Range Rover Sport is a ''high-speed cocoon''

Range Rover Sport is a ''high-speed cocoon''

After decades of declaring itself the regent of off-road, Land Rover has decided to battle the growing number of performance-oriented SUVs with the 2006 Range Rover Sport.

Set to go on sale in Canada in the summer of 2005, the Range Rover Sport is said to be ''a true performance vehicle, optimized for fast, comfortable, long-distance driving.'' Equipped with the optional 390-hp, 4.2.-litre, supercharged V-8, the Range Rover Sport ''will deliver the highest degree of power ever available on a Land Rover model,'' says Matthew Taylor, Land Rover's managing director.

Pricing and detailed specifications won't be announced for some time, but since it's supposed to fit between the new LR3 and the big-ticket Range Rover (which will itself be up-fitted in the New Year), we can assume it will cost north of $80,000.

The ability to go fast and true on pavement will come from Land Rover's new Dynamic Response suspension system and performance-tuned chassis, says Taylor. ''The innovative system, making its debut on Range Rover Sport, senses cornering forces and acts to optimize body control and handling,'' Taylor explains.

Dynamic Response also ''decouples off-road to allow greater wheel articulation during tough all-terrain driving,'' he says, but the truth is that very few Range Rovers ever go off-road unless you count the gravel driveway on the way to the country club. The normal suspension system will easily handle that, so prospective buyers should not worry.

''Range Rover Sport takes us into the growing performance SUV market,'' says Taylor, ''but is different from all rivals. We see it as a less frenetic, more refined alternative to existing performance SUVs.'' Yes, he means you, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, Lincoln, Porsche and VW. 

Taylor says the new Sport is ''ideal for fast, comfortable, long-distance driving and practical enough for everyday use. Yet it is also exceptional off-road, offering better all-terrain ability than any competitor. Like all Land Rover products, it offers the broadest range of capability in its class.''

This is the best ''driver's vehicle'' that Land Rover has ever made, Taylor maintains. ''There is the traditional Land Rover command driving position, yet the cockpit is more cocooning than the SUV norm.''
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