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‘This wants to be driven’

WHILE THERE is a myriad of good stuff about the third-generation Range Rover Sport, there are two key takeaways that Land Rover wants you to remember: It is a vehicle meant to be driven and, much like its bigger brother Range Rover, it boasts “reductive design.”

All the while, of course, it is said to breathe the same 4×4 ethos that Land Rover has been espousing since 1948. This “breadth of capability,” is a common thread that runs across the model range.

This concept is what the company leads off with as it proffers an impressive video of the stunt driver Jessica Hawkins, who braves the spillway of the Kárahnjúkar Dam in Eastern Iceland aboard the Range Rover Sport. After reckoning a “safe” water level at the spillway, Ms. Hawkins coaxes the vehicle into the onrushing flow and finds a way out of the steep embankment.

We get the point: The Range Rover Sport is up for any challenge, and it’s a driver’s car. “What you need to understand,” asserted Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Philippines President Chris Ward in an interview with this writer, “is that this is our most dynamic Range Rover.”

He continued, “It’s about on-road performance, and also about comfort and sustainability — since we now have our PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) version. This is a Range Rover that people will prefer to drive than be driven in.” At launch, three variants of the 2023 Range Rover Sport were introduced: the SE D300 (priced at P13.99 million), the Dynamic SE D300 (P14.79 million), and Dynamic SE P400e (P13.49 million). All boast electrified powertrains. The D300s have mild-hybrid, straight-six-cylinder diesel power plants, while the P400e is (as its nomenclature suggests) a full-on plug-in hybrid with a gas engine. In 2024, a pure-electric Range Rover Sport is expected to take its place in the lineup.

Touted as most competent away from paved roads, the new Range Rover Sport gets the brand’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive (iAWD) that “integrates with the latest all-terrain innovations and technologies to ensure its breadth of dynamic capability.” An optional Adaptive Off-Road Cruise Control, the most recent version of the All-Terrain Progress Control, lets the driver set the desired speed and comfort level, “from a choice of four settings, over rough surfaces.” It has the honor of being the first Land Rover to feature this capability.

Meanwhile, Terrain Response 2 “automatically detects the surface and terrain to adapt the chassis to best deal with the situation, prompting and informing the driver via the Pivi Pro touchscreen. It works in harmony with the comprehensive chassis systems to make the most effective progress off-road.”

Continued Mr. Ward in a release, “It is truly the most desirable, advanced and dynamically capable yet. Its design sophistication: having Land Rover’s pioneering flexible MLA architecture delivers the highest levels of dynamism and most powerful performance we have ever seen on Range Rover Sport. MLA Flex Architecture allows the flexibility to manage all powertrains (ICE, PHEV, and BEV) across the life of the vehicle as we transition into a new era of EV motoring.”

With regard to the aforementioned “reductive” design, the Range Rover Sport takes a page from its bigger sibling’s playbook. “We’ve followed the philosophy of the Range Rover,” maintained Mr. Ward. “We’ve cleaned up the body lines; there’s less of them. There’s less clutter in terms of the external styling… we’ve done away with some of the embellishments. The doors have no tops or rubber; they’re flush up to the glass.” The effect is a taut exterior with minute gaps between panels.

A sculpted tailgate with a “full-width feature” bears the Range Rover script, while “uninterrupted LED light graphics introduce surface LED technology to a production vehicle for the first time, providing a crisp and contemporary look at night that is vivid and consistent when viewed from any angle.” The Range Rover Sport’s spoiler is the longest ever fitted onto a Range Rover.

The clean lines, accentuated by flush glazing and door handles, plus a hidden waist rail finisher, also contribute to a lower drag coefficient of 0.29.

“It’s on the same inside — less is more,” added the executive. “There’s a big screen without lots of buttons.” A high, sloping center console and the use of premium materials contribute to a luxurious cabin — as do integrated audio speakers, developed with Meridian, which are unobtrusive.

Exclusively put together at the Solihull Manufacturing Facility in the UK alongside its bigger version, the Range Rover Sport is said to benefit from “a state-of-the-art production line housed in the same building used to produce early series Land Rovers.” The historic location has been recast as a new, ultra-modern center for Range Rover production.

Mr. Ward was quick to clarify his statement about the Range Rover Sport as a car to be driven. “Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “This is also beautiful car to ride in as a passenger — whether you’re going down EDSA or up the road going to Tanay. This is seriously capable.” — Kap Maceda Aguila

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