Carmakers must feel relieved by America’s bottomless taste for crossovers. Why? Just look at most of them. As a category, they’re hardly a pretty lot. This isn’t Mercedes-Benz or Ferrari in the 1960s. It’s not even Volvo at its boxy best. Far too many of these “barges” look about as pretty as that noun connotes. And then there’s the 2023 Range Rover Sport—the exception, not the rule. It looks like you’ve arrived. You made your number. You’re somebody. It announces all of that without effort. There’s no hood scoop or extraneous metal creasing: no bombast.
It’s just rock-solid gorgeous, with a muscular shoulder line and 22-inch wheels adding just the right stance. In other words, like a great sports car—and unlike too many of its brethren in the crossover/SUV ranks—all the proportions are spot on. But, you have to ask: What’s it like to drive? Why else would I want one? We have answers.
Suspension Is the Golden Ticket
Few companies, save perhaps Jeep, have been as devoted to capability off-road as Land Rover. This has been true since the company’s founding in the late 1940s. Yes, the English marque stresses that prowess and offers owners the chance to glamp and drive at various off-road theme parks worldwide. But they also know that most of the time their customers drive on asphalt. Fortunately, the same sort of technology that allows a Range Rover Sport to articulate its chassis easily over boulders (11.1 inches of ground clearance) also pins its bulk down in corners.
Air (instead of sprung) dampers are networked to the Sport’s cameras, which spy for upcoming curves and connect to GPS, monitoring the road surface 500 times a second. So, rather than a too-harsh ride when you don’t want it, or a leaning-over sensation when you decide to pound through some esses, the Range Rover Sport chameleons for the conditions and your next whim.
It’s always ready to perform, but it’s not torturing you or your passengers to deliver that capability. There’s a word for that: poise.
2023 Range Rover Sport Knows How to Hustle
While you can get yours with a thirsty V-8, the powertrain of choice is the 395 horsepower hybrid six-cylinder in the Range Rover Sport Dynamic SE. It’ll run you $91,475—but that’s far less than the $123K for the P530 First Edition. Sure, the latter’s 4.4-liter V-8 punches harder, with 523 horsepower, but the reality is you don’t really need it. The hybrid goes 0 to 60 in just over 5 seconds. That’s hardly slow.
If you get the handling package that adds four-wheel steering, it sharpens cornering capability while also making parking lot maneuvering easier. You’re getting the best possible version of a baller five-passenger SUV that jumps when you want it to while still managing better fuel economy: 18 city/26 highway vs the V-8’s 16 city/21 highway.
One caveat: A plug-in hybrid is on the way and that’ll net better fuel economy and a predicted EV-only range of about 40 miles. You can get on the dealer’s order book for that version, called the P440e.
The Cabin Digs Are Glorious
Land Rover has been ahead of the curve in offering premium non-leather options. On the Range Rover Sport, for example, you can get synthetic seats with 20-way adjustability and massage function. These feel like leather, but have a quarter of the CO2 footprint. Oh, and they’re incredibly supportive. On one five-hour ski trip, we struggled to pry ourselves out of the ultra-comfy digs to hit the slopes.
Rear-seat passengers also get heated seats, and those rear perches fold forward electrically, too, and split to allow a ski pass-through.
As we’ve seen with brands like Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover includes cabin air filtering down to the bacterial level, even reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus. You can set the car to precondition the cabin on a timer for heating and cooling as well as purifying the cabin air before you climb aboard.
Once there, it’d be hard to miss the superb clarity of the rig’s 29-speaker Meridian Signature Sound System. All four outboard seats have headrest speakers, effectively “centering” the audio source at each of those positions in the car. Heard the false claim there’s “no bad seat in the house?” Here, it’s actually true, and it’s furthered because the Sport’s audio system utilizes active noise canceling to nearly eliminate road and tire noise. It’s not as silent as EVs we’ve tested recently. If you want that, just wait a year, when Range Rover promises electrifying several vehicles in its line.
Yes, It’s Still the Bomb Off-road
It was only a matter of time for a carmaker to add cruise control to off-roading. Here, the usual mode settings for driving on pavement are overlaid with specific off-road settings. You’re essentially dialing in the amount of grip as well as pace you want for 4x4ing. You still have to drive, but a system that keeps you moving as slowly and gently as you’d like, always detecting wheelspin so you don’t get stuck, enables the driver to just chill and focus on steering. Oh, and of course multiple onboard cameras let you see what’s happening on either side of your British tank—below and in front—so you don’t scrape up the pretty paint bruising your way through a hemlock forest.
Yes, some drivers may prefer the challenge of having to manually do everything, from feathering the throttle over boulders to just squeezing enough brake to maintain grip while roller-coastering down the backside of a mud-slicked descent. Hey, if that’s you, Jeep still makes the Wrangler.
Land Rover is betting you’ll want the Range Rover Sport to navigate the hurly-burly of city traffic during the week and dirt two-track in the woods on weekends. We think they’re spot on.
[Starting at $83,000; landroverusa.com]