Just back from one of the most agreeable 'dawn patrol' drives I've been on in a long, long time. No, it wasn't a sports car on a perfectly manicured road outside Mumbai. And no, the car in question didn't exactly live up to the badge on the rear deck either, but boy oh boy, am I blown away by it. Allow me to elaborate.
As you must have guessed from the picture, the car or SUV in question is the expensive but attractive Range Rover Sport; a car I missed out driving when it was with us the first time around. What I absolutely love about it, straight off the bat, is the fact that it does luxury better than anything I've driven in recent times. And then there's the old world charm offensive that's off the charts. In fact, it's so good it reminds me of nothing less than a Rolls. Maybe it's the bluff, cliff like nose, the supple leather swatches that seem to spill over the dash, the big blocks of wood or the bars of chrome on the inside; it's just sinful.
To complete the illusion, it rides like a Roller too. With the huge weight squishing it down, the Sport just floats over even Mumbai's worst roads. And when I say float, I mean float. Then there's the engine and gearbox; pure Bristol cream. The diesel is so creamy and smooth, I sneak a quick confirmatory glance at the tachometer the first time I pull it hard. And it's not enough that it's as smooth as rabdi, what really blew my socks off was how seamlessly it surged forward, pinning me to the seat.
What sets it apart is that unlike many of the German cars in its class, it has bags and bags of flair and character. And that, in my book, is worth trading some ability for. Brilliant but bland is good, but to be truly memorable and enjoyable you need real character. And the Sport has it. It's why the Rolls-Royce Phantom succeeded and the Maybach didn't.
Of course, there is that niggling issue of that badge; 'Sport'. Now, in an ideal world, rule number one, if you want to build something with a badge that says 'Sport' on the rear, it should read "don't hire an architect to design it". Don't get me wrong, as automotive two-storied houses go, the Sport really hits the spot. It's distinctive, hugely imposing and has a presence like you wouldn't believe: it even gets normally blazé Mumbaikars all warmed up and craning their necks. Rule number two, of course should be walk the talk. So, again, if you're going to call it Sport, please, please give the beast an appropriately sporty suspension; the active rear anti roll bars and the torque vectoring hardware seem to be missing on this car. Yes, the steering is beautifully weighted and it willingly turns into corners, but it does roll quite a bit.
Still, what a peach.