The supercharged Range Rover Sport looks awesome. Muscular, sleek, and stylishly designed on the outside, it rules the road as the ultimate SUV status symbol. Inside, however, the sheen wears off quickly as underwhelming cabin features are surrounded by cheap accents. An antiquated stereo head unit controls both the Bluetooth hands-free system and the meaty Harman Kardon stereo, but it does no justice to either. Equally lackluster is the Sport's voice-activated GPS satellite navigation unit, which had difficulty understanding commands and was less than intuitive to use. With 390 horsepower, the V-8 Sport redeems itself a little with its behind-the-wheel experience, although boxy suspension and sharp brakes will mean that chief executives and movie stars will not be falling asleep in the backseat. And the Sport's appalling gas mileage--just a little more than 10mpg in our experience--is an expensive caveat that every potential emptor should heed.
Our test car came fully loaded with all the options: adaptive cruise control ($2,000), rear differential lock ($500), Land Rover's Personal Telephone Integration System ($400), a rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($2,500), and a Sirius Satellite Radio tuner ($400). Added to the supercharged Sport's base price of $69,535, a gas-guzzler charge of $100, and a delivery charge of $715, it came to a grand total of $76,150.
There is regular sport, which involves running, jumping, and chasing a ball around, and then there's SUV-style sport, which involves taking a standard model, tuning the engine, and installing plastic fixtures in the cabin. Drivers of the supercharged 2006 Range Rover Sport don't need any kind of athletic prowess (other than the ability to get in and out of the cab on a regular basis at the gas station), but they should be warned that this car's interior won't set their hearts racing either. Sure, the Sport looks fabulous from the outside, with its spoiler, gleaming chrome vents, pugnacious front grille, floating roof, and arch-filling alloy wheels. But once inside, the view is very different.
On paper, our 2006 Range Rover Sport seemed to have an admirable armory of cabin luxury and technology: cherry-wood accents, voice-enabled GPS satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone integration, a 550-watt Harman Kardon stereo with optional satellite radio, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. And while all these things are indeed present in the flesh, Range Rover's execution doesn't seem to live up to the marque's luxury reputation or the car's price tag.
Hard perforated leather seats extend an inhospitable welcome to the driver, and a glance about the plastic-lined cabin does little to soften the experience of having just parted with $76,000. Like its predecessors, the 2006 Sport gives the driver the impression of sitting in an aircraft cockpit, with a huge center console dividing those behind the wheel from the navigator--sorry, front passenger.
The supercharged 2006 Range Rover Sport's giant center console gives the impression of being in an aircraft cockpit.
Dual-zone climate control ensures that those on either side of the divide can set their own temperature, and the supercharged Sport comes with Range Rover's Cold Weather package as standard, which comprises two-stage heated front seats, heated rear seats, and heated front windshield and washer jets. From the driver's seat, the view is predominantly one of black plastic, offset by slivers of what Range Rover calls cherry wood but which look and feel more like leftover laminate flooring. The only relief from the black plastic in the center console is a big yellow button for hill-descent control.
A square armrest in the stack opens up to reveal a removable coin tray, under which is one of the--literally--coolest features of the interior: a refrigerated box for drinks, activated by its own rocker switch. The black plastic theme is continued with the Sport's stereo head unit, which also acts as the car's Bluetooth interface. A numeric keypad (black plastic) sits alongside the audio source buttons (black plastic) and the volume and EQ control dials (both black plastic).
The low-tech stereo head unit is representative of the Range Rover cabin's black plastic theme.
Harman Kardon's 550-watt, 13-speaker Logic 7 audio system generally sounds good in the Range Rover, especially from the backseats when watching DVDs. However, at higher volumes, the bass can overwhelm subtler sounds to give a slightly muffled effect. The stereo plays regular and MP3 CDs without a problem, although no ID3 tag information is given for the latter, and there is no auxiliary jack to be found for those wishing to hook up an iPod or an MP3 player. Our car also came equipped with the optional Sirius Satellite Radio package. With disappointing regularity, the Range Rover's voice-recognition system misunderstood or failed to recognize instructions for the audio system.
There is apparently no integration between the black-on-green dot-matrix stereo head unit display (which looks like it was designed in the 1980s) and the Range Rover's in-dash LCD touch screen, which is where we expected to find the car's Bluetooth interface. However, the car's Personal Telephone Integration System is controlled via the low-tech stereo head unit, with a cradle in the center console enabling compatible cell phones to be plugged in and charged while on the move. We had no trouble pairing our Bluetooth phone wirelessly to the unit or making calls using the keypad and steering-wheel mounted phone buttons, and voice and signal quality (via the car's roof-mounted antenna) were good.
Unfortunately, the navigation system was not so problem-free. Unlike with more intuitive systems, we had to spend quality time with the manual before we got to grips with the specific format of the touch-screen program and the voice-command format. When locked onto a destination, the unit performed reasonably well, recalculating quickly for the most part, although taking a few minutes to find its bearings on a couple of occasions.
The default voice guidance comes through in a posh male British accent, which sounds like that of a World War II RAF squadron leader and adds to the aircraft-cockpit feeling. While we had no problem understanding the Range Rover's clipped Oxbridge tones, the voice-recognition system did as badly with our navigation instructions as it had with our audio commands. We even had difficulty making it understand that most rudimentary of requests: help.
The GPS satellite navigation systems handles manual input far better than voice commands.
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.
Thanks to 390 horsepower from the supercharged V-8, this is Land Rover's fastest car ever.
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.
A cluster of controls in the center console controls the Range Rover Sport's terrain response, EAS, and hill-descent control systems.
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.
Above the regular cruise-control buttons, a rocker switch allows the driver to set the adaptive cruise control to one of four preset distances from the car ahead.
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.