2011 Land Rover Ranger Rover Sport
Base price: $60,495 – $86,395
As tested: $68,495
MPG: 13 city/18 highway
- Luxuriously appointed
- World-class off-road capabilities
- Fun to see how the other side lives
- So completely excessive
- Dismal gas mileage
- Price is way out of my league
By Jim Prueter
2011 Land Rover, Ranger Rover Sport: Shamelessly Excessive, Completely Addictive
How you react to the Range Rover Sport depends on what kind of person you are. No doubt some are going to be put off by the complete and utter excess of a vehicle that gets horrible gas mileage while leaving a huge carbon footprint. Still, others drool over the enormously comfortable, expensive, commanding vehicle kitted with more leather and wood than a Wall Street boardroom.
The favorite SUV of professional (fill in the sport of your choice here) players and Hollywood elite, the Range Rover comprises a category that features world-class amenities, limousine comfort, classic good looks, gorgeous interiors, and the proper British etiquette. Yet beneath the pretty face is a 4x4 with capabilities unmatched by anything else on four wheels.
Recently, a brand spanking new 2011 Range Rover Sport showed up in my driveway for a pleasurable week-long test drive so that I might share my opinion with prospective buyers.
So here on this page, I confess that I can be counted in the latter category mentioned above, and view the Range Rover as an object of licentious lust — a state of mind I refuse to apologize for but remain conflicted about. Maybe I’m weak to be so drawn to the magnificent piece of four-wheel rolling art or feel the magnetic pull to test the extreme off-road limits these vehicles are advertised to deliver?
My initial intent was to make every effort to lose myself in the seldom-used mining trails of Arizona’s Sonoran desert and prodigious boulder-sodden desert washes. Replete with 375 horsepower from the 5.0-liter V8 and 375 pound-feet of torque, permanent four-wheel drive with electronic traction control, a two-speed electronic transfer box, a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission, 20-inch wheels, and four-corner electronic air-suspension affording more than 11 inches of ground clearance, the off-roading is as effortless as pulling up to valet park at the Four Seasons.
But is the Range Rover simply too pretty to bury its designer alloy wheels up to its box-steel ladder-frame in mud or to ford a stream with water halfway up the glossy Zermatt Silver exterior finish?
I jumped behind the wheel and slowly intoxicated myself with the aroma of the heavily bolstered premium Windsor leather heated and cooled seats, push-buttoned the V8 to life, and instantly transformed myself into a celebrity.
Ridiculous of course, but my guess is that most Range Rovers will experience few obstacles more challenging than a gravel driveway or an annoying unpatched pothole. But that’s exactly the mystique the Range Rover Sport carries; it’s opulently decadent, yet possesses world-class off-road capability. Either way these beautiful vehicles are easy to like and the feeling only grows stronger as you spend more time with it.
For 2011, Range Rover Sport comes in four flavors: HSE and HSE LUX, both powered by a 5.0-liter naturally aspirated direct-injection 375-horsepower V8, the 510-horsepower Supercharged, and the new for 2011 Autobiography Sport, also supercharge powered. All versions come with a six-speed automatic transmission and a manual-shift mode.
Much of the Sport’s off-road hardware is shared with the Land Rover LR4, including the platform, three-mode air suspension, and access height (affording a step-in lower by 1.6 inches for ease of ingress and egress).
The other key operating system is the Terrain Response System, which uses pictographs on a selector knob located on the center console to match the setting to driving conditions: boulder for off road, cactus for desert, snow flake for slippery conditions, etc.
After a week of putting the Sport through its paces, it’s easy to conclude that it does everything you ask of it and more. Whether pounding it off road or gliding it in for valet parking, it’s simply a remarkable vehicle.
But the brand isn’t without its problems or shortcomings. It has a horrendous reputation for reliability with repairs beyond expensive. Most owners I’ve spoken with claim they would never consider owning one that wasn’t completely covered by factory warranty. And they are hugely expensive to buy and operate, with our tester returning 13/18-mpg city/highway fuel economy.
For now at least, the brand remains luxuriously and properly British since the brand was purchased from Ford in 2008 by Tata Motors, part of a Mumbai, India-based multinational conglomerate that also acquired Jaguar. Given the United State’s increasingly stringent CAFÉ (corporate average fuel economy) of 30.2 mpg for 2011 and up to 35.5 by 2016, one has to wonder if the U.S. market is anywhere in Land Rover’s future. Currently, Land Rover does not have a diesel or a hybrid in its U.S. product portfolio.
Still, the Range Rover Sport remains the darling of celebrities and even with the current recession, sales are up 10 percent over last year.