I'd like to preface this by saying that while I like aesthetically pleasing cars as much as the next person, I'm hardly an automotive aficionado. I can appreciate a sleek, streamlined design with the modern touches that make driving more of a pleasure than a pain in the arse, but when it comes to the technical stuff (horsepower? Torque? Motor and battery performance?) - look, that's what Top Gear is for.
But as Newshub's lifestyle editor, motoring does fall under my jurisdiction, which means some pretty cool opportunities do come across my desk. So when I was invited to Queenstown to experience the new third-generation electric hybrid Range Rover Sport, I leapt at the chance.
The Range Rover badge carries a level of opulence and desirability: a British heritage brand, Land Rover is known for its luxury sports utility vehicles that mix power, performance and prestige. I was eager to experience that top-of-the-line craft for myself.
If you're after a detailed, comprehensive breakdown of this new model, this may not be the article for you. However, if you've been looking for a 'Range Rover Sport for Dummies', welcome - let's get into it.
First things first, the tech specs. The new Range Rover Sport is available in Dynamic SE and Dynamic HSE, with a First Edition available throughout the first year of production that boasts a specially curated specification. The engine options available in New Zealand are a 390kW 4.4-litre V8; a 221kW 3.0-litre turbo six-cylinder diesel; and a 257kW 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six plug-in hybrid, with the V8 initially only on offer in First Edition models before a wider release this year. In 2024, the new Range Rover Sport line-up will be joined by a fully electric model.
The new electric hybrid offers zero emissions EV range of up to 113 km and rapid DC charging, going from zero to 80 percent in an hour max. The diesel blends Land Rover's 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine with a powerful 105kW electric motor and 38.2kWh battery, capable of 0-100km/h in just 5.4 seconds. The Range Rover Sport Dynamic SE offers the same all-electric driving range and low emissions, completing 0-100km/h in 5.8 seconds. Alternatively, the new flagship V8 Twin Turbo accelerates from 0-100km/h in just 4.5 seconds with Dynamic Launch engaged.
Let's talk about the look: the Brit's appreciation for subtlety can be seen in the new Range Rover Sport's refined and reductive design.
The exterior, although incredibly sleek and taut, is still imposing and muscular in its stance, like an apex predator preparing to pounce. Its stealth-like headlights, grille and sculpted lower bumper amplify its assertive presence, as well as the distinctive design touches: think satin burnished copper details, unique bumpers and matte graphite lettering. It conveys power and commands respect on the roads, which I experienced first-hand during a picturesque drive through Central Otago's rugged terrain to the historic town of Clyde. Back home, my little Toyota Vitz seems to attract tailgaters like moths to light, but behind the wheel of the Range Rover, I noticed fellow motorists kept a wide berth, a courtesy not typically afforded to lesser vehicles.
To communicate just how seamless the Sport truly is, its flush glazing and door handles, hidden waist rail finisher and laser-welded roof all contribute to excellent aerodynamic performance - the new Sport delivers a drag coefficient of just 0.29.
Inside, the Range Rover is equally as impressive. The interior is modern and serene, carrying through the same refinement, clean lines and sophisticated simplicity as the exterior. The seats are comfortable and provide an absurd level of stability, even when tackling the craggy rocks and mountainous landscapes from Queenstown to Clyde. When steering the Sport up a steep, almost vertical incline of sheer rock, my body barely shifted, cosseted in the sculpted leather and winged headrest. Plus, they're heated, ventilated and equipped with a massage function - that's the definition of luxury.
The PIVI Pro infotainment features a high resolution 13.1-inch curved touchscreen, positioned as the focal point of the simple, streamlined dashboard. Controlling the likes of navigation, media and settings, it learns the user's habits to make your driving experience as personalised as possible, effectively becoming an intuitive personal assistant. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both fitted as standard, so smartphones can be tucked out of the way on the dedicated 15W Wireless Device Charger, eliminating the clutter of wires. The centre console also features a very handy refrigerated compartment to keep your beverages cool during the ride.
To briefly touch on the tech, the Range Rover Sport is equipped with all the latest in technological innovation. Manoeuvring in tight spaces using your smartphone with Remote Park Assist? Tick. Active Noise Cancellation that filters out unwanted noise, leaving you to focus on enjoying the journey? Tick. Digital LED Headlights with a range of up to 500m? Tick. A Cabin Air Purification Pro System that reduces odours, bacteria and allergens, with an advanced CO2 management function that claims to purify the cabin to achieve increased alertness and enhanced wellbeing for all occupants? Tick, tick, tick.
On our test drives of the three models, we also enjoyed the stunning sound quality the Sport has to offer - a big plus for my fellow musos. The model is fitted with a Meridian Signature Sound System, delivering high-fidelity music playback with up to 29 speakers, a subwoofer and 1430W of amplifier power - look, unless you're an audiophile, you'll probably need subtitles. But in a nutshell, the sound system and the audio experience is bloody fantastic.
Now, let's discuss performance. As I've made quite clear, I'm far from a connoisseur, so I'll let Land Rover do most of the talking. What I can say is that my time behind the wheel was quite exquisite; it was unlike any other vehicle I've driven before. The drive is instinctive, effortless and superbly comfortable, cocooned in the cockpit-like cabin and sculpted seat with everything you could need at the touch of a button.
A significant portion of our test drive was off-road through Central Otago's precipitous mountains, so let's start there. In the words of Land Rover's boffins, the new Sport's off-road performance has been enhanced by the latest Terrain Response 2 system, which applies the most appropriate settings for the landscape. New Adaptive Off-Road Cruise Control also makes its debut, helping drivers navigate tricky terrain by maintaining steady progress according to the ground conditions. Drivers can select one of four comfort settings and the system adjusts the speed accordingly, allowing the driver to focus on steering. Sounds pretty good, right? Plus, all models are fitted with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission and Intelligent All-Wheel Drive, which intuitively anticipates where traction is required, providing the most effective progress in all conditions.
Then there's All-Wheel Steering, providing rear-wheel steering of up to 7.3 degrees out of phase with the front wheels - as per Land Rover - to achieve enhanced agility and manoeuvrability at low speeds, while turning in-phase for superior stability at high speeds. Don't quite get it? Honestly, me neither, but it basically means that for off-roading or tackling Aotearoa's stunning landscapes, the Range Rover Sport is a great bet. The All-Wheel Steering gives the new Sport the turning circle of a hatchback and on-road agility of a much smaller car, which I found for myself. Despite its size and stature, the vehicle was still incredibly nimble and easy to manoeuvre, rather than the weighty and bulky staunchness of some SUV models. It didn't feel much heavier than my Vitz.
Plus, the new Sport's performance is of course supported by the latest safety-focused Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). All models are fitted with Emergency Braking, 3D Surround Camera, including front and rear parking sensors, Wade Sensing, ClearSight Ground View 7 and Manoeuvring Lights - Adaptive Cruise Control with Steering Assist, Driver Condition Monitor and Lane Keep Assist. Phew!
All in all, the new Range Rover Sport is a thing of beauty, with ergonomic and innovative technology that makes driving the SUV an absolute luxury. There's simply too much to talk about, but hopefully this intro is comprehensive enough to guide you forward if you're looking to add a new Range Rover Sport to your family (or fleet of other luxury vehicles).
Price range: $179,900 - $259,900 (Plus Clean Car fees)
- 4.4-litre petrol twin-turbo V8 with 390kW/750Nm, eight-speed automatic, 4WD, 11.8L/100km
- 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel straight six with 221kW/650Nm or 257kW/700Nm, eight-speed automatic, 4WD, 7.4L/100km
- 3.0-litre twin-charged petrol plug-in hybrid straight six with 324kW/620Nm or 375kW/700Nm, eight-speed automatic, 4WD, 1.7L/100km.
Lana Andelane travelled to Queenstown as a guest of Land Rover New Zealand for this review.