Land Rover Range Rover Sport: Driving Impressions – Odd as it may seem, a comparison can be made between a Honda all-terrain vehicle (a.k.a. ATV, four wheeler, quad, etc.) and the 2006 Land Rover Range Rover Sport. Having decided that I wanted to reintroduce myself to the ATV fun I enjoyed as a kid, I spent a few nights last week perusing internet classified ads looking for a clean, reasonably-priced unit. Surprisingly, it wasn’t long before I found a four-wheel-drive Honda quad within 20 miles of my home in paved-over Southern California: a 4WD quad that purportedly had next to zero miles on it and sat cleaner than any 2007 model I might find at the local dealer.
When faced with characterizing the 4WD Range Rover Sport, that spotless Honda came back to mind – I figure both have about an equal chance of ever getting dirty or being fully utilized. The mud- and stream-seeking Honda sits handcuffed in its urban cage, while the Range Rover Sport will most likely go from the fake rock-crawl course at the dealer to a reserved parking space or climate-controlled garage within a gated community. It might get parked on the grass at the stables or when the country club parking is maxed out, but that just may be the extent of its off-pavement excursions. Yet, unlike the $2,600 ATV, one can understand why Land Rover buyers may be hesitant to mar the exterior of a $56,000 – $70,000 ride. That’s too bad, because with a somewhat disappointing supercharged version, questionable interior materials, horrible gas mileage, and a tight rear seat, the 2006 Range Rover Sport, in true Land Rover fashion, truly shines only when tackling the dusty, rutted road less traveled.
Despite a name that suggests otherwise, the 2006 Land Rover Range Rover Sport is actually less powerful than the regular and larger Range Rover by as much as 10 horsepower and 10 lb.-ft. of torque. The Sport is available as an HSE with a 4.4-liter, 32-valve, dual overhead cam V8 pushing 300 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 315 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm, combining with a six-speed manually-interactive automatic transmission to return an EPA-estimated 14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway. That’s the base variety. Drivers seeking a bit more verve behind the pedal will want to consider the Supercharged model, with its 4.2-liter, 32-valve, dual overhead cam, supercharged V8 cranking out 390 horses and 410 lb.-ft. of torque, which when coupled with the six-speed automatic would offer 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway if we lived in a world where EPA numbers mirrored reality. But, we don’t, so our combined rating of 13.4 mpg didn’t cause any staffers to die of shock.
Among the other hardware fitted to the Range Rover Sport is a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case, a center limited-slip differential, and Land Rover’s Terrain Response variable suspension for sure-footed on- and off-road ability. Enhancing the Sport’s traction is a hill descent control system and ABS tied to vented discs, the likes of which are created by Brembo for Supercharged models. An independent suspension with air springs smoothes out the ride while a variable-assisted rack-and-pinion steering assembly works to keep either 19-inch (HSE) or 20-inch (Supercharged) alloy wheels pointed in the correct direction. That’s important stuff when piloting a 5,500-lb. rig with a 7,718-lb. load tagging along behind.
Besides the behind-the-scenes underpinnings and technology that make the 2006 Range Rover Sport a true off-roading Land Rover, there’s plenty to offer prospective buyers with heightened tactile or visual senses. Starting with the base HSE, priced at $56,800 including a $715 destination charge, the standard features list includes a 550-watt Harmon Kardon sound system with an MP3 player and six-disc CD changer; leather upholstery; wood interior trim; a touch-screen navigation system; a power sunroof; voice-activated controls; power-adjustable front seats with memory; and rain-sensing wipers. A Cold Climate Package with heated seats, heated washers, and heated windshield glass is optional. Also available is a Luxury Package featuring high-intensity discharge headlights, cherry wood trim, and upgraded leather seats. Other options include a rear locking differential, a rear DVD entertainment system, Sirius satellite radio, a phone, 20-inch alloy wheels, and a stability control system.
Given that the alloys are $4,000 alone, you may decide to just pony up $69,800 for the Range Rover Sport Supercharged since it comes standard with most of the HSE’s options as well as an extra 90 horsepower. Along with that lofty base price comes stability control, 20-inch alloys, those blinding headlights, heated front seats, the Cold Climate Package, the rear DVD entertainment system with two 6.5-inch screens, and access to optional intelligent cruise control and oak trim. Available only on the Supercharged is a Special Edition Package offering unique 20-inch alloy wheels, oak trim, the rear DVD system, Sirius satellite radio, and special floor mats and sill plates.
At $76,150 (including a $715 destination charge and $100 for California emissions equipment), our 2006 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged arrived fully loaded with the exception of oak interior trim and the Special Edition Package.