We Tackle Snowstorms, Mountains, and a Busy Resort in the New Range Rover Sport
The Range Rover Sport, the designated high-performer of the luxury off-road brand, is going all-in on all-electric. But not quite yet. The third generation of this sport-minded SUV, unleashed for the 2023 model year, includes a range of electrified options, but the move to full battery power takes effect in 2024.
Until then, there are four different flavours of Range Rover Sport: two mild-hybrids, a single plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and one old-school, full-fat, twin-turbocharged V-8 that runs on premium gasoline alone. No judgement here, but the version you gravitate towards says a lot about you. In Canada, the 2023 models are priced from $101,750.
Each model feels very different from the next. A short drive in the sunny countryside around Madrid revealed that the plug-in hybrid model was just as engaging as the V8, perhaps even more so. This is not your typical yawn-inducing hybrid.
For the record, the model with the twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 is dubbed the P530 First Edition; ‘530’ because that’s roughly the amount of horsepower the engine develops (523) and ‘First Edition’ because it’s the first year of production.
In case you’re interested in being among the first to get the ‘First’ — sorry (cue buzzer sound) it’s sold out and no longer listed on Land Rover’s Canadian website.
The Sportiest Spice
Don’t panic, though: The P530 must be considered a lock to return because a certain segment of the population is unreasonably obsessed with high-performance SUVs. With all the G/GLS/GLE AMGs and Aston Martin DBX 707s and Lamborghini Uruses (Urusi?) on the market, there’s clearly demand for high-output, big-kilogram, high-riding forms of transportation. The Range Rover Sport was one of the originals, so you better believe Land Rover is going to keep the good times rolling.
The truth of the matter is, when stacked up against its rivals, the P530 is really the only Range Rover Sport that unquestionably lives up to the “Sport” label. The new V8 is five horsepower up on the outgoing mill, but has a whopping 70 additional lb-ft to play with, now up to 533 in total. With the launch control system engaged, the P530 can rocket to 100 km/h in a shade under 4.5 seconds.
Apart from its edge in terms of straight-line performance, the P530 is/was also equipped with the coolest-sounding option in automotive history, the Stormer Handling Pack. Exclusive to the First Edition, the pack includes all-wheel steering, an electronic active differential with brake-induced torque vectoring, and a 48-volt electronic anti-roll system.
All versions come standard with adaptive air suspension, which delivers a smooth ride on uneven surfaces and allows the Range Rover Sport to ride high over the toughest of obstacles. (A perfect metaphor for modern life in a first-world country.)
While all of that cutting-edge technology makes for a refreshingly nimble SUV, it wasn’t quite enough to push the P530 to the top of our personal Range Rover wish list. Instead, to our surprise, the most-wanted award goes to the PHEV, which combines smooth power delivery with a more eco-aware approach to performance.
The Best of Both Worlds
In Canada, the PHEV is called the P440e Electric Hybrid. The powertrain blends a turbocharged 3.0-litre 6-cylinder with a 105 kW electric motor and a 31.8 kWh battery. Net result: 434 horsepower and a noteworthy 619 lb-ft of torque. While the P440e is about a second slower to the mythical 100 km/h mark than the P530, you can use the extra time to check your stock portfolio. (Just kidding — leave the phone in the wireless charging pad.)
What the PHEV concedes in outright speed, it regains with sheer silkiness. On ragged, twisting roads it felt composed, quick and equally capable of generating a smile on a driver’s face.
Mild Hybrid, Major Snowstorm
More recently, we had the opportunity to sample the third iteration of the Range Rover Sport. This time, the itinerary saw us travel to Park City, Utah, a veritable Mecca of wintertime diversions.
The average Range Rover is nearly unstoppable in snow, which is a good thing because during our drive of the Range Rover Sport P400 MHEV (mild hybrid), we found ourselves accelerating directly into the mother of all snowstorms. Visibility was dangerously low at various points, but getting stranded high on a mountain pass never entered the discussion.
This mild hybrid, with its 395 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, will not trouble either the P530 or the P440e in terms of outright performance. But the poise with which it handled the meteorological mayhem was flat-out impressive. This thing simply refused to get stuck.
Meanwhile, we kicked back in the cabin, which was serenely quiet thanks to active noise cancelling, and supremely comfortable thanks to 22-way adjustable heated/cooled/massaged front seats. It even has an air purification system that monitors and compensates for CO2 build-up.
The SUV’s many systems are primarily controlled through a curved central touchscreen. It’s a stretch to call it hyper-intuitive, but once you grow accustomed to the Range Rover approach to driver engagement, things make sense and everything adds up to a relaxed environment.
Deer Valley Edition
Our drive in Utah coincided with the unveiling of the limited-edition Range Rover Sport Deer Valley Edition. It is inspired by Utah’s spectacular Deer Valley Resort, a luxury ski resort that recently partnered with Range Rover. Obviously, this is a natural fit for the luxury SUV brand — downhill skiing is a big-ticket activity and well-heeled outdoorsy drivers are the bullseye of Range Rover’s target market. Its foundation is the Range Rover Sport Autobiography P530, and crammed with fine wood trim and every luxury known to humankind. Think: après ski on wheels. Availability is strictly limited — just 20 examples for the world.
If you don’t want to miss out on that one, as we did with the First Edition, you’ll want to pop into your local dealer right away.