A few weeks ago, I wrote about driving the new Jaguar F-Type sports car on a variety of roads near Mount Rainer in Washington State.
The drive was followed by high-speed laps on a challenging road course and then runs through an autocross course.
For our introduction to the 2014 Range Rover Sport, the route took me south on one of the world’s most beautiful freeways, Interstate 280. When we reached the infamous Highway 17, our preprogrammed navigation system routed us toward the coastal community of Santa Cruz, but we were quickly re-routed once again onto one of the curvy back roads that weave through the mountains under the canopies of Oak and Redwood trees.
These roads are treacherously narrow and 100-foot drops instead of a shoulder. As an added challenge in the early morning, there was also a steady stream of oncoming traffic rushing to work. Despite the adverse conditions, the vehicle drove like a beautifully balanced high-performance sedan.
The heart and soul of the 2014 Range Rover Sport are supercharged engines, a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission and the permanent four-wheel drive system. The big gun of the engines is latest the generation 5.0-liter supercharged V-8. Rated at 510 horsepower, it is capable of going from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 5.0 seconds and has a governed top speed of 155 mph.
My favorite engine is the supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, rated at 340 hp. It is capable of a 6.9 second 0 to 60 mph run, and it feels stronger than the naturally aspirated V-8 it replaces. The V-6 gets a fuel economy rating of 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.
Both engines have a new stop and start fuel-saving technology that shuts off the engine at stoplights or longer pauses to save fuel.
The eight-speed ZF transmission is brilliant with quick and positive shifts up or down. The V-8 comes with standard steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, but they are an option on the V-6. The console-mounted transmission shifter is more proactive than the dial used on the top level Range Rover. The Sport utilizes a conventional shifter with a button to put the transmission into Park and a gated shifter control for manual shifting.
After the on-road drive, I was able to sample its off-road abilities on a Santa Cruz mountain ranch. I drove up and down steep hills through the redwoods on trails, often covered with a couple of inches soft powdery soil. There were deep holes in the road and even a pond. The Sport never hesitated more than a slight slip of the tire before directing the power to the wheels with the best traction.
My fantasy has always been to have a variety of vehicles for different types of driving – for example a sports car, a sport sedan and an SUV or crossover type vehicle.
The 2014 Range Rover Sport actually fills all my desires with only one vehicle. It drives like a sports car, carries up to seven people, and handles any kind of roads and weather with ease. I can’t think of another vehicle that does so much, and so well. It’s not perfect, but it’s darn close.