At what point did the designation “Sport” become synonymous with “smaller”? That question kept popping into my head over the two days I spent driving around central Spain in the 2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport. For this vehicle is neither small – it’s Land Rover’s second-largest Range Rover and its footprint is almost identical to the full-size Range Rover – nor especially sporty relative to more dynamically focused SUVs.
The Range Rover Sport, now in its third generation, has always had more in common with a grand tourer. Spacious, supremely comfortable, and effortlessly capable when necessary, the latest Sport is a Range Rover that can attack a twisty road as easily as it can climb a mountain grade or negotiate the urban jungle. But that’s less obvious than before, owing to the deeply shared DNA and hardware.
Slot behind the wheel, and aside from a small cubby ahead of the gear lever in the Range Rover, the two SUVs have almost identical cabins. Their feature set, dominated by Pivi Pro, is the same, too. Trim and upholstery options, like unique Ultrafabric vinyl upholstery and forged carbon, give the Sport its own interior style, but there’s no hiding the similarities between the two cars.
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|2023 Land Rover Range Rover P510e Autobiography (European Spec)
|Turbocharged 3.0-liter I6
|503 Horsepower / 516 Pound-Feet
|Trim Base Price:
|$105,675 (for P440e)
Gallery: 2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport: First Drive
It’s difficult to overstate just how much the Range Rover Sport and flagship Range Rover share. But one area where the Sport stands out is in its relative lack of configurability. There are 12 separate combinations of body style, trim, and powertrain in the full-size Range Rover, but the Sport has a mere third of those, with prices starting at $84,475 and extending to $122,975.
Still, the powertrains are identical on a basic level. A turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system is the first rung on the ladder with the SE Dynamic trim, while that gas engine with a plug-in battery pack and electric motor is the basis for the Autobiography trim’s P440e powertrain. Finally, the same BMW-built twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 that so impressed me in the Range Rover sits at the top of the Sport food chain in the P530 First Edition.
And with the Range Rover Sport weighing damn near as much as the full-size model – it’s down just 150 to 175 pounds, depending on powertrain – the performance is virtually identical across the board. The six-cylinder Sport hits 60 in 5.4 seconds and the P530 V8 does the job in 4.3 – a tenth faster than their equivalent Range Rover models. A new-for-North America P360 in the entry-level SE detunes the base engine to 355 hp and 369 lb-ft, although Land Rover didn’t have that one available in Spain.
The real point of interest and the reason I was so eager to get behind the wheel of the new Range Rover Sport, though, was a first crack at the company’s latest plug-in-hybrid models. So of course, the 434-hp, 457–lb-ft P440e we’re getting in North America was only available in the full-size Range Rover (you can read that review later this week). The Sports on hand carried the not-for-North America P530e configuration with 503 hp and 516 lb-ft.
And with the Range Rover Sport weighing damn near as much as the full-size model – it’s down just 150 to 175 pounds, depending on powertrain – the performance is virtually identical across the board.
But you can ignore those silly power designations because the hardware is identical. Both plug-in-hybrid models carry a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six, a 38.2-kilowatt-hour (31.8 usable) lithium-ion battery, and 105-kilowatt electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox. Charge times are identical (5 hours to 100 percent on an 11.0-kW charger or 40 minutes to 80 percent on a 50-kW DC charger), both will do 48 all-electric miles according to the EPA.
With that in mind, why not offer both PHEVs in North America? Per Land Rover, it’s because the V8 model is far more popular here, where taxes on emissions are as foreign as the chicken and rabbit paella I had for dinner after driving the Sport. But with nothing more than software in play, I’d bet my bottom dollar we’ll see the P510e on North American roads before Land Rover redesigns the Sport. The company can easily ask a four-figure premium for nothing more than some different lines of code.
The powertrain integration is excellent, with smooth exchanges from electricity to gas power and back again in all but the most ham-fisted of circumstances. I could confuse the PHEV briefly by easing into the accelerator for a second before slamming it to the floor, but I was trying to cause a fumble.
In every other situation, the gas engine and electric motor got on swimmingly. In Hybrid mode, the straight-six behaves like the P400 on steroids, but with impressive electric boost that keeps it from feeling flat-footed and exceptional refinement of the gas-only model. The soundtrack is rich, smooth, and hushed in every situation except wide-open throttle.
There’s little arguing that additional performance would be nice, though. The P510e’s 5.2-second sprint to 60 is a mere three-tenths quicker than the P440e that we’ll see, although neither figure is especially impressive. A BMW X5 xDrive45e hits 60 in 5.3 seconds and a Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid gets there in 4.7 seconds, and both are available at substantially less than the P440e Autobiography’s $105,675 starting price.
For as good as the powertrain is, the suspension setup is arguably more interesting. The Range Rover Sport exploits the same fantastic hardware as the full-size Range Rover and shifts the ride/handling balance with its own unique software. Although to be frank, I didn’t realize just how wide the gulf was between Land Rover’s two most expensive cars until I drove them back-to-back.
Every Range Rover Sport comes with a redesigned air suspension, which features dual-chamber springs. One chamber is for dynamic situations, while the other is for more everyday driving – together, the suspension firmness sits across a broader spectrum, meaning the Sport is firmer than a Range Rover when it truly matters.
The Range Rover Sport exploits the same fantastic hardware as the full-size Range Rover and shifts the ride/handling balance with its own unique software.
Along with available four-wheel steering, active anti-roll bars, and a limited-slip differential with brake-based torque vectoring, the Sport has tight, predictable control over body motions and an unusual willingness to change directions. It’s fun and engaging in the corners, or at least as fun and engaging as a 5,500-pound SUV can.
But a spin in a full-size Range Rover HSE with all the same goodies had me appreciating the Sport even more. Frankly, if I hadn’t had a build sheet in front of me saying this P440e had the air springs, active anti-roll bars, and a trick diff, I wouldn’t have believed it. The full-size model, which seemed so dialed in and capable during the first drive earlier this year, wallowed and rolled and generally complained its way along the Spanish roads in comparison to the Sport. It felt like an aging, but still capable, athlete in situations where the Range Rover Sport behaved like an eager rookie and future all-star.
Settle Down And Dirty
The one area the Range Rover Sport really trails its bigger sibling is, surprisingly, on the trail. The more aggressive body results in worse approach and breakover angles (33.0/26.9 degrees versus 34.7/27.7 in the bigger model), and the Sport trails the standard Range Rover’s ground clearance (11.1 versus 11.6). The Sport’s departure angle of 30.0 degrees is better than its larger sibling’s 29.0 though, and it retains the same Terrain Response 2 off-road system and Range Rover’s version of off-road cruise control.
It functions similarly to alternative systems, maintaining a consistent speed while negotiating off road obstacles and freeing up the driver to focus on their line. But four “comfort levels,” adjusted via the adaptive cruise control’s wheel-mounted distance button, give drivers control over how the Sport will approach obstacles it detects. With settings ranging from “full send” to “dirt is scary and bad” (not official names), Land Rover is doing its usual thing of giving consumers more adjustability than they might ultimately need. Unfortunately, my time testing it was so limited I can’t give either endorsement or condemnation.
What I can speak more confidently on is how good the Range Rover Sport is on both the highway and around town. Every car at the event wore 23-inch wheels, but despite that, there’s little road or tire noise. Even in central Madrid, where cobblestone streets abound, the Sport does a fine job of keeping the worst of the surface texture out. Engine noise at highway speeds is negligible too, and unsurprisingly the P440e plug-in is the quietest of the bunch.
Most importantly, though, the Range Rover Sport’s ride quality and in-cabin experience is excellent. The same technologies that imbue the Sport with such impressive agility – the air suspension with the Sport-specific dual-chamber springs and active anti-roll bars – provide it with unshakable and predictable ride quality. Big, little, single-sided, or lane-spanning imperfections don’t matter much because the Sport simply shrugs them off.
You Know Where This Is Going
The Range Rover Sport’s driving dynamics alone are worth a pretty penny. That it comes with an extremely comfortable, high-quality cabin loaded with smart technology makes the Range Rover Sport’s high starting price unsurprising at least, if not understandable. Prices start at $84,475 for the base SE and the P360 powertrain. The problem, though, is that unlike the full-size Range Rover there aren’t a lot of different configurations. Certain performance options, too, are only available on the First Edition. You won’t find four-wheel steering or torque vectoring anywhere else. Hopefully that will change in future model years.
The good news is that if you have your eye on a Range Rover Sport, you don’t necessarily need to dig too far into the options catalog. The Range Rover Sport Autobiography P440e, for example, starts $105,675, or substantially more than the $93,250 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid. But in terms of actual, practical options, only $2,850 separates the standard Autobiography from a loaded example of the same trim. The only way to seriously inflate the Range Rover Sport’s out-the-door price is by indulging in costly paint, upholstery, trim, or wheel options.
Considering that, the Range Rover Sport feels like something of a value. That’s doubly true when you consider all the things it does so well. Be it on highways, twisting roads, rutted and rocky trails, or throughout city streets, the Range Rover Sport is a worthy and likable followup to the impressive full-size Range Rover. Now, if only Land Rover could do something about this grand touring SUV’s name.
2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport P510e Autobiography