First drive: 2014 Range Rover Sport in the UAE
The all-new 2014 Range Rover Sport has finally hit the road in the GCC. The previous generation was Land Rover’s best-selling model since it was first launched here in the UAE back in 2006. The bar was set high already. Don’t let the new sleeker looks fool you into thinking it’s become soft; just the opposite.
While certain car manufacturers are converting some of their 4×4 models into crossovers, Land Rover stuck to their roots and made sure the new Range Rover Sport retained whatever off-roading capability it had.
Some of us have probably seen publicity videos showing off the new Range Rover’s Sport’s capabilities on rocks and mud. However, in this region, what we really care about is how well it will do in our natural environment — the desert.
The local launch event in Dubai certainly gave us that opportunity as we headed straight towards the sand dunes. But first, there was some initial highway driving, where we got a chance to get a feel of the Range Rover’s on-road ride quality.
We had started off our journey with the 340 hp 3.0-litre V6 supercharged model. It shares the same engine with the Jaguar F-Type we tested recently, but with wholly different tuning. Unlike its smaller cousin, the Sport does not have the dramatic loud exhaust. Power delivery was instant on depressing the accelerator and overtaking was no ordeal.
We switched to the Range Rover Sport V8 Supercharged and the difference in power was obvious. At cruising speeds, the engine noise was lesser than the slight constant hum present in the V6, and overtaking manoeuvres hardly required more than half the accelerator pedal-travel, thanks to its 510 hp 5.0-litre V8 supercharged engine, the same powerplant carried over from the older model which is not a bad thing at all.
Noticeably, the V8 had more premium stitched leather on the dashboard and steering wheel material.
While we had to endure some gravel tracks before we ended up on the soft sands, the Range Rover Sport soaked up the bumps admirably, much better than the Infinity QX56 we tested on the wadis earlier this year.
With the dunes now in sight, we stopped to deflate our tyres, switched to ‘Sand’ mode and turned off the traction control. Almost immediately we had a chance to test some intermediate dunes and the Range Rover Sport performed like it belonged. We hit a few steep dunes where the front and rear bumpers provided just enough clearance to manage them without damage.
While the Sport V6 required a fair bit of acceleration when conquering some of the steeper dunes, the Sport V8 managed with ease. Honestly, we were actually getting a little bored with the V8, considering how easily it was handling the sand course, clearly needing a more challenging terrain. A few people did manage to get stuck in some parts, but it was more driver error than anything else.
After stopping over for lunch at the Bab Al Shams, we headed back to the Dubai Autodrome to try out the Range Rover Sport V8 Supercharged on track. Land Rover was so confident of their latest product, that they let us have a go in these expensive machines all on our own on the track with no lead car, just like a proper track day!
We switched to ‘Dynamic’ mode for the track, making the steering more sharp, stiffening up the suspension and making the transmission hold gears at higher revs. The Range Rover Sport V8 was usually in the right gear during corners, which didn’t really need me to meddle with the responsive paddle-shifters much.
Planting the accelerator pedal to the floor, you really hear the growl of the supercharged V8. The traction control allowed a bit of slide during sharp cornering before intervening, which was quite amusing! There was mild body-roll but nothing more than, say, a Porsche Cayenne GTS. Mind you, it still weighs 2310 kg, even after all the weight savings of the new aluminium construction. So that weight makes itself known when you plow into a sharp corner too fast.
Land Rover has come up with something that can go up against the best now it terms of performance on the road, while sticking to its off-roading roots. Judging by our brief stint, this latest Range Rover manages to live up to the “Sport” name-tag.