Range Rover vs Range Rover Sport: a comparison

The current Range Rover and Range Rover Sport are examples of just how far Land Rover has come since its purchase by TaTa in the latter half of the last decade. Under Ford ownership, the brand was reduced to a bit of a parts special, with quite obvious cost cutting made in certain areas and just the kudos of the Land Rover brand doing the leg work to get customers into the showroom.

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With the launch of the Range Rover Evoque in 2011, a bit of a turning point was made in terms of design and quality — the latest Land Rover models are steeped in style and technology, and sales figures just keep going up and up despite similar rises in list prices.

The ‘full-fat’ Range Rover offers unparalleled luxury and image in the SUV sector, and the smaller Sport focuses on offering a more dynamic driving experience at a (slightly) cheaper price. What follows is a brief summary of how the two compare — these are two of my favourite cars and it’ll be hard to find any major faults.

Styling

Both the Range Rover and the Sport take a lot of inspiration from the smaller Evoque, with the Sport bridging the gap between both models in terms of styling and size.

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The larger Range Rover is now over 5-metres in length in standard guise, and gets even longer if the chauffeur-orientated long wheelbase model is chosen. That makes it a big car, but one that somehow manages to disguise its bulk relatively well.

Bold lights at both the front and rear are quite different from what has gone before, but to these eyes the little ‘Dame Edna-esque’ accents on the front headlamps aren’t as successful as they could have been. I’m also not a fan of the chrome accents at the bottom of the doors or some of the wheel designs, but I guess this is subject to personal taste and greatly dependant on which paint scheme you prefer.

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Before the Sport launched, I found it hard to envisage how the Evoque and full-fat model’s styling would marry, and from some angles the prototype models looked a little odd. However in the metal, the Sport is easily the most attractive model in the Land Rover line-up, being both dynamic and beefy at the same time.

It also appears quite a bit more compact than its larger brother, and arguably more compact than the previous generation too. Standard 20-inch wheels get a little lost in the massive wheel arches, but 21’s and 22’s are not too an expensive option, and overall the Sport just looks great…a little less regal than the full-size Range Rover but more my cup of tea.

Interior and practicality

The Range Rover has long one of the plushest interiors on the market, but up until the current generation, the Sport had lagged a little behind in terms of design and cabin materials. Thankfully both cars now share a similar level of design excellence and quality materials.

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Metallic accents and real wood abound, as does soft leather on basically every surface. Land Rover has stuck to using a touchscreen system, which lags notably behind most similarly priced rivals in terms of usability and functionality — admittedly improved over recent years, InTouch is still quite laggy and complicated and is a slight blot on both model’s copybook.

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I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in both models, and the Range Rover definitely comes across as the the larger model — seated high up and with plenty of glass, visibility is great and the wide cabin means plenty of space for passengers both front and rear. Rear legroom is good, but if you’ve got long-legged kids then there is always the long wheelbase model.

The Sport’s cabin comes across as a lot more compact, thanks to a higher centre console and an actual gearshift lever (as opposed to the characteristically Jaguar/Land Rover dial on the larger model). I guess this is done to make you feel more engaged with driving, but I prefer the more throne-like arrangement of the full-fat model.

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A split tailgate is a traditional feature of Range Rovers, and the one on the current model is electronically powered too! Boot space is also a little larger, but Land Rover chose not to fit their flagship model with 7 seats as an option. Despite being smaller, the Sport can be fitted with 2 tiny optional rear seats — a pricey option but one which will appeal to a lot of family buyers. That could edge it for the Sport again, but for me it’s pretty much neck and neck.

Driving

I can’t genuinely pass comment on the way that either model drives, but having been a recent passenger in a previous generation Range Rover, and owning a BMW X5 myself (a main rival to the Sport), I am certain that there will be some noticeable differences between the two.

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Range Rovers are definitely set up more for comfort and relaxed cruising, and as such the raised ride height and soft suspension can make for a bit of a floaty driving experience. There is air-suspension as standard, but no specific sport mode to my knowledge…and that Range Rover’s size can make in-t0wn driving a little tricky.

The Sport is based on the same platform as the Range Rover (finally), but is definitely tuned for a more engaging driving experience — everything from the metal gear lever to the dynamic suspension mode suggest this. The lower driving position isn’t quite as lofty as the Range Rover, but still is taller than a lot of rival cars and still feels imperious.

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Overall I suspect that keener drivers would prefer the Sport and I’m happy to be included in that category, but those who prefer the loftier driving position of the Range Rover will be very happy with how their vehicle handles too.

Engines

Much like the underpinnings of the cars, engine line-ups have gone from being completely different to now very similar. Most UK buyers will opt for one of the diesel models, but the performance value of the petrol engines also has its attractions.

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In the Range Rover, diesel buyers can choose between a 3.0-litre TDV6 with 258hp, or a 4.4-litre SDV8 which has 339hp. Both offer reasonable performance (7.4 or 6.5 seconds from 0-60mph), but aren’t quite as racy as certain rivals like the BMW X5.

The Sport you can get with the same V8 diesel, but the 3.0-litre version is upgraded to 306hp and only takes 6.8-seconds to 60. There’s also a mild hybrid version, but the performance and fuel benefits are very small.

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You’d have to step up to Autobiography trim in both cars to get a V8 petrol, and it’s a 5.0-litre one that produces 510hp and can do 0-60 in just 5 seconds in the Sport, and 5.1 in the full-size Range Rover. The SVR Sport gets a boost to 550hp and takes 4.5 seconds to 60.

In reality most buyers will be best off with the 3.0-litre diesels in both cars, they will be cheapest to run and offer good real world performance…only oil sheikhs best apply for the SVR Sport!

Value for money and running costs

Neither of these are cheap cars to buy or run, and while fuel consumption has improved dramatically over the past 10 years, so have list prices jumped rather dramatically.

In terms of running costs, the diesel V6 and V8 versions of the Range Rover return 40.9 and 33.6mpg respectively, with the V8 petrol netting a terrible 21.6mpg. Road tax on the V6 diesel is £225, versus £290 for the V8 diesel and £505 for the V8 petrol. Servicing and parts ain’t cheap but there is a package available.

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The Sport’s figures are broadly similar to its larger brother’s — the diesel V6 and V8 return 40.4 and 33.6mpg respectively, and the standard V8 petrol gets 21.7mpg. The SVR surprisingly is the same on fuel as the less powerful V8, but in real life the addictive exhaust note is likely to see it as less economical.

In terms of how much they’ll cost to buy, the Sport’s prices start at around £62,000, and the Range Rover’s at around £75,000. Standard HSE trim in the Sport is pretty well equipped but there are plenty of expensive options. ‘Dynamic’ trim adds £5,000, Autobiography another £10,000, and from there you can add engines other than the SDV6 — £6,500 gets you any choice of engine, so the V8 diesel, V8 petrol or V6 diesel hybrid. The SVR however is £95,000, so another £11,000 or so.

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The Range Rover’s £75,000 can be raised by £7,000 off the bat with addition of the V8 diesel option, but stepping up to the Vogue SE model costs the same so you may prefer to do that instead and add a few more goodies. An additional £10,000 brings you Autobiography trim, and the option of both V6 diesel hybrid and V8 petrol models, that at £102,000 are around £11,000 more than the standard V6 diesel. A long wheelbase can’t be had with that engine, but is £106,250 with the V8 diesel…so around a £4,000 price increase. Top SVAutobiography trim is around a £50,000 option(!), but even then there’s a tonne of customisable features and companies out there to do it.

Personally I feel that both cars are a little overpriced, considering that around 10 years ago you could buy a Range Rover Sport for £35,000 and a full size one for around £45,000. Admittedly equipment and quality has increased, but the sweet spot in both ranges are definitely the base models with a few handy options…but I guess I’m not really the target market of either vehicle.

Verdict

If you’ve read this post in its entirety then it may not surprise you to learn that the Range Rover Sport is arguably my favourite car on sale today. Admittedly it’s not perfect — the interior tech still needs overhauling, mpg isn’t as good as rivals and neither is handling, plus it’s too expensive for my money too!

That said it’s possibly one of the most complete cars of its type, and offers so much that it’s not hard to see why it has been a runaway success. The full-size Range Rover is equally very talented and at the top of its game, but admittedly it doesn’t have that many rivals and therefore doesn’t come across as aggressively competitive…for me it doesn’t justify the price premium. If I won the lottery I’d probably own both though…

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