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First drive: 2023 Range Rover Sport P440e. Image by Land Rover.

First drive: 2023 Range Rover Sport P440e
Will the new, six-cylinder plug-in hybrid Range Rover Sport be the car of choice for UK customers?

   



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Range Rover Sport

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The new Range Rover Sport carries on in the same vein as its predecessor, mixing luxury with capability, but it is a very different product. There's a new look, a glamorous new interior and there are new engines under the bonnet, including a new six-cylinder plug-in hybrid with a massive battery. We put it to the test to find out whether this is now the luxury SUV of choice.

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2023 Range Rover Sport SE PHEV P440e
Price: £98,990 as tested
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol plus electric motor
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Battery: 38.2kWh lithium-ion (31.8kWh usable)
Power: 440hp
Torque: 620Nm
Emissions: 19g/km
Economy: 334.4mpg
Range: 70 miles
0-62mph: 5.8 seconds
Top speed: 140mph
Boot space: 647 litres

Styling

Although this is a new Range Rover Sport, rather than an evolution of its predecessor, the image is much the same. This is clearly just a modernised version of the design that proved so popular with customers, albeit one that borrows heavily from the new 'full-fat' Range Rover. That means the Sport is a little cleaner around the edges than before, with a smoother 'shell' and the sort of features that are more reminiscent of architecture than car design. Nevertheless, it's still unmistakably a Range Rover Sport.

Interior

Although the Range Rover Sportís exterior design is noticeably more modern, the interior is where the real magic has happened. Like the larger Range Rover, the Sport has been completely overhauled with a gorgeous new cabin with stylish lines and a massive new central infotainment screen.

That screen uses Land Roverís latest technology, which is much more competitive than the old system and makes the car feel really fresh. The screen is crisp and bright Ė perhaps too bright if you donít use the night mode Ė and the design is very modern and sleek. It works brilliantly with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto infotainment tech, too, so it feels every inch the premium product.

That impression is aided by the quality of materials on offer, too. Soft leather is everywhere, while Land Rover has also fitted some surprisingly tactile neoprene-style material on the gear selector and thereís a massive swathe of cloth on the door cards, acting as a grille for the standard-fit Meridian sound system.

Unfortunately, while all these materials are brilliant, they do serve to mask one or two issues with the Range Rover Sportís build quality. Underneath the glossy veneer, there are one or two cheap-feeling bits, and some of them even make their way out from behind the veil. The buttons on the steering wheel, for example, feel really underwhelming, while the hazard light switch appears to be made from those horrible plastic chairs you find in school assembly halls.

Combine all that with the less-than-premium action of some of the other switchgear or the arm rest or the door handles, and you end up with something that isnít quite as solid as a Porsche cabin, but itís much easier on the eye.

Practicality

Unsurprisingly for a car that measures almost five metres in length and more than two metres across, the Range Rover Sport is a roomy thing. The cabin feels really light and airy and the driving position is very good, while the rear head- and legroom is exemplary. Even the middle seat is capable of accommodating an adult, although the seat itself is a bit firm and that will limit its usefulness on long journeys.

But the boot won't limit anything, with almost 650 litres of load space behind the second row of seats. That's a lot by anyone's standards, and it means the Range Rover Sport will happily swallow everything you're likely to carry. And, of course, you can fold the back seats down for extra space, and the car will take a roof rack if necessary. Just beware of the height, though, because the car is already almost six feet tall without anything on the roof.

Performance

The Range Rover Sport is available with a range of powertrains, but the P440e must be one of the most appealing. Combining a smooth straight-six engine with an electric motor to produce 440hp and provide all-wheel-drive traction, the system manages to mix smoothness, refinement and efficiency.

Of course, thatís partly down to the massive electric motor and the even bigger battery, with a 38.2kWh gross capacity. Thatís almost as big as the battery in a base-spec Nissan Leaf, and it means the hulking great Range Rover Sport can manage up to 70 miles on a single charge in the official efficiency test. In the real world, that means maybe 50 miles of near-silent motoring, assuming you donít drive like your hairís on fire.

If you can do that and most of your journeys are short, the Range Rover Sport could prove very cheap to run Ė especially if you can charge at home. But for those who like to go a bit further on a regular basis, donít believe the three-figure claimed economy. Thatís pie in the sky, and those who spend most of their time on the motorway will probably be best served by one of the diesels.

Nevertheless, if you want a Range Rover Sport thatís at home in town or in the Alps, the P440e might fit the bill very nicely. That six-cylinder engine is so smooth you canít always tell when itís running, and though it doesnít sound as nice as we were hoping when you push it, it offers plenty of performance. A 0-62mph time of less than six seconds is good going for a car that weighs around 2.7 tonnes.

Ride & Handling

Thereís no disguising that weight on the move, so in spite of its name, the Range Rover Sport takes a more wafty and comfortable approach. Although the car is heavy, it seems to float over most of the bumps, particularly at motorway speeds, and the car has a generally relaxed and laid-back demeanour.

Of course, that comes with a few issues. Body control feels a little slack and stopping the car Ė even from relatively low speeds Ė feels like something of a chore. You stand on the pedal, the nose dips and the car grudgingly slumps to a halt. And because the steering is light and lacking feel, it isnít that much fun on winding roads. Nor is it especially great around town, where the sheer size makes width restrictions and any other narrow gaps rather stressful.

But then you move the Terrain Select switch out of its standard comfort mode, and the car suddenly changes. Fitting a big, sloppy 4x4 with a ĎDynamicí setting feels like a bit of a foolish idea, but it almost completely changes the Range Rover Sportís character.

Naturally, a car like this can never really feel light and agile Ė itís too big and heavy for that Ė but the body control suddenly comes back into line and the steering weights up, making it all feel a bit more stable and dependable. With huge amounts of grip on offer from the massive tyres, it can really hustle when it wants to, and though it isnít quite as impressive as a Porsche Cayenne, itís still a mighty performance for something so big.

It definitely feels more like a big GT car than an oversized sports car or a hot hatchback, though, particularly because the reduction in ride comfort isnít too great. Admittedly, it doesnít deal with potholes or scarred asphalt as well as it would in a more comfort-orientated setting, particularly at low speeds, but the high-speed ride is more than tolerable.

Of course, some of this capability may have been down to the Stormer Handling Pack, a £5,330 option that includes all-wheel-steering and configurable settings, but the Sport certainly felt capable of making rapid progress.

Yet for all this GT-esque on-road capability, the Range Rover Sport really stands out off-road. With almost a foot (274mm) of ground clearance in its off-road ride height, the Sport can go up and down inclines of around 30 degrees, and itíll wade through almost a metre (900mm) of water. Put some suitable tyres on it, and itíll be nigh on unstoppable over any terrain.

Value

It seems everything is expensive these days, but Range Rover Sports really don't come cheap. Even the cheapest D300 SE diesel comes in at £83,620, and that's a huge amount of money for an entry level car. Opt for the P440e powertrain tested here and you're talking about almost £90,000 before options.

That said, you do get plenty for your money, with every Sport getting leather upholstery, heated memory seats and even electrically adjustable rear seats, not to mention 21-inch alloy wheels, a Meridian sound system and the massive touchscreen infotainment system. Air suspension, a 360-degree manoeuvring camera and two-zone climate control also come as standard across the range.

Verdict

The Range Rover Sport is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn't stop it being fantastic. The interior is beautiful, the off-road capability is peerless and the new hybrid system works a treat. It's strikingly comfortable and capable on the road, too. Combine that with the cleaner new look and you know Land Rover will sell more Sports than it can make.



James Fossdyke - 14 Apr 2023



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2023 Range Rover Sport. Image by Land Rover.2023 Range Rover Sport. Image by Land Rover.2023 Range Rover Sport. Image by Land Rover.2023 Range Rover Sport. Image by Land Rover.







 

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