2016 Range Rover Sport offers plenty of luxury to love

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Today’s test car, a 2016 Range Rover Sport, is a great platform for talking about Land Rover. Several obvious items of note: One, the marque long has appealed to upscale buyers. Two, as the industry rebounded from the recession of the past decade, Land Rover has been selling very well. How far this brand awareness is was driven home by a couple of reactions to our test car.

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GENTRIFIED: The Range Rover, once a Safari vehicle, still has solid off-roading credentials plus a luxury interior and a 510-horsepower supercharged V-8.

It wasn’t quite an “out of the mouths of babes” moment, but my eight-year-old grandson, who sees test cars come and go, usually without comment, was excited to see this vehicle when we arrived to watch him on a weekend of grandparent duty.

“Wow! A Range Rover. How’d you get that? Can we go for a ride?”

Over the years, the only other cars to get similar reactions were the Chevy Camaro “Hot Wheels Edition” and the Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

The second reaction was while chatting with Richard Doucette, co-founder of the Boston Cup Auto Show and now executive director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.

We were talking about some of the rare cars that were on display on the Boston Common last Sunday (Sept. 20), when he asked what I’d been driving lately.

“A Ranger Rover. The supercharged Sport model,” was the answer.

“Range Rovers are so hot these days that they’re radioactive,” he responded.

Through August, Land Rover’s sales were at a record high, running 20 percent ahead of 2014, which was a great year.

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MISSION CONTROL: The Range Rover’s luxury interior has controls seemingly everywhere; fortunately, they’re well thought-out and quickly become intuitive.
Bill Griffith

It reflects a trend that is creating ripples in the high-end market: a new generation of buyers who aren’t looking for the understated luxury of previous generations; on the contrary, they want to flaunt it on Facebook and via selfies.

While Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, and Lamborghini may be at the forefront of that wave, Land Rover isn’t taking an, ahem, back seat.

Actually, they’re taking a stadium seat in movie theaters with a trio of Jaguar-Land Rover “special operations department” vehicles that will be major players in “Spectre,” the latest James Bond movie that is scheduled to make its world debut next month in front of a royal audience.

The stunt vehicles include a Jaguar C-X75, Range Rover Sport SVR, and Land Rover Defender.

Should you need something a bit, say, beefier, Jaguar Land Rover’s “special vehicle operations” department also has built is first bombproof, bulletproof, sabotage-resistant version of a long wheelbase armored Range Rover.

Among the features are an escape hatch under the rear seats…just in case.

We didn’t need an escape hatch or any special options because our new Range Rover Sport was amazing as it came from the factory.

The test vehicle was the Sport SC with a 5-liter supercharged V-8 that produces 510 horsepower and 461 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s enough to move this roughly 5,100-pound vehicle from 0-60 in an advertised 5.0 seconds. And that’s accompanied by a wonderful growl from the twin exhaust outlets.

Power goes to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission and the handling is, in a word, fabulous. That’s thanks to four-corner air suspension with adaptive dynamics that smooth out the ride either on or off the road.

Adding to the sureness is speed-sensitive power steering, torque vectoring (corner braking control), auto load-leveling, and anti-roll stabilization.

An automatic height adjustment feature works under all circumstances, and maximum ground clearance is 8.4 inches in normal driving and 10.9 inches while off-roading. It lowers the vehicle when in park for easier passenger entry and exit.

Should you run into high water, the Range Rover Sport’s wading depth is 33.5 inches.

It’s easy to forget you’re driving a heavy midsize SUV when you toss it around corners.

The brakes, complete with red Sport calipers, handle this big vehicle with ease, another way of forgetting it’s a heavy vehicle despite aluminum body panels.

On the highway, in a 300-mile trip to rural Connecticut, we averaged 21.3 miles per gallon. A second, 150-mile trip that included heading through Boston in rush hour traffic and returning through construction and accident delays, was good for 18.3 mpg. Both results were better than the EPA ratings of 14 city, 19 highway, and 16 combined.

Premium unleaded fuel is recommended for top performance.

The Range Rover Sport’s interior falls into the lap-of-luxury category with leather, wood, and metal appointments, heated and cooled seats, adaptive headlights with automatic high beam control, and blind-spot alerts.

Mrs. G had an understandable “I could get used to this very easily” take on living with the Range Rover Sport.

An available $2,900 driver assistance package (not on our vehicle) adds a head-up display, lane-departure warning, and parallel parking assist with parking-exit alert. Missing was the latest generation adaptive cruise control and pre-collision braking—doubtless in the plans for coming years.

Our test vehicle had a base price of $83,690 (including destination). The main option was a $2,620 Front Climate & Visibility Package that added 16-way power and climate controlled front seats, heated steering wheel and rear seats, twin-blade sun visors, adaptive Xenon headlamps with auto high-beam control, blind-spot monitor with closing vehicle sensing, and reverse traffic detection.

A tow package ($900), 1700-watt Meridian audio system ($3,250), contrasting black roof ($650), and protection package ($537) brought the bottom line to a hefty $91,647.

A big price, but you’re getting “The Gronk” of luxury SUVs.

2016 Range Rover Sport SC Dynamic

THE BASICS

Price, base/as tested (with destination): $83,690/ $91,647. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 14 city, 19 highway, 16 combined. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 19.7. Drivetrain: 5-liter supercharged V-8, 8-speed automatic transmission, full-time four-wheel drive. Body: Luxury midsize SUV.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 510. Torque: 461 lb.-ft. Overall length: 191.2 in. Wheelbase: 115.1 in. Height: 70.1 in. Width: 81.6 in. (mirrors in); 87.4 in. (extended). Curb weight: 5,100 lbs. (approximated).

THE GOOD

Luxurious cabin, power, handling.

THE BAD

Cargo space tight, no adaptive cruise control. THE BOTTOM LINE “The Gronk” of luxury SUVs.

ALSO CONSIDER

Audi Q7, BMW X6, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Porsche Cayenne.

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