Denizen's Editor taking the new Range Rover Sport for a spin

Our Editor takes the new Range Rover Sport for a spin and discovers a dynamic and luxurious SUV with serious X-factor

Having long been a proponent of the Land Rover marque (and the proud owner of a Range Rover LSE that still reps the mid-90s) I was chomping at the bit to sample one of the newest models from this revered brand — the sleek, sexy and undeniably dynamic Range Rover Sport. Combining the brand’s signature, refined luxury with a slew of exceedingly impressive, on-road capabilities, this car might carry the elegant appeal for which Range Rover is so beloved, but take it for a spin and the experience is more like driving something loud and low to the ground. What I came to love about this car in the few days I was lucky enough to have it, was the unexpected delight it brought to all my errand-runs around Auckland. Underneath its distinctive but understated exterior lay a serious engine and a mind-blowing array of innovative tech designed to deliver a smooth and utterly powerful drive every time I got behind the wheel. 

But before I delve into the machinations of Range Rover’s technical prowess (particularly as it pertains to making a big car feel very sporty) I must first touch on the ways in which this car first drew me in: its looks. Seeing the Range Rover pull up with its reductive design, taut silhouette, muscular profile, digital LED headlights and subtly-curved details, I was almost-immediately a convert, but after taking my place behind the wheel, I could see that the marque’s attention to detail was far more than surface value alone. Inside the Range Rover Sport, I felt truly cocooned, the dark leather, sweeping centre console and minimalistic dash cultivating a calm vibe, the sporty shape of the driver’s seat (offering 22-way adjustment, by the way) holding my back in just the right position, and the automatic retraction of the sunroof shade casting the whole scene in a soft, dappled light. The material palette was refined and walks the line between sumptuous comfort and technical innovation, and while the model I drove was finished with black leather seats, the new Range Rover Sport offers a larger selection of sustainable materials than any generation before it, including lightweight Ultrafabrics™ in several colourways.

Here, the design is simple but impactful, based around linear detailing that remains uninterrupted by unnecessary buttons or dials. And there is an architectural lightness, where the concept of luxury has actually been enhanced by a more minimalist approach. It speaks to the overarching aesthetic identity of this car as being both imposing (with an undeniably strong presence on the road) and stealthy (able to express its true nature in more subtle, sophisticated ways). 

In the absence of fussy details, I felt calm and clear-headed sitting in the cockpit. Driving to work, even after a busy morning wrangling my two-year-old, I arrived at the office feeling composed and ready to take on the day. Handily, the main (and really only) feature of the Range Rover Sport’s dashboard is its award-winning, Pivi Pro Infotainment touch screen that sits above the console and hosts most of the key functions of the car, including its entertainment systems, climate control, terrain response selection, navigation, cameras and more. This level of premium functionality continues with the Interactive Driver Display and Head-Up Display behind and just over the steering wheel, where I had all the most key information about my drive directly in front of my eyes, able to be controlled via buttons that were right at my fingertips. 

Perhaps my newfound morning zen also had something to do with the Range Rover Sport’s 29-speaker Meridian™ Signature Sound System, paired with its Next-Generation Active Noise Cancellation technology, which create an environment totally uninterrupted by the hustle and bustle outside. That, alongside the car’s new Advanced Cabin Air Purification Pro System which reduces odours, bacterias and allergens, had me feeling like I was practically floating down the road, nestled in a space that was quiet, clean and decidedly serene. 

But don’t be mistaken. For all of the Range Rover Sport’s focus on comfort and luxury, it has placed an equal amount of attention on performance and grunt, something that I understood as soon as I put my foot down. Despite Range Rover’s smooth Chassis Control ensuring that any acceleration would result in very little impact on my comfort, the Range Rover Sport is a dynamic, agile drive, powered by responsive and technologically-advanced systems that, I learned, are constantly in communication with one another. This meant that no matter where (or how) I drove, the car was able to maintain a consistent composure, a lightning-fast response to my commands and a degree of manoeuvrability that made me feel as comfortable driving it on the motorway as I did navigating the narrow streets around where I live. From its Dynamic Air Suspension and its roll-reducing cornering control, to its collision prevention capabilities and high-performance braking (necessary in Auckland traffic, let me tell you), this car did all the work for me, or rather, it left me to focus on what was important — the driving. But more than that, it allowed me to actually enjoy the drive, no matter where I was going. And while I unfortunately didn’t manage to take my Range Rover Sport for an off-road adventure, I have heard that its performance in that arena is utterly unparalleled, too. 

In fact, last year, Land Rover unveiled the new Range Rover Sport to the world with a driving challenge that showcased its truly jaw-dropping potential. The Spillway Challenge saw renowned, James Bond stunt driver, Jessica Hawkins, drive the luxury SUV on the treacherous ramp of the Karahnjukar Dam, where she propelled the car up a 294-metre stretch of spillway which had water furiously cascading down to a sheer, 90-metre drop, providing the ultimate test of traction and driver confidence. Overcoming the challenge with apparent ease and elegance, the Range Rover Sport quickly proved itself an SUV that was not only comfortable and user-friendly, but one that was technologically advanced, interactive, performance-driven and really, unparalleled in its category. 

All of this, combined with Range Rover’s intuitive Park Assist function, helped me park the large car in some trickier places around town. The system uses the car’s cameras to not only scope out appropriate parking spots, but, once activated, allowed me to take my hands off the wheel while it carefully manoeuvred into the space for me. I still controlled the acceleration and brakes (we’re not in complete self-drive mode, yet) but it honestly made parallel parking on Ponsonby Road on a busy evening a total joy (and not the sweat-inducing, heart-palpitating exercise it can be when you hit the angle wrong). 

Ultimately, what I came to understand about the new Range Rover Sport is that, while it certainly is a car with huge presence and significant X-factor, its focus is, and always will be, on the driver. It puts the driver and their experience first in every respect, from the details of the interior to the construction of the car and all of the clever systems in place to ensure reliability, safety and consistency, as well as a good dose of excitement, performance and thrill. This is the car for someone seeking an all-rounder, the elegance with the practicality, the looks with the performance to match. And for me personally, it was the kind of drive that enhanced my daily life, putting a seriously epic spin on the idea of an everyday (albeit luxurious) SUV. 

For now, I’m back in my beloved vintage Range Rover, but my sights are set on its far more sophisticated (and much younger) relative. Might be time to upgrade. 

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