Day 1: The Sport has arrived. It looks nice. The old Range Rover Sport was really a Discovery underneath. In fact, nerdish fact fans, its chassis was meant for a shorter wheelbase Discovery Sport until someone at Land Rover had the bright idea of making it a part of the Range Rover family instead. Rumour is, when Ford owned Land Rover it became the single most profitable vehicle in the entire corporation. So that was quite a good idea, accountancy-wise. Anyway, the new Sport is now sister car to the new Range Rover. Which is good because it’s a dark, damp evening when I drive it home and there’s nothing nicer on such a night than a real Range Rover. It’s hard to think how they could make it more comforting and reassuring short of installing a real log fire under the sat-nav screen.
Day 2: Return from running a couple of errands to find my neighbour Keith out on street. He grudgingly admires the Sport and then describes it as ‘too big’. It is quite large. On the other hand, it’s six inches shorter than a full size Range Rover. And two inches lower, come to that. More than that, it doesn’t feel massive to drive. It’s also quite brisk and, on acquaintance so far, you can really chuck it around. I don’t bother to tell Keith any of these things. Keith has a Honda Civic. I don’t think he’s very interested in cars.
Day 3: When the first pictures of the Sport were published I thought the side vents were apologetically small and the arse looked too tucked under. Now I think neither of these things. This is a really handsome car. Hats off to Discovery 3 designer Andy Wheel, whose job it was to oversee the styling, and Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern, whose job it was to mince about in a rollneck using made-up words like ‘premiumness’ to describe it.
Day 4: My wife gets into the Range Rover for the first time and immediately begins to rave about the headrests. She’s right. They’re uncommonly soft. ‘Oh my God,’ she swoons. ‘I could use one of these as a pillow’. She’s right, you could. But it’s got a little telly built into the back so I probably wouldn’t recommend it.
Day 5: Into the centre of London for the day. The Range Rover stays at home. When we come to head home it’s pissing it down so I call for a minicab and discover, with delight, that they’ve sent a Citroen C6. A Citroen C6 makes a very good minicab, even if the ride isn’t quite as soft as you might expect. The same is true of the Sport, come to think of it. It’s a bit firm and thumpy sometimes, although you wouldn’t call it uncomfortable. And it feels like the springs and shocks are fundamentally tough. Our driver seems to believe the same of his Citroen and attacks speed bumps like a hurrying nutjob.
Day 6: Today it’s time to really test the Sport by taking it to my home town. Which is the perma-tanned taste vacuum of Wilmslow, Cheshire. The Range Rover strides purposefully up the motorway almost like a salmon returning to its natural home. North Cheshire is crawling with old-shape Sports so the new one should be quite a hit. Arriving in the town centre it turns out someone has got there before me. There’s a grey new-shape Sport parked near the Aston Martin garage. Half up the kerb. On double yellow lines. Typical. An estate agent comes round to look at our family home. He’s clocked the Sport on the drive straight away. ‘How’s the car?’ is his opening question. I tell him it’s good. ‘I used to have one of the old shape ones,’ he continues. Of course you did sunshine. Of course you did. I hope the new Sport isn’t utterly ruined by estate agents, sportsmen and sundry other clusters of absurdly coiffed Wilmslownian vulgarity.
Day 7: It’s a nice day and I’ve got time for a bit of a helmsmanny drive across the Cheshire plain. On other Land Rovers the Terrain Response system just gives you modes for sand and mud and other types of oomska. In the Sport it also has a dynamic mode which makes the steering heavier, the accelerator snappier and the suspension firmer. It also makes the lines around the virtual dials go red. This is all very good but actually, on bumpy Cestrian lanes, I think it makes the Sport feel flat footed. Leave it in normal, save for the separate sport mode and a bit of hot paddle action for the gearbox, and it seems more pleasant. It’s actually quite amazing how much you can chuck this thing around. That said, if you drive like a real div you’ll be reminded eventually that physics is a bitch and it will not be spanked. Your last defence against this enormous accident is the brakes, which look and feel very meaty. Not literally. That would be impractical. Although I imagine the smell after an emergency stop would be amazing.
Day 8: I’ve done 500 miles in the Sport so far. Some city. Some fast motorway. Some cross country. A great deal of it driving like a heavy footed bellend. And, according to its own computer, the Sport is doing nearly 30mpg. Which is near as dammit what I got from a Golf GTI recently.
Goodbye: The Sport is going away. This makes me sad. It’s excellent at cruising, excellent at tearing about and I imagine, although I didn’t try it, that it’s exellent at driving across a field or a small bog. It really is a tremendous and impressive piece of engineering. It looks nice too. In fact, the biggest problem Land Rover has with this thing is trying to stop ghastly twats from buying it. The new Range Rover Sport deserves better than that. It’s an excellent car.
The car talked about here is a Range Rover Sport Autobiography Dynamic. It has a 3-litre twin turbo V6 diesel making 288bhp. Land Rover says it can do 130mph and go from 0 to 62mph in 6.8 seconds. This model costs £74,995.