When Land Rover launched the new Range Rover in 2012, people had to recalibrate their expectations of the brand. In its attempt to push the Range Rover even more upmarket, Land Rover created an SUV that not only got Rolls-Royce anxious about its hush-quotient, but also made ATVs sweat about their go-anywhere promise. So, expectations from the next all-new Range Rover – the Sport – are understandably high. To see if the Sport can live up to its name and set a new standard, we took the bread-and-butter RR Sport with the 3-litre V6 diesel to tear up some tarmac and pitted it against Porsche’s cool and capable Cayenne. So did the Sport outdo the sportiest luxury SUV yet? Continued..
Sizing it up
Standing between an Evoque and the Range Rover, it is apparent how much the Sport draws from both its siblings The Evoque’s sleekness wrapped over massive Range Rover proportions gives the Sport a special road presence to make it stand out in a sea of automobiles.
Under the skin, the Sport uses a modified version of the Range Rover’s all-aluminium platform. The Sport isn’t considerably smaller than its elder sibling and, in fact, the wheelbase is a scant one millimetre longer on the Sport while the width is the same. Sure, it is shorter in length but what sets the Sport apart is its lower stance. In comparison to the Range Rover flagship, the Sport looks like it has been slammed to the ground, the tapering roofline tightly wrapping
Though the Sport is much more hunkered down than the regular Range Rover, it still has an upright design which gives the Sport an airy cabin that is enhanced further by the beige leather interior. The design is understated and uncluttered as it was on the Range Rover with luxury as a clear priority.
There is a sense of plushness everywhere you look or feel, be it in the way the indicator stalks work with a satisfying click, or the solid feel of the metal door handles. A 19-speaker Meridian sound system, perforated leather seats, three-zone climate control, 14-way adjustable front seats (yes, 14!), five camera angles, steering-mounted controls, a trick touch-screen that can display two different images at the same time, a full-length panoramic sunroof and a rear entertainment package with individual screens just go to show how loaded the Sport HSE trim is. In other markets, you can also opt for a third row of seats, but the decision hinges on how much you really need two extra seats as it involves jettisoning the spare wheel, and instead relying on a tyre repair kit. However, given the importance of the spare wheel in Indian conditions, Range Rover is not offering the 5+2 option as yet. Also, unless specified with a running board, older passengers will require a helping hand when getting in and out of the Range Rover, even with the height- adjustable suspension at its lowest setting. However, once perched inside, the view out of the cabin is simply panoramic.
If you peer out of the Range Rover Sport at the Porsche, the Cayenne will seem distinctly small. Although the tape measure will show that nose to tail the Cayenne matches the Sport for size, it is narrower and sits much lower. The soft, flowing lines and tumbling roofline are what make the Cayenne look compact and lighter still.
Standing next to the RR, the Cayenne seems almost humble in comparison. While you aren’t cramped for space, the Cayenne feels snug and intimate in comparison to the open and airy ambience of the Sport’s cabin.
There is a sense of occasion in the Cayenne’s cabin too. The centre console is littered with buttons that give the car a technical feel and the chrome accents strewn around the cabin look and feel rich. The omission of steering-mounted controls might gall some Cayenne buyers, but we would laud Porsche for sticking to the ethos that maintains purity of the driving experience. Eight-way adjustable seats and dual-zone climate control are offered as standard. However, the Cayenne too can be outfitted with a range of options from a 16-speaker Burmester sound system, a rear entertainment package, 18-way adjustable seats, four-zone climate control and many more. And the good thing is that even after ticking many of these options, the Cayenne’s price tag will undercut the Range Rover significantly.
The Porsche also springs a real surprise in the back seat as it offers better knee-room despite having a smaller wheelbase. It also offers better cushioned seats, although the transmission tunnel intrudes into the space available for the middle passenger. However, a serious blow to the Cayenne is that the diesel is offered only with a space saver. Also, unlike the Sport, the world over the Cayenne is a strictly two-row affair. Continued..
All this matters very little for the person looking to buy a vehicle named Sport. So how Sporty is it? First, let’s talk about what’s under the hood. The Sport’s 2115kg is propelled by a smooth and refined 3-litre V6 diesel. Its 288bhp and 61kgm are further multiplied by the acclaimed eight-speed automatic from ZF. So does this Range Rover live up to its youthful moniker?
Although driving the Sport is a job that anyone would willingly accept, it is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Don’t expect instant gratification below 2000rpm and you needn’t be too gentle with the throttle pedal either. The Sport gets properly into its stride in the midrange, pulling smoothly from 2500rpm to its 4300rpm redline. The laidback eight-speed ZF gearbox shifts ratios unhurriedly when pressed for a kickdown. It is on open highways that the Sport feels at home as it cruises happily with barely a hint of diesel rumble inside the cabin.
Now, if you quickly take a peek at the spec sheet, you’ll see that the Cayenne has roughly the same engine specs as the Sport but pumps significantly lesser power and torque. When you slip behind the wheel of the Cayenne after a stint in the RR Sport, you realise the cabin isn’t as isolated from the engine or road noise. But when it comes to driving, the Cayenne’s Audi-sourced 3-litre diesel is impressive. The motor feels intuitive, responding to your right foot with
the required mix of promptness and eagerness. Light taps of the throttle pedal help this SUV flow smoothly through traffic. At the same time, making a lunge for gaps or passing other vehicles is easily done as the punchy motor spins freely to 4600rpm.
The VBOX data shows the Cayenne to be quicker than the Sport. At 100kph, the gap is under a second, but by 160kph it has widened to a second and a half. The Cayenne keeps pace with the more powerful Sport in the dash from 20-80kph and edges past in the run from 40-100kph. Like the Range Rover, the Porsche too uses an eight-speed ZF gearbox but it feels like a different creature here. Keen and responsive, the gearbox actually sweetens the deal as it rips through gear-changes without making a hash of comfort. However, if you want to shift manually, the steering-mounted, push-pull rockers that replace traditional paddle-shifters will prove annoying to use.
Both SUVs come without adjustable damping; the Cayenne uses steel springs and the Range Rover is sprung with an air cushion. The Sport’s air suspension can be raised or lowered to three levels but it doesn’t adjust for a dynamic experience. Which means the soft and luxuriant low-speed ride doesn’t give way to a tighter and more controlled ride for higher speeds. The suspension tackles bad roads brilliantly and it’s only big potholes that shudder through.
High-speed shenanigans need to be tempered as there is some body roll but despite all its bulk, it’s quite easy to hustle the Sport. The accurate steering and responsive front end allow the big Sport to change direction with remarkable agility.
The Porsche, on the other hand, rides with a hint of firmness at low speeds and the road noise is more pronounced. The cabin is nowhere near as hushed as the Range Rover’s. Despite that, the ride is comfortable and becomes even more accommodating as speeds increase. On the highway, the Cayenne remains absolutely unflustered even as it darts around slower traffic. The Cayenne’s 215mm of ground clearance and 1705mm of height means it sits lower to the ground, so body roll is well contained. Nonetheless, the way this two-tonne SUV tears through corners is nothing short of staggering. The four-wheel-drive system transfers torque around the wheels to tighten and tidy your lines too. The crisp steering feels just right as the Cayenne sweeps through bends. Continued..
Cayenne and able
Quite simply, the Range Rover Sport is an excellent SUV that is best enjoyed in an unhurried way. If and when the need arises, you could drive it fast, but it is best enjoyed when driven in a more leisurely manner. Most owners won’t take it off-road but it’s when you get off the tarmac that it will go places the Cayenne wouldn’t dare venture.
On the other hand, the Porsche Cayenne offers you a reason to drive your heart out every time you get in it. Despite its sporting edge, the Cayenne is surprisingly practical. It is spacious, comfortable, and enjoyable to drive everyday too. If you want to be at the helm, then the Cayenne is it and a price tag that is nearly Rs 30 lakh lighter than that of the Sport only sweetens the deal.