REVIEW DATE: 23 Aug 2007
Land Rover has put a seriously punchy diesel in the Range Rover Sport. Andy Enright reports
Though it sold well, there was one thing that the original Range Rover Sport needed. A more powerful diesel. The TDV6 that was originally on offer was a worthy unit but other competitors offered more grunt. Hence the importance in the latest range of the TDV8 version we're looking at here. Though the TDV6 continues, its more powerful 3.6-litre stablemate gives the range a worthy diesel flagship.
With the TDV8, the modest 188bhp of the 2.7-litre TDV6 was transformed into a lusty 272bhp with the addition of another couple of cylinders and a big injection of attitude. This powerplant dwarfs that of the Mercedes ML320CDI (221bhp), the BMW X5 3.0d (231bhp) and the Audi Q7 3.0TDI (230bhp). It's also an installation that's more befitting of a vehicle that needs a truly imperious engine. Although the Sport is, in effect, the diffusion line of the Range Rover sub-brand, it's still perceived as a prestige choice. The TDV6 continues as an entry-level choice but the V8 is a far more desirable piece of engineering.
Eight cylinders are always a good start and the Range Rover Sport makes the most of its octet of oil-squashing pots. It's more than just the TDV6 plus two. Compared with that engine, it's 42 per cent more powerful, delivers 45 per cent more torque but, crucially, offers similar fuel economy. As you'd expect with that sort of power gain, acceleration is vastly improved, slashing the sprint to 60mph to 8.6 seconds and giving a top speed capability of 124mph - easily enough for high-speed intercontinental ballistic cruising. Refinement has been improved too. The TDV8 is claimed to be significantly quieter overall and you won't need to rev it until its valves bounce because the almost obscene torque figure of 640Nm comes on stream from just 2,000rpm. Fully 500Nm of torque is on offer between 1,500 and 3,700rpm, giving the Sport real 'step off' ability - handy if you need to put a move on someone away from the lights.
"The Sport badge looks a little incongruous on the back of the TDV6. The TDV8 has no such self consciousness"
This means that acceleration feels effortless. The 12.7 second sprint to 60mph of the TDV6 wasn't premier league standard and the midrange performance has been transformed. The engine exceeds Euro4 emissions standards and a combined fuel economy figure of 25.5mpg is a decent return for such a sizeable and swift hunk of automotive real estate. Many will labour under the misapprehension that this powerplant is the TDV6 with a couple of extra cylinders grafted onto the end but it's far from it. Whereas the six-cylinder V6 has a bank angle of 60 degrees between the two sets of cylinders, the V8 has a 90-degree angle which is often regarded as the most efficient configuration of an eight-cylinder engine's balance and refinement. Displacing 3.6-litres, the TDV8 uses a revolutionary Compacted Graphite Iron (CGI) engine block that offers better fatigue strength than aluminium with less weight than a 'standard grey' iron casting.
Now that the Sport is becoming a familiar sight on British roads it's clear what a deft piece of styling it represents. Although some were a little dismayed at first that the look was so restrained, this shape has more legs than a more extreme design. The wheelarches are subtly flared, thin side vents sit behind the front wheels and there's a sharp swage line that runs along the car's hips. The windscreen is sharply raked back and the perforated front grille looks like a set of expensive kitchen knives.
It's also a landmark vehicle for a company with a whole lot more autonomy. Just five years ago, Land Rover could never have built a car of this kind. Their owners at the time (BMW) didn't want a sports crossover vehicle like this poaching sales from their all-conquering X5. It was only as recently as 2000 that plans were first laid for a chassis platform that would spawn two very different vehicles. The first was the Discovery3 and the second was this, the Range Rover Sport. Both ride on a monocoque chassis and double wishbone suspension that offers far better on-road ride and handling than any previous Land Rover product.
As you might expect, the Range Rover Sport features a much more focused set up than the Disco. The steering rack has been replaced by a quicker item, offering more road feedback and quicker Reponses. To help cut the pitch and roll that quick changes of direction tend to generate, Land Rover have also upgraded the springs and dampers and lowered the car's roll centre. Perhaps the most innovative feature of the Sport's underpinnings is Dynamic Response, a set of anti-roll bars that can be engaged or decoupled according to demand. Standard on the flagship supercharged model and an option on the other models in the range, Dynamic Response also decouples when offroading in order to allow greater wheel articulation.
Under normal conditions, drive is split 50:50 between the front and rear axles, although it can instantaneously switch according to demand. The Sport also gets the Terrain Response system first seen in the Discovery3. This is virtually akin to having an expert sitting alongside you, helping to get the best out of the vehicle, on or off road. The driver chooses one of five terrain settings via a rotary knob mounted on the centre console. There's a general driving programme plus one for slippery conditions (dubbed 'grass/gravel/snow') and three specialist off road modes (mud/ruts, sand, rock crawl). The system will then automatically select the optimum setup for the electronic controls and the traction aids. This encompasses ride height, torque response, hill descent control, electronic traction control and transmission settings.
If you want a Range Rover Sport, then you probably want a diesel version and if so, then it's probably worth stretching to this TDV8 version. Compare equivalent variants and you're looking at a model-for-model premium of around £6,000 to get an engine much better suited to power such an aggressive-looking SUV.
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