BBC Autos

A lither Range Rover Sport

About the author

Deputy editor of BBC Autos, Jonathan was formerly the editor of The New York Times' Wheels blog. His automotive writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Details, Surface, Intersection and Design Observer. He has an affinity for the Citroën DS and Toyota pickup trucks of the early 1990s.

HIDE CAPTION

As with racing yachts and Bordeaux wines, “bargain” is a relative term in regard to automobiles.

And in the domain of the Range Rover, the flagship vehicle from a company credited with inventing the luxury sport-utility vehicle, the 2014 Range Rover Sport could be seen as a relative steal. In the final analysis, a Sport buyer reaps nearly all the benefits bestowed on a Range Rover customer at a $20,000 discount.

The same all-aluminium skeleton that brought the Range Rover’s weight down by a staggering 700lbs for 2013 helps the Sport achieve an 800lb reduction over the outgoing model. There is a choice of a 3-litre, 340-horsepower V6 engine (borrowed from corporate sibling Jaguar) or a supercharged 510-horsepower 5-litre V8 (also available to Range Rover customers), paired to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. And when optioned accordingly, the Sport can look nearly as luxurious, if not as imperious, as its more expensive brother.

Land Rover, however, says a Range Rover customer would not cross-shop the redesigned Sport; the Sport skews younger, according to brand representatives speaking on the eve of the 2013 New York auto show. They also noted that the Sport lost more weight than the Range Rover in this evolution because its previous generation was based on a heavier frame derived from the mid-range LR4 SUV.

The substantive differences between the 2014 Sport and 2013 Rover are, ironically, rather superficial. Land Rover has aligned the Sport’s styling with that of the Evoque, its mid-priced compact crossover introduced in 2011. Under chief designer Gerry McGovern, the brand achieves the Evoque effect by setting the Sport’s roofline two inches below that of the larger Range Rover, while shortening the body by nearly six inches. Space between the wheels, however, is identical for the two models, at 115 inches. Meanwhile, a clear Evoque inheritance is a two-tone exterior colour scheme, which emphasises the Sport’s beltline height and lower roofline.

For all the Sport’s attributes relative to the bigger Rover, an unsteady hand on the options sheet can dim them. Starting at $63,495 for the Sport SE, the SUV’s price can eclipse $90,000 when the top-line Supercharged Autobiography is specified. In fairness, the pricing strategy is in line with those at other luxury brands; the elastic price band for Porsche’s entry-level sports car, the Boxster, comes to mind.

In any guise, a Range Rover Sport is equipped with start-stop functionality to conserve fuel; Land Rover’s Terrain Response suite of drive settings; and an ability to ford water at a maximum depth of 33.5in. This SUV is no swamp rat, but four-wheel drift sessions around rutted rally tracks is well within the realm of acceptable behaviour.

The Sport, ultimately, is a cash cow within the Land Rover line. With 415,000 units sold worldwide between its introduction in 2005 to the present, the SUV has been the top vehicle by sales volume for the brand. The more affordable Evoque is actively wresting that mantle from the Sport, but with its next-generation architecture and heightened cachet, the redesigned SUV is well positioned to bolster the company’s bottom line for years to come.