Range Rover Sport SDV6 SE (2015) Review

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As a finalist in the Cars.co.za Consumer Awards, it is clear that we rate the Range Rover Sport very highly. But the current exchange rate is doing it no favours…

  • Strikes a superb on/off-road compromise
  • Well-made and refined inside
  • Compared with same-price rivals, down on power

When it comes to making a statement, few SUVs can hold a candle to Range Rover’s popular Sport. Even in a market segment populated with numerous products from the established German premium brands, the Range Rover Sport appears to be of a different, more pedigreed breed. Of course, this has much to do with the legendary capabilities of the Land Rover stable, but these days its exclusivity and heightened desirability also stem from a heady price – thank you Rand/Pound! But the big question is… at which point does that price become too big a pill to swallow?

The Catwalk Off-Roader

While the Range Rover Sport is no longer brand new, it still turns plenty of heads. Finished in a beautiful metallic red (one of 17 colours) and riding on the standard 20-inch wheels, the Sport is an imposing, yet rather elegant machine. It undoubtedly possesses significantly more kerb appeal than its direct rivals and broadcasts a message of success. As an aside, Range Rover also offers 21- and 22-inch wheels as options, at R13 800 or R23 100 respectively. You also have a choice between three different roof styles – standard metal, fixed panoramic (R21 200) and sliding panoramic (R24 700).

The cabin is similarly successful in creating a feel-good mood for the owner/driver. You step “up” into a Range Rover, even this Sport model, and the seating position itself is quite high. This gives the driver both a commanding view over traffic as well as a sense of superiority. We took the Range Rover Sport for an extended 800km trip and can vouch for the comfort of those seats, too. Note, however, that although the seats are 14-way power adjustable, you pay extra for heating and memory settings.

The facia design is similar to most recent Range Rovers, with an angled dash flowing into a high transmission tunnel. Pride of place certainly goes the touch-screen info-tainment system, but this almost highlights the fact that the game has moved on in this regard. Jaguar/Land Rover’s latest products all get a faster-acting/neater system and the Sport should get this as soon as possible. Nevertheless, there are plenty of toys to play with, including navigation and Bluetooth audio streaming.

The rest of the control interfaces are simple enough to operate, and the layout is minimalistic and neat. The rotary knob to access the off-road settings rises out of the facia in similar fashion to modern Jaguar gear selectors. Build quality all-round is impressive, and the fit and finish, as well as the material selection is top notch. In this regard alone, the Range Rover Sport appears to easily justify its premium positioning.

Superb refinement and comfort

Hit the long road – as we did – and the positives keep coming. The cabin is very well insulated against wind and road noise, and rear legroom should be sufficient for most occupants. In fact, the Sport is quite a practical family car. The boot is large, with Range Rover claiming a scarcely believable 784L of boot space (most likely measured to the roof, not the luggage cover). Our test unit also had an electrically deployed tow hitch (a R13 900 option) and the rear seat entertainment system (R30 000 option) kept the kiddies under control. A full-size spare wheel is standard.

As you may have noticed, the Range Rover Sport can be tailored to you exact needs by delving into the options list, making an already expensive vehicle even more so. Still, at least you have the choice. A top-notch Meridian 19-speaker sound system, by the way, adds another R15 500.

Show… but what about the go?

This Range Rover Sport is powered by the company’s 3,0-litre V6 turbodiesel that punches out 215 kW and a hefty 600Nm of torque, the latter figure from as low as 2000rpm. Mated with a slick eight-speed automatic transmission, the SDV6 is claimed to sprint to 100km/h in 7,2 seconds and top out at 210km/h. Drive with restraint, and Range Rover says you should be able to achieve 7,9L/100km.

Seen in isolation, those figures appear impressive… certainly when you factor in that this is a big, heavy SUV, notwithstanding aluminium construction. The reality is, however, that the competition at the same price offer considerably more. The BMW X5, available in xDrive40d guise, offers 230kW and 630Nm for less money. Those figures may not appear vastly different, but they come with significantly better claimed performance and fuel economy (5,9 sec 0-100 km/h and 6,0L/100km). And then there’s the Porsche Cayenne S Diesel which sells for similar money, too, and offers a colossal 283kW.

So has the Range Rover Sport SDV6 brought a pistol to a bazooka contest? Well… no.

On the road the creamy 3,0-litre punches harder than its number suggest, so you’d hardly ever feel the need for more power. Key to this surprising turn of events is JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) once again nailing the throttle-response software nail on the head. The Rangey Sport responds to inputs with immediacy and urgency, even if you’re already travelling quite fast. An impressive performance to say the least and one that highlights the fact that one should not stare oneself blind at printed figures.

As an aside, we achieved around 9,5L/100km during our test, which given the nature of the drive (fully loaded, with bicycle rack etc.) was impressive.

Two-dimensional character

Where the Range Rover Sport arguably lands the knock-out punch from which its rivals can’t quite recover, is in its ability to appear as unflappable in the rough, as it is on the smooth. On tar the Sport impresses with its overall ride composure, suppresses bumps well and generally wafts along undeterred by what life can throw at it. Sure, push it hard into the bends and it can’t quite compete with the likes of the X5/X6 and Porsche Cayenne but it’s certainly not roly poly either.

Hit the dirt, however, and it simply streaks ahead. There are some options on offer from your Land Rover dealer in this regard, too, but at its core the Range Rover remains true to the brand’s legendary off-road capability. Raise the suspension, choose the appropriate setting and the Sport will take you places where it’s difficult to walk. Of course, in such off-road conditions the raised seating position again proves very useful.

Conclusion and Summary

The Range Rover Sport SDV6 SE is certainly not cheap and, on paper at least, appeared to be overpriced given especially its seemingly underpowered engine. The reality, however, proved rather different. This vehicle offers such a breadth of abilities that what it lacks in the ultimate power stakes is quickly forgotten. If you hanker after a premium SUV that strokes the ego, yet which can back that confidence with real ability, no matter what the conditions, then the Range Rover Sport remains a class leader.

Range Rover Sport SDV6 SE Price in South Africa

The Range Rover Sport SDV6 SE costs R1 167 031 and comes with a three-year/100 000 km warranty and five-year/100 000 km Maintenance plan.

Test Team Opinion

The V6 turbodiesel powering the Range Rover Sport is more than enough. It responds quickly to throttle inputs and shunts along like a diesel has no right to. Being a Range Rover, it’s also practical and hugely spacious inside. It is getting a bit expensive now with the exchange rate issues, however. -Ashley Oldfield

We Like: Desirability, Design, Off-road ability, On-road comfort, Luxury

We don’t Like: Getting pricey… and rivals pack more power

Also consider: BMW X5 xDrive40d, Porsche Cayenne S Diesel

Compare the Range Rover Sport SDV6 SE against the BMW X5 xDrive40d and Porsche Cayenne S Diesel