2008 Range Rover Sport HSE: Luxury SUV is a true off-road king
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Monday, June 30, 2008
Celebrating 60 years as an off-road innovator, Land Rover has created a vehicle that will accept any terrain challenge and fulfill the driver’s need for adventure, while being adorned with all the luxury, electronic advancements and power worthy of an upscale vehicle. Those attributes embody the 2008 Range Rover Sport HSE, and if automotive enthusiasts believe that $4/gallon fuel is sounding a death knell for the SUV, consider recent sales results.
While cars are currently outselling trucks and sports-utility-vehicles in the United States by nearly 200,000 units per month, and SUV sales are down by about 25 percent when compared with last year, this by no means signifies an end to the genre.
Certainly fewer sports-utes will be sold in the near future than in the recent past if fuel prices continue to hover at $4/gallon or better, but that doesn’t mean the market will disappear entirely. Truck-based sports-utes, which sold a record 2.75 million vehicles in the U.S. in 2000, will still sell more than 1.7 million this year. While that is a huge loss, it is still significant amount of vehicles. This large market can remain profitable if automakers are wise and cut production to meet the shrinking demand.
Straight truck-based SUVs are making way for a new breed of crossovers, those car-based sports-utes that are booming in sales just as minivans did in 1984 and four-door SUVs did with the introduction of the Ford Explorer in 1990. Generally, truck-based SUVs are thought of as true off-roaders for those who demand strength, versatility and durability for hard work and true play, while car-based crossovers are for customers who never really take them off-road and seldom use them for tough tasks.
Automotive experts believe that the core truck-based SUV buyers remain, and those tougher, reliable sports-utes that combine muscle, athleticism and luxury will continue to draw a solid, if lower audience, for years to come.
Land Rover understands the genre and has grown its fan-base since 1948 with its namesake Land Rover. Sixty years later, the mission remains the same: engineering powerful 4x4s that combine innovation, comfort, handling and off-road capabilities. Land Rover has fulfilled that plan with the Range Rover Sport HSE.
The Sport is brawny off-road and a square-shouldered beauty on the road. Based on the LR3, it is a true off-road beast that employs the Terrain Response system for tricky trail obstacles, permanent 4-wheel drive and 4-wheel electronic traction control. The combination, along with 4-wheel ABS with brake assist, cornering brake control, electronic brake distribution, center limited slip differential, wishbone independent front and rear suspension with stabilizer bar and air springs and interactive front and rear suspension leveling make for a confident, stable ride on pavement or dirt.
Based on the engine that powers Jaguars, the Sport is powered by a 4.4-liter 300hp aluminum alloy V-8 engine that rumbles out 315 lbs.-ft. of torque and is EPA rated at 12mpg in the city and 18mpg on the highway. My seven days of testing yielded a 17.6mpg average, with interstate miles outnumbering borough and township travel by a three-to-one margin. The sequential multi-port fuel injection plant is mated to a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with a locking torque converter and both sport and manual shift modes.
The manufacturer claims a zero-to-60mph time of 8.2 seconds, but I found the initial response to be slower than that, as my 5468-lb. test Sport only managed an 8.5-second zero-to-60 run. Severe rainstroms kept me off the track, eliminating a quarter-mile test, but that didn’t stop the Range Rover Sport from attacking and defeating several off-road and trail trials while proving that the manufacturer’s heralded maximum wading depth of 27.6 inches is right on target.
My Zermatt Silver test Sport measured 188.5 inches long, 71.5 inches high and 75.9 inches wide on a 108-inch wheelbase. That translates to a roomy cabin with 39.4 inches of front headroom (39.4 in the rear), 38.4 inches of front leg room (39.1 in row two) and 59 inches of front shoulder room (58.2 behind).
The cabin lacks for little and its Ebony premium leather interior was endowed with our-zone climate control, 14-speaker Harman/Kardon RDS audio system with AM/FM, and six-disc remote changer CD/MP3 player, Bluetooth/cellular phone capability, information computer, navigational system and electrically adjustable driver seat with height and lumbar adjustments six additional adjustments. The front passenger seat has lumbar and five additional adjustments.
Attending to safety, the Sport is outfitted with driver front airbag with multi-stage deployment, passenger front airbag with occupant sensors and multi-stage deployment, front and rear side curtain airbag, front side airbag and parking distance sensors with radar for the front and rear.
Base priced at $58,225, my Range Rover Sport test vehicle came with two upgrade packages as well as a $775 inland transportation charge. The add-ons were a $400 Sirius Satellite Radio tuner and a $3,000 luxury interior package consisting of premium leather seats, heated front and rear seats, heated front wind screen and washer jets, adaptive front lamps, wood trim and a cooler box for the beverage or snack of your choice.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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