The new Range Rover Sports is supreme both on and off-road.

Story By Ian Glover

Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, weighing in at 2535 kilograms, with a twin turbo 3.0-litre diesel developing 180kW of power and an incredible 600Nm of torque – more muscle than Arnold Schwarzenegger once had – the good-looking, the one to beat, the 2010 Range Rover Sports! And in this corner … there is nothing in the other corner.
From the day Spen King (chief engineer) and David Bache (stylist) designed the original two-door iteration of the Range Rover back in 1970, there have been plenty of pretender contenders trying to wrest the heavyweight champion’s belt from the king of four-wheel-drives and, ultimately, all have failed. Some of them have come from pretty impressive gyms too: BMW, Mercedes Benz, Lexus, even Porsche. And there’s no denying that in some areas – technology, luxury, even on-road performance – the rivals sometimes outshone the king, but as an overall package, Range Rover continued to reign supreme.
The Range Rover’s real strength has been that Land Rover has never lost sight of the need for the vehicle to be supreme off-road, not just great on-road. As ex-Rover Australia managing director John Shingleton once said (or actually said a lot more than once): “There are three sorts of people who fully test Range Rover’s off-road capabilities – owners with more money than sense, motoring journalists and Land Rover executives.” That was at a time when Range Rover’s price versus other 4WDs was in the financial stratosphere, but now, at $99,900, the TDV6 Range Rover Sport is cheaper than a top-line diesel LandCruiser.
What a car needs for quick, safe highway performance and predictable handling is a low centre of gravity; what it needs for really serious off-road work is a high degree of under-body clearance, and the two are mutually exclusive. Land Rover gets around this conundrum by giving the Range Rover pneumatically adjustable suspension. It has also made what it calls Terrain Response more sophisticated. This system optimises vehicle performance in whatever off-road situation – the driver presses a button marked with an ideogram to match the sort of terrain to be tackled, and the vehicle behaves in a specifically matched fashion. For example, Terrain Response now features ‘Sand Launch Control’, which limits wheel-slip in sand, always the bête-noir of vehicles fitted with traction and stability control (and what isn’t these days?) Another useful addition to the program is Gradient Release Control, which stops the normal initial and alarming lurch when the brake is released on extreme gradients, and works in conjunction with Hill Descent Control to minimise runaway on steep slopes. In the rough stuff, RR still more than has the goods.

This story excerpt is from Issue #69

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2010