes.

Available only for the first year of production, the P530 First Edition boasts a powerful twin-turbocharged V8 and rear-wheel steering.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

P440e Autobiography plug-in hybrid

Matching the 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 with a 105-kilowatt electric motor, the Range Rover Sport P440e Autobiography's plug-in hybrid powertrain puts out a combined 434 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. With all systems go, the P440e sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, slowed somewhat by the heavy 31.8-kilowatt-hour battery pack integrated into the SUV's floor.

With a full charge, the P440e can cruise for an estimated 48 miles on pure electric power, though that range drops significantly if you try to use it at highway speeds. Drivers can use the navigation system to set geofences that automatically switch between the PHEV's electric and hybrid modes, preserving range for slower urban areas where the EV mode is most efficient. Fuel economy for the plug-in model hasn't yet been announced and will likely vary significantly depending on how often the owner plugs in.

The power deficit with only the 141-hp electric motor operating is noticeable. Locked in EV mode at full throttle, acceleration hits a wall at its 71-mph EV speed limit before the combustion engine takes over. Leaving the SUV in its automatic hybrid setting, however, results in a more seamless, earlier transition between the electric and hybrid drive modes, not to mention significantly more satisfying high-speed acceleration. The PHEV's 6,600-pound towing capacity is also around 1,100 pounds short of the other available powertrains. Still, there's ample torque to keep things feeling responsive and confident at lower speeds, and the P440e never feels underpowered in EV mode around town.

Charging is fairly slow.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Plugging into a 50-kW DC fast-charging station via the CCS port rapidly boosts the P440e to an 80% charge in around 40 minutes -- not great, but DC charging is fairly rare on PHEVs, plus it can always fall back on gasoline power for longer trips, so I'm not complaining. At a 7-kW home charging station, a full charge takes around 5 hours or, if you're truly patient, the PHEV can juice up at a 2.3-kW domestic wall outlet in around 15 hours.

Visually, there's no difference between the plug-in hybrid Range Rover Sport and the mild-hybrid or V8-powered models. There's no "plug-in" badging or graphics inside or out -- actually, there are no specific badges for any powertrain -- with the only telltales being a second filler door hiding the charging port and the slightest undercarriage battery bulge that reduces the PHEV's maximum off-road breakover angle to 24.5 degrees versus 26.9 for the rest of the lineup. Approach and departure angles are unchanged at 29.7 and 30 degrees, respectively, as is the 35.4-inch wading depth.

Capable off-roader

Whatever powertrain is optioned, the new Range Rover Sport features the same smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive with locking differentials. The same all-terrain tech is also offered across the lineup, including an air suspension that can raise the ride height by 2.5 inches in Off-Road mode and features auto-leveling active roll control, all powered by the 48-volt electrical system.

Land Rover's Terrain Response 2 vehicle management software oversees the Sport's complex suspension and drivetrain settings with presets for a variety of low-grip surface types, as well as programs aimed at sporty or efficient tarmac driving. If you don't want to fiddle with the settings you can also just leave Terran Response in Auto and let it adapt to conditions on the fly without fuss.

New for this generation is Land Rover's Adaptive Off-Road Cruise Control. This system allows the driver to set a crawl speed up to 20 mph that the SUV will automatically maintain with four comfort level adjustments. Level 4 will slow the SUV down significantly when the road gets rough for a smoother ride, while Level 1 will more or less power over bumps while maintaining speed. This tech, along with hill-descent control, helps the driver focus on steering in tricky trail conditions. 

The Range Rover Sport also boasts on-road adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go support and lane-keeping steering assist. Rounding out the suite of available on-road driving aids are blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert with reverse precollision detection, a 360-degree camera system, a rear camera mirror and an adaptive speed limiter that can automatically adjust the cruising speed as the posted limit changes.

Pivi Pro infotainment

Standing proud from the Range Rover Sport's dashboard is the newest version of Land Rover's Pivi Pro infotainment tech, featuring a large, 13.1-inch curved touchscreen flanked by a 13.7-inch digital instrument cluster. The curve on the main display is so subtle that I didn't even notice it until Land Rover pointed it out, but it's there if you look closely. Haptic feedback gives a tactile and audible click when pressing elements on the touch display, but that can (and probably should) be turned off in a menu. For some reason, the haptics on every example I tested introduced a slight but annoying lag in sensitivity. The system feels better overall without it.

Onboard navigation features web-connected traffic data and What3Words integration for destination entry and waypoint identification, which is useful for off-road and trail use but merely a novelty for anywhere with a street address. There's also Amazon Alexa voice assistant support that makes use of the onboard eSIM data connection. Muslim drivers can even add a Qibla pointer to the navigation compass, so they'll know which direction to pray wherever they are in the world. I don't think I've ever seen that option on a vehicle before.

Pivi Pro feels much more responsive and stable than the often buggy previous generation and performed well over almost 300 miles of testing. That said, I did run into few visual map hiccups and the occasional stutter when browsing the menus -- nothing dealbreaking, but still noteworthy given the rock-solid tech found in the Sport's fiercest competitors. Over-the-air update capability may help smooth some of that out over time and, if not, there's always standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with wireless connectivity to fill in the gaps.

The 13.1-inch touchscreen display's curvature is so subtle that it's barely visible.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Pricing and availability 

The 2023 Range Rover Sport is a substantial upgrade over its predecessor, particularly the more powerful plug-in hybrid model with its larger battery and more useful electric range. Even with the minor compromises needed to make a PHEV work efficiently at this size -- and despite how much fun that V8 model can be -- the P440e is my favorite spec of the bunch. But if plugging in isn't your jam, all four available specs are simply better than before with smarter, more stable cabin and safety tech, improved fit and finish, and more refined performance, both on- and off-road.

The 2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport starts at $84,475 for the P360 SE when you include the $1,475 destination charge. The more powerful P400 SE Dynamic is a bit more expensive at $91,475, while the P440e's more complex powertrain and Autobiography trim standard features bumps the sticker price to $105,675. At the top of the line is the limited-edition, V8-powered P530 First Edition at $122,975 -- at least, until the fully electric variant joins the lineup sometime in 2024.

Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of CNET's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.