Midsize Luxury SUV Comparison: 2016 Range Rover Sport
A high-style free spirit
Starting Price: $65,945
Above Average: Brand cachet, highway manners, off-road ability
Below Average: Infotainment, cargo utility, cost of ownership
Consensus: The less rational but most aspirational SUV of this group, and the only one that can conquer Moab and Malibu with equal aplomb
Even on paper it's clear the Range Rover Sport is the outlier of this comparison. At $80,395, it's easily the most expensive -- over $20,000 more than the as-tested prices of the Audi, Acura and Infiniti. Unlike the rest of our 3-row/7-passenger SUVs, this Range Rover Sport only has seating for five (though there is the option of a "5+2 arrangement" that hides a pair of small seats under the load floor). Even the model year differs: Our manufacturer-lent tester was one year behind at 2016. Still, the appeal is real. With its permanent 4-wheel drive, slick Terrain Response system and 11-plus inches of ground clearance, the Range Rover Sport is the only SUV in this group that can do traditional SUV things like legitimate off-roading. Yet like any other Range Rover, it is just as adept at hushed highway cruising, giving it an exceptionally rare dual personality. Then there's the badge appeal. If you love the look of envy in your neighbors' eyes, then you'll aspire to see yourself in a Range Rover Sport.
2016 Range Rover Sport
The Range Rover Sport scored a hair lower than its rivals in this category, but be certain: This high-end British SUV is more than competent and serene while cruising at high, steady speeds. Our model with the standard 340-horsepower supercharged V6 effortlessly accelerated up freeway ramps, and once there confidently and quietly chugged along. But unlike its competitors, this particular model was not outfitted with driver-assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control or lane-keeping assist -- features that make long hauls less arduous. Such features are available, and for 2017 some such as lane-departure warning and automated emergency braking have become standard.
The Range Rover Sport also scored lowest when it came to city driving. While none of these luxury SUVs are exactly small, some just drive bigger than their dimensions might suggest. This is the case with the Range Rover, whose 191-inch length is technically the shortest of the bunch. But at 87.4 inches with mirrors out, it's the widest, which can make it a squeeze when driving on narrow roads or parking in tight spaces. In addition to its bulk, we found rearward vision difficult.
But there's truth in the Range Rover Sport's positioning as the most agile and dynamic of Land Rover's lineup. For such a heavy bulldog of an SUV, the Range Rover Sport is well sorted and even enjoyable when driven aggressively. This is all the more laudable given its extreme capabilities off-road. During a particularly spirited sprint through narrow mountain roads, the Rangie proved it could hustle through corners and cling to asphalt with impressive grip.
Climb into the Range Rover Sport's cabin and you'll be rewarded with a cornucopia of leather, wood and metal. All of that is almost to be expected in such a stately SUV. What really sets the Range Rover Sport apart is its seating position. Like its flagship Range Rover brother, you'll be hard-pressed to find a driver's position that is more commanding. Combined with infinitely adjustable side armrests for the front passengers and flat side sills, it's easy to feel like royalty.
There's no doubt the Range Rover Sport's wide touchscreen looks slick and has good resolution. But many of us found the touch-based controls fussy. For 2017 models, the infotainment system has been upgraded, replacing the 8-inch display like the one in our model with a 10.2-inch unit. The new system, called InControl Touch Pro, can be controlled with swiping and pinch-to-zoom gestures, similar to a smartphone. Speaking of, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility continue to elude the current Range Rover lineup at present. A rep recently told us integration will debut on the upcoming Range Rover Velar.
Rear Seat Room
While we've never actually gotten our hands on one, rumor has it that the Range Rover Sport is available in a 7-passenger variant sporting a small, "occassional use" third row. While our test vehicle was configured in the more common 2-row/5-passenger setup, a brief inspection of the cargo area in which that third row would be located allows us to conclude with 95 percent confidence that this is the last vehicle in the group in which we'd want to be seated in row three.
The second row, however, is top notch. The 3-person bench is thick with leather and well-bolstered, similar to the front seats. At 37 inches, legroom is good, and the seats recline for greater comfort. Like in front, the windowsills are high and flat, offering a good place to rest an arm.
For a big, boxy vehicle, the Range Rover's cargo space is on the smaller end of the spectrum, with 27.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 62.2 cubic feet with them folded. The Honda CR-V compact crossover, by comparison, boasts 39.2 and 75.8 cubic feet, respectively. Part of the issue is the high load floor. This is just one of the compromises of the Range Rover Sport's slew of off-road-oriented hardware that sits below the vehicle.
While the supercharged V6 gasoline engine saddles the Range Rover Sport with the lowest EPA fuel economy ratings in the group, in our highway-intensive test it actually bested the forced-induction 4-cylinder powerplants in the Volvo and Audi. If fuel economy is a priority, note that the Range Rover Sport is available with an efficient, torque-rich diesel engine that is EPA rated at 28 mpg on the highway.
Range Rovers haven't had the best track record when it comes to holding their value, but the good news is that it has been steadily improving. This is also the case with the latest Range Rover Sport, whose numbers are just trailing those of the Acura MDX. But the Range Rover's significantly higher starting price also takes a toll in depreciation, where it shaves off thousands on the back end.