2006 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Preview

2006 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Preview

The Crossover-Type SUV LR Has Been Needing?

"It was us who put the S in SUV. It's our territory and we're going to take it back."

Excitement has been building at Land Rover's headquarters about the release of the new Range Rover Sport performance utility vehicle. (Photo: Land Rover)

These bold words, courtesy of Richard Woolly, Land Rover's director of studio design, make clear the pent up excitement within the company's Solihull headquarters about the release of the new Range Rover Sport performance utility vehicle.

The idea of Land Rover building a sports car, or at least a vehicle that could be described as "sporty", is a truly foreign concept. This is the brand that has cultivated its image around being the essential continent-traversing tool, a vehicle, lined in leather and wood that wouldn't break into a sweat at the sight of a muddy, rocky path.

The thought of a "sporty" Land Rover is a truly foreign concept. (Photo: Land Rover)

Land Rover has spent decades perfecting its recipe of building the gentleman's off-roader. For a manufacturer as detached from the world of variable-valve timing, ZR-rated high-performance tires and ceramic brakes as this, to build a sporty vehicle is about as strange as Lamborghini's decision to even consider producing SUVs.

Of course Lamborghini did build an SUV, the Cheetah which became the LM002, and will most likely come to market shortly with its own V10- and V12-powered urban-assault version of parent Volkswagen's Touareg, but until then others will carry the "sport" utility flag.



While one might think that the SUV boom that has echoed across the globe during the last decade or so may have been beneficial to

While the SUV craze was sweeping North America, Land Rover was left in the dust with their aging Discovery. (Photo: Shawn Pisio, Canadian Auto Press)
Land Rover, the British specialist didn't prosper as much as one might imagine. The firm was seemingly out to pasture when the craze struck, being late to jump on the compact SUV bandwagon with its rushed Freelander, and the ancient brick-like Discovery with its Buick-derived OHV V8 simply lagged behind the times until being replaced for 2005 by the award-winning LR3.

The upper echelon of the sport utility market has long preferred car-based products such as the Lexus RX-series and BMW's X5 rather than the traditional off-roaders. It seemed as if SUV buyers had spoken, and Land Rover's marginal profits quickly dove into the red.

When the radical, metallic tangerine, scissor-doored Range Stormer concept was presented at last year's North American International Auto Show, the specialty SUV maker knew that it had what was needed to grab back some critical market share.

Initially made known as 'Project L320', Land Rover has finally revealed the finished product. The Range Rover

The scissor-doored Range Stormer concept proved that Land Rover had what it'd take to grab back some critical market share. (Photo: Land Rover)
Sport is said to possess the same spirit as the Range Stormer, the luxury and character of the Range Rover fused with the soul of a sports car. It is a vehicle to bridge the gap between the go-anywhere LR3 and the ultra-luxurious Range Rover.

What may confuse many is the car's naming scheme. Under the skin, the Sport has little to do with the flagship Range Rover, and everything to do with the new LR3. The Sport uses a truncated version of the trademarked Integrated Body-Frame structure of the LR3, with a 14 cm (5.5 in) shorter wheelbase to improve agility and reduce weight.



Much of the LR3's chassis hardware was carried over, including the advanced double-wishbone air suspension and variable-assist

The Sport has little to do with the flagship Range Rover, and everything to do with the new LR3. (Photo: Land Rover)
rack and pinion steering, albeit with sportier settings to make the Range Rover Sport more responsive to an enthused driver's command, especially around tight, low-speed corners.

Keeping with its 'driver's pedigree,' the Range Rover Sport includes a list of equipment brimming with goodies to allow its prospective owner to get the most out of the vehicle's abilities.

Active safety features such as traction control and emergency brake assist are the first lines of defense in times of emergency, while dynamic stability control is present to prevent the vehicle from tipping over in avoidance maneuvers.

Standard on the top-of-the-line supercharged model is Land Rover's new Dynamic Response system, which senses cornering

The Sport is marketed as a sports car-slaying utility vehicle, but this claim by no means limits it to paved tarmac. (Photo: Land Rover)
forces and by use of the car's adaptive suspension, counteracts body roll to optimize on-road performance. The system can be decoupled to allow greater wheel articulation during off-roading. Also standard on the supercharged model are four-piston Brembo front brakes with large, ventilated discs.

Though the Sport is marketed as a sports car-slaying utility vehicle, this claim by no means limits it to paved tarmac - it simply wouldn't be fitting to badge it as a Land Rover if it did.



Like all current and previous models, the Range Rover Sport has been tested rigorously in Land Rover's off-road development

The Range Rover Sport has been tested rigorously in Land Rover's off-road development program. (Photo: Land Rover)
program, and its prowess is enhanced by the unique new Terrain Response system first shown on the LR3.

Via a rotary knob, the driver can choose one of five settings based on existing surface conditions (ice, road, grass, mud, etc), which then automatically selects the most appropriate settings for ride height, throttle response, Hill Descent Control, traction control and transmission. There's no doubt that the Sport will be as capable off-road as the LR3 or Range Rover, but one must first equip it with something other than its ZR-rated high-performance rubber.

Defining Land Rover's first attempt at breaking into the super sport utility market is the Range Rover Sport's top-of-the-line

A supercharged 4.2L 32-valve V8, derived from the unit powering Jaguar's series of 'R' cars, gives the top-line Sport its life. (Photo: Land Rover)
engine - a supercharged 4.2L 32-valve V8, derived from the unit powering Jaguar's series of 'R' cars.

Because of its application in a sport utility vehicle, Land Rover has detuned the awesome V8 to 390 horsepower from the Jaguar rating of 400 hp, but it has gained an additional 10 lb-ft of torque for a stump-pulling total of 400.

Given that 60 percent of the total torque from this powerplant is available between 1,400 and 3,500 rpm, the Range Rover Sport in its supercharged configuration will be fast enough to challenge the Porsche Cayenne Turbo as the world's quickest SUV, at least before adding on Porsche's optional Tequipment package with its 50-horsepower and 55 lb-ft of torque upgrade.



Although one of the main ideas that fueled the development of the Range Rover Sport was to create a vehicle that could out-gun

Land Rover wants the Sport to take on the heavy hitters of the SUV market, the Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes-Benz ML55 AMG and the BMW X5 4.8is. (Photo: Porsche Cars North America)
the top dogs of the performance sport utility industry, like the Cayenne, Mercedes-Benz ML55 AMG and the X5 4.8is, banking on only one engine would have been a critical error.

Therefore, backing up the supercharged V8 will be a normally-aspirated 4.4L V8 with 300 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque borrowed from the LR3, as well as a 2.7L twin-turbocharged common-rail turbodiesel V6 with 190 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, the latter unfortunately not available in North America.

Interestingly, both of these engines also have links to Jaguar, with the 4.4L V8 being an enhanced version of the naturally aspirated 4.2L V8, and the 2.7L diesel V6 being an unchanged Jaguar-PSA-developed powerplant.

While power levels may vary between models, all Range Rover Sports share one thing in common, their drivetrain. Power from all

Power from the motor is delivered to all four wheels permanently through a ZF six-speed 'intelligent shift' automatic transmission. (Photo: Land Rover)
motors is delivered to all four wheels permanently through a ZF six-speed 'intelligent shift' automatic transmission.

The gearbox has been reprogrammed from the LR3 specification to deliver a sportier shift feel, while offering CommandShift, Land Rover's manual gear change control.

Top speed has been electronically limited to 225 km/h (140 mph) on all variants, but there's no doubt that if left uncapped, the supercharged model could easily break 260 km/h (160 mph).



While the Range Rover Sport may share little in the way of mechanical componentry with its more luxurious namesake,

The Sport falls squarely between the LR3 and the Range Rover in terms of equipment and status. (Photo: Land Rover)
there is a clear family resemblance in its design.

On the topic of the slightly confusing name, Woolly acknowledges, "this car [the Sport] is a premium product like Range Rover and is very much part of that family." As such, the product planners not only used the current Range Rover, but previous models as well, for a starting point and for inspiration.

Cleverly, although the Sport fits between the Freelander and the LR3 in terms of size, it falls squarely between the LR3 and the Range Rover in terms of equipment and status.

Timeless styling cues, such as the Range Rover's clamshell hood, simple door shapes with oversized handles, the 'floating'

Product planners not only used the current Range Rover, but previous models as well, for a starting point and for inspiration. (Photo: Land Rover)
roof, kicked-up rear bumper and upright front end with large headlamps bridge the gap to the Sport, but the new car takes the concurrent theme a step further.

Acting as the flagship's harder-edged, spunkier 'little brother', the Sport is lower, rounder and more hunkered down than any previous model. This styling shift is also conveyed through front and rear windscreens which are more raked and a one-piece aluminum tailgate as opposed to the standard two-piece clamshell unit.



Other details such as the electric razor 'foil'-style grille, fender grilles and bold paint color options help the

The interior of the Sport breaks totally new ground for Land Rover. (Photo: Land Rover)
Sport stand out - a visual point of attraction against pedestrian- looking X5s and MLs.

While the exterior of the Range Rover Sport concentrates on revisiting styling themes of the past, the interior breaks totally new ground. The big challenge that designers faced was coming up with a concept that best reflected the two different worlds that the Sport represents. The design had to be sporty, but could not give up the traditional commanding view that Land Rovers are known for.

The finished product is much like the Range Stormer, with a stylish, driver-focused cockpit. The straightforward dashboard and raised transmission tunnel are bridged by the

Aside from large side windows and the high ride height, the Sport also features 'stadium'-style seating. (Photo: Land Rover)
wide, aluminum-trimmed center console. With low window sills, an angled shifter and all controls within arm's reach, the interior provides a snug, comfortable feel much like that of a sports car.

Rear seat passengers will also benefit from the Range Rover Sport's groundbreaking design. Aside from large side windows and the high ride height from the car's suspension, the Sport also features 'stadium'-style seating. The rear bench is mounted higher than the front seats, allowing passengers in back to have a less obstructed view of the road ahead, while also giving them greater leg room.



These changes make the Range Rover Sport feel as tall as its larger brother, though all passengers ride approximately 50 mm

Land Rover designed the Range Rover Sport with the North American market in mind, and from the looks of it they have hit the bulls eye. (Photo: Land Rover)
(2.0 in) lower. Expect a wide array of luxury features including a DVD-based navigation system, heated power-adjustable leather seats, a premium sound system and more to be on the list of standard equipment.

As with the LR3, Land Rover designed the Range Rover Sport with the North American market in mind, a place where all genres of sport utility vehicles, whether they be luxury, compact or performance oriented, are in constant demand.

With a full lineup of SUVs, Land Rover will be able to increase its presence around the world, especially in North America, by catering to the growing niche market of performance utility vehicles, and appealing to performance sedan owners by providing the same world-class standards of luxury, performance and refinement.

Is it game, set and match for Land Rover? Unless the Sport, based on the superb LR3 but faster, lighter and nimbler, is a complete dud, it's almost certain that Land Rover has the cat in the bag.

Specifications:

  • Price Range (estimated MSRP): $70,000 - $110,000
  • Body Type: 5-door SUV
  • Layout: front engine, AWD
  • Engine: 300 hp, 315 lb-ft of torque, 4.4L, 32-valve, DOHC V8
  • Opt. Engine: 390 hp, 400 lb-ft of torque, 4.2L, 32-valve, Supercharged DOHC V8
  • Transmission: 6-spd automatic with manual mode
  • Top Speed: 225 km/h (140 mph), electronically limited
  • Brakes (front/rear): disc/disc, ABS with EBD
  • Warranty (mo/km): 48/80,000 comprehensive
  • Competitors: Acura MDX, Audi Q7 V8, BMW X5 4.4i / 4.8is, Cadillac SRX V8, Infiniti FX45, Land Rover LR3, Lexus GX 470, Mercedes-Benz ML430 / 500 / 55 AMG, Porsche Cayenne S / Turbo, Saab 9-7x, Volkswagen Touareg V8 / W12, Volvo XC90 T6 / V8
  • Web Site: www.landrover.com

Note: Additional larger photos are available in the photo album.

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