Over the past five years, demand for high-end utility vehicles – whether crossovers like the BMW X6 or SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne – has been growing faster than almost any other type of vehicle.
Of them all, we like the 2010 Range Rover Sport Supercharged by Land Rover the best.
Sure, the version we recently tested costs more than $80,000 and gets only 12 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway, but that’s middle of the pack in this rarefied group.
What won us over is that the Range Rover Sport is a true off-road vehicle, with an engineering heritage proven over decades of being the vehicle of choice for explorers, scientists and international peacekeepers. Against this standard, the others are Johnny-come-latelies.
In the Land Rover lineup, the Range Rover Scout is positioned just below the full-on Range Rover.
But with its new Supercharged V-8 engine – shared with top-of-the-line Jaguars – and its recently upgraded interior fittings, we think it offers the best value for the price among Land Rovers, as well as in the overall SUV market.
On the highway, the 510-horsepower vehicle offers acceleration capable of staying with anything in the five-passenger class. The Brembo brakes and high-performance suspension compare favorably to those in the best sports cars.
Off-road, however, is where this vehicle gains top honors. With five different terrain modes to choose from, two-speed transfer case and hill descent control managing the permanent four-wheel-drive system, this vehicle can get you places that few other civilian four-wheelers would attempt.
Sitting behind the steering wheel, you could be in any luxury sedan on the market – were it not for the flat surfaces and practical control knobs that tell you Land Rover of England designed this car.
The interior oozes understated elegance with its leather, wood and chrome surfaces, and the easy-to-understand controls feel good under your hand.
What we liked: Power and handling, interior appointments, including standard navigation, backup camera and iPod plug; 7,000-pound trailer-towing capability; and elegant interpretation of traditional styling.
What we didn’t like: Inconvenient placement of DVD drive for optional rear-seat entertainment screens; optional 20-inch alloy wheels that protrude outside tires; and awkward placement of seat-adjustment controls.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a fully capable off-road utility and towing vehicle equally at home on the highway or in the valet-parking line, they don’t come any better.