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First Drive: 2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport [Review]

by Drew Johnson

The Range Rover Sport has been a popular model for Land Rover since it debuted in 2005 as a 2006 model, but the British automaker's first attempt at a sporting "˜ute was by no means an out-of-the-ballpark home run. Customers complained about the Range Rover Sport's sub-par interior materials and lackluster powertrains - even in Supercharged-guise - but Land Rover has all but solved those issues with the Sport's 2010 refresh.

Like the 2010 Land Rover LR4 and Range Rover models, the 2010 Range Rover Sport isn't all-new for this model year, but the Sport's mid-cycle updated makes it seem miles apart from the outgoing model. Almost every aspect of the Range Rover Sport has been redone for the 2010 model year, resulting in a high-performance SUV that is just at home on a winding back road as it is on a two-track mountain pass.

Old but new
At first glance, you'd be hard pressed to notice any differences between the outgoing 2009 Sport and the new 2010 model. However, look closer and you'll notice subtle differences that give the 2010 model a slightly more aggressive look.

Up front, the Range Rover Sport's bumper has been completely redesigned, reducing the previous design's bulky look. Fog lights have been moved lower and wider, with the bumper's sculpted edges giving the Range Rover Sport a more planted look. New for 2010 is a two-bar grille, replacing the last-generation's three-bar unit. That two-bar treatment is carried over to the Sport's new headlight units - take a closer look at the turning indicators - which feature Land Rover's new signature LED treatment.

The sides of the Range Rover Sport remain largely the same - save for revised fender vents - with the rear of the truck featuring a new bumper design and new taillights with the two-bar theme.

While the Range Rover Sport's interior design isn't radically new for 2010, it features a heavily revised center stack and much improved materials. Gone is the sea of black plastics and buttons, replaced with a design more in line with the Range Rover name. Like the LR4, most of the Sport's buttons have moved to the dash mounted screen, resulting in an overall cleaner look. Interior material quality is now top-notch, with not a single bit of hard plastic in sight. Real wood accents lend a dose of luxury.

Putting the sport back in Range Rover Sport
The Range Rover Sport has sport right in its name, so it better deliver with performance. The previous Range Rover Sport fell short on that promise, but a new range of powertrains and a revised suspension ensures the 2010 version doesn't disappoint.

The base model Range Rover Sport now comes equipped with a 5.0-liter direct-injection V8 hooked to a revised six-speed automatic transmission. Rated at 375 horsepower and 375 lb-ft. of torque, the 2010 Range Rover Sport is actually just as fast as the previous-generation Range Rover Sport Supercharged was, with a 0-60 time of just over 7 seconds. That extra power is easily felt through a seat-of-your-pants test, with the 5.0-liter model providing enough oomph for all but the most power-crazed buyers.

On road handling is surprising good on the Range Rover Sport, especially considering its off-road prowess. The Sport's ride is undeniably of the firm side, but nothing worse than you'd find in a luxury sports sedan. Grip is more than plentiful with body roll never becoming an issue.

However, if you have gasoline pumping through your veins - and an extra $14,000 burning a hole in your pocket - you'll definitely want to opt for the Supercharged model. Using the same supercharged V8 engine found in the engine bay of the Jaguar XKR, the Range Rover Sport Supercharged belts out 510 horsepower and 461 lb-ft. of torque. Land Rover says the Sport Supercharged can hit 60 from a standstill in 5.9 seconds and that figure felt conservative to us. The Supercharged model flat-out flies.

Luckily, the Supercharged model also includes Land Rovers new Dynamic Response and Adaptive Dynamics suspension technology to keep you on your intended path. Activated by a switch on the center console - appropriately marked by two squiggly tire marks -- Land Rover's suspension systems monitor each wheel 500 times a second, adjusting damping and suspension setting as necessary. The result is a hulk of a beast that handles eerily well - the Range Rover Sport Supercharged exhibits virtually zero body lean with grip only limited by the road surface. Standard 20-inch wheels hide upgraded Brembo brakes, which really help when the road runs out.

Aiding the Sport's sporty demeanor is a smart transmission that can "learn" your driving style. By the end of our jaunt in the Sport, it was holding gears longer and downshifting aggressively during hard braking. Paddle shifters are part of the Supercharged package, but the sport function of the transmission is so good that they aren't even necessary.

Leftlane's bottom line
With a heavily revised interior and a powertrain selection worthy of its nameplate, the 2010 Range Rover Sport is not only a viable option in the performance luxury SUV segment, it's one of the best in the business. The base model is great on its own, with the Supercharged model transforming the "˜ute into a world-beater. If you can swallow the Sport's upper five-digit price tag, there is nothing that can come close to its combination of luxury, sport and off-road performance.

2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport base price, $60,495.
2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged base price, $74,195.

Words by Drew Johnson. Photos courtesy Land Rover.
2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport