Unveiled this evening just before the 2013 New York Auto Show, the 2014 Range Rover Sport improves upon the previous model's formula with quicker acceleration, lighter weight, and greater agility.
How much lighter is the new Range Rover Sport? Try 800 pounds lighter. That's like kicking four 200-pound six-footers out of the super-SUV--without having to leave your friends on the roadside.
Four variations of the 2014 Range Rover Sport will be offered in the U.S.: the base SE, with a 3.0-liter supercharged 340-horsepower V-6; the HSE with the same engine but upgraded features; the Range Rover Sport Supercharged, with a 510-horsepower 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 (naturally); and the Range Rover Sport Autobiography, with the same engine as the Supercharged model, but again, a better set of equipment.
All 2014 Range Rover Sport models are equipped with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Two transfer cases are available: one with a single-speed Torsen limited-slip differential; a second with two-speed locking differentials and low range. The second is the more off-road-suited choice.
Stop/start is also standard on all Range Rover Sport models, as is the updated Terrain Response 2 system, which automatically adjusts to suit the terrain or road conditions.
Another new aspect to the Range Rover Sport range is 5+2 seating, bringing an optional third-row seating element for "occasional use". That should probably be read as "for kids, and for short periods only," but it does expand the utility of the Sport for those on the fence between it and the larger standard Range Rover.
So, aside from being 800 pounds lighter and offering two different supercharged engines, what does the 2014 Range Rover Sport bring to the performance table?
It's fairly compact, though longer than its predecessor by 2.5 inches. At 191 inches, it's still just over four inches shorter than the 2014 Cadillac CTS, however.
It's also 2.17 inches lower than the standard Range Rover, and 100 pounds lighter. Curb weight for the V-6 models is listed at 4,727 pounds, while the V-8s check in at 5,093 pounds.
The new lower weight and punchy engine options offer good-to-great acceleration for an SUV. The base 340-horsepower supercharged V-6 gets to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, 0.3 seconds quicker than the previous normally aspirated V-8 model. The 510-horsepower supercharged V-8 variants sprint to 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds, nearly a full second quicker than the previous supercharged V-8 models--and that's almost all down to weight reduction.
Enhancing the on-road qualities of the Range Rover Sport, a suite of electronic systems combine to improve handling and response.
Electric power-assisted steering with a variable ratio and speed-sensitive assistance yields steering forces deemed appropriate for the vehicle's speed; the Dynamic Mode function of the Terrain Response 2 system enhances throttle and transmission response, steering assist, suspension damper settings, and traction/stability control for sporty driving; a Dynamic Active Rear Locking Differential system aids traction on acceleration, and locks up 70 ms quicker than the previous model; and Torque Vectoring by Braking simulates the benefits of a torque-vectoring differential, reducing understeer and improving cornering.
As with any Land Rover, it's not all about the paved bits. The Range Rover Sport still offers its own form of off-road capability. While historically somewhat less than the Range Rover's mountain-goat attitude due to its low-profile, road-focused tires, the Range Rover Sport can accomplish feats that would stump other sport SUVs.
Part of the credit goes to Land Rover's Terrain Response 2 system, updated for the latest generation. In Auto mode, the system analyzes the driving conditions through the vehicle's sensors to determine the optimum setting for traction.
Manual control is still available, with General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl settings available. Each mode adapts the engine, transmission, differentials, and suspension settings to provide optimal grip.
And of course, full-time four-wheel drive is standard with all models. As mentioned previously, two forms are available, both a standard all-wheel-drive type system, and a four-wheel-drive, locking/low-range system for more difficult terrain.
For those contemplating real offroading, the low-range transfer case is the obvious choice, with a 50/50 front-rear static torque distribution, and capability to send up to 100 percent of engine torque to either the front or rear axles as needed.
Those with a greater taste for on-road dynamics will prefer the other system, which offers a default torque bias of 42:58 front-to-rear for better driving dynamics. This Torsen-based system can send up to 62 percent of torque to the front axle and up to 78 percent to the rear.
With 11.2 inches of ground clearance in off-road mode (2.3 inches more than in the last Range Rover Sport), the 2014 model is able to clear most obstacles, but ride height is also adjustable. An intermediate setting allows more clearance at speeds up to 50 mph, an increase from 31 mph in the previous model.
When fitted with the optional Dynamic Response active lean-control system, the 2014 Range Rover Sport offers up to 21.5 inches of wheel articulation by isolating the stabilizer bar and reducing roll compensation--a solution for more severe off-road excursions.
As you'd expect of any Range Rover, the 2014 Range Rover Sport offers a luxurious, attractive interior. What you might not expect is the sustainable, "full lifecycle" approach to the vehicel's materials. Throughout the vehicle, recycled or renewable materials have been used, including plastics, leathers, and wood veneers.
Of course, there's also a bevy of high-tech features, including lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, automatic high beam assist, "flank guard" side-impact alert, blind spot monitoring, rear-collision alert, surround-camera system with intersection view, adaptive xenon head lights, park assist (including park exit for exiting tight parallel spaces and perpendicular park functions), and all of Land Rover's suite of stability, off-road, and braking assist systems:
Rear-seat entertainment is available, including infrared wireless headphones; LED ambient lighting can be ordered; a powered tailgate, keyless entry and start, and soft-door close are standard; and for cold climates, heated seats, steering wheel and front windshield are available.