2006 Land Rover
Range Rover Sport

If you want Land Rover capability and style packed into a slightly less-boxy package, the Range Rover Sport is the perfect setup.

Over the past 50 years, a small British company with a simple green and gold logo has become legendary in the world of off-road exploration. While others have tried to emulate the mystique and reputation of the venerable Land Rover brand, none has been able to match its reputation for providing luxury and go-anywhere capability in extreme conditions.

In recent years, Land Rover has sought to make its vehicles more palatable to a mainstream audience whose safaris rarely take them out of suburbia. Most of the credit goes to a short-lived buyout deal with BMW that lasted just long enough to produce the highly desirable Range Rover, a vehicle as opulent as it is rugged. The BMW deal came undone before the same magic could be worked on the midsized Discovery, an outdated dinosaur that arrived in the United States in 1995, slotted beneath the Range Rover. Ford came along a few years later and snapped up Land Rover, hoping to apply the same formula that has proven successful at Jaguar and Aston Martin.

The LR3 was the first product born out of this relationship. The LR3 is a success by most accounts, but Land Rover also needed a BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne fighter. A real departure from Land Rover's singular focus on the off-road lifestyle, the Range Rover Sport is the company's first performance SUV. Even though it shares the Range Rover badge with its luxurious big brother, the Sport is actually a shortened, 450-pound lighter version of the LR3. The exterior styling echoes the Range Rover, and the engineers placed much significance on aerodynamics and smooth lines. A shorter wheelbase and a steeply raked rear hatch give the Sport a more dynamic stance. The steering and suspension were sharpened for better on-road performance with a variable-ratio and variable-assistance ZF Servotronic steering system and monotube shocks.

Two engines power the Range Rover Sport. A V8 channels 300 horsepower through a six-speed automatic transmission in the HSE. The supercharged model boosts the horsepower to 390. The Range Rover Sport's fully independent suspension utilizes air springs at each corner, and a new Dynamic Response System automatically adjusts the sway bars for maximum roll control, whether you're on-road or off-road. Although its tires, stance and suspension are tuned for life on pavement, the Sport still carries low-range gearing and the adaptive Terrain Response System first introduced in the LR3.

Although the idea of a fast and sporty Land Rover may seem like a contradiction, the new Range Rover Sport has the acceleration and handling dynamics to make it a serious player in the high-performance SUV market. It also has the class-leading off-road capability you'd expect of a Land Rover.

Body styles, trim levels and options:
The five-passenger Range Rover Sport is offered in two trim levels: HSE and Supercharged. The HSE comes standard with leather upholstery; 19-inch alloys; fold-down rear seats; dual-zone, automatic climate control and a 14-speaker, 600-watt Harman Kardon audio system with a six-disc CD changer.
Options include heated front and rear seats, adaptive headlights, premium leather seating and wood trim. The Supercharged model gets all these goodies, plus 20-inch alloy wheels and the Dynamic Response active suspension system.

Powertrains and performance:
The standard Range Rover Sport is powered by a 4.4-liter V8 with 300 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque. As you'd expect, the Supercharged model features a supercharged version of this engine that ups the power to 390 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque. Both engines use a six-speed, automatic transmission with adaptive shift logic that adapts to road conditions and driving styles. Likewise, they both get Land Rover's Terrain Response System that adjusts throttle response, traction control, electronic stability control and varying off-road conditions. The Supercharged Sport also features active roll control to improve cornering performance on the pavement.

Safety features include four-wheel anti-lock Brembo brakes, traction and stability control, hill-descent control, side-impact and head curtain airbags, and an electronic parking brake. The Supercharged model includes adaptive headlights that “look” around corners and adjust up and down to counter the effects of hard braking and heavy cargo.

Interior design and special features:
The Range Rover Sport features a spacious cabin packed with clever storage solutions, as well as seats trimmed in English leather. A commanding driving position and elevated stadium seating give the driver and passengers alike a clear view of their surroundings. The dash has a simple, geometric look that is similar to the elegant design employed in the Range Rover. Switches are kept to a minimum, thanks to built-in technology that minimizes the need for driver input. Every tactile surface is thickly padded, as one would expect in a vehicle of this caliber. Overall, the Sport is designed to impart a more cockpit-like feel for the driver to emphasize its driver-focused intentions.

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