Soon after the SUV craze took hold in the early 1990s, the GMC Typhoon emerged, a performance model like none other. Based on the GMC Jimmy, a turbocharged 4.3-liter V6 engine enabled it to move from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, which is comparable to what sports cars attained during that era.
Though the Typhoon’s two-year run was certainly a short-lived one, it placed in the mind of automotive executives the world over that SUVs and performance were no longer mutually exclusive. Fast forward to today and nearly every automotive brand is selling SUVs and offering performance variants.
Land Rover, itself an SUV brand, has long had the off-road credentials that others can only aspire to. They also have performance models, including the 2015 Range Rover Sport Supercharged, one of the fastest SUVs in the world. I had the good fortune to drive one, and it is a performance model that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Lift the Hood
The Range Rover Sport offers two engines and both come supercharged: a 3.0-liter V6 makes 310 horsepower and a 5.0-liter V8 makes 510 horsepower. Choose the SVR version and the V8 is tweaked further to produce a monstrous 550 horsepower.
Suffice to say, I had the “tamer” version of the beefy V8, but that was no sad consolation. This engine also bangs out 461 pound-feet of torque and is paired with a ZF-supplied, eight-speed automatic transmission with normal, sport and manual shift modes.
With its Eaton twin vortex supercharger, dual intercoolers and direct injection working in unison, you can hit 60 mph from a dead stop in about five seconds. That’s just a half-second slower than the SVR version.
The Range Rover Sport takes premium grade gasoline and is rated at 14/19 mpg city/highway. You should manage more than 400 miles on a tank of fuel due to its 27.7-gallon fuel tank.
In the Cabin
Range Rover represents the top of the line for Land Rover and it shows in the Range Rover Sport. Standard seating is for five, although you can order a pair of jump seats to form a third row. That decision means losing generous cargo space and providing seating fit only for small children. I recommend bypassing this option.
Range Rover interiors are some of the finest around and the Sport does not disappoint. The expansive cabin is elegant and marked by perforated leather seats, aluminum trim and 14-way power front seats with lumbar support and adjustable bolsters, the latter feature most welcome as you put this Range Rover through the paces.
Besides the usual power accessories, every model comes with a power tilt and telescopic steering column, driver and front passenger memory settings, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power-operated liftgate, a sliding panoramic roof with a power blind, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat and aluminum kick plates with Range Rover lettering. You also get an 8-inch touch-screen display and a 250-watt, eight-speaker audio system.
Choose the Dynamic package and your Range Rover is outfitted with perforated Oxford leather and stainless steel pedals, as well as exclusive exterior updates including 21-inch wheels, 20-inch brake calipers, a grille finisher and headlight embellishments.
On the Road
Driving the Range Rover Sport Supercharged blends the best of an upscale interior with stout off-road capabilities and mixes in high-end performance. It receives a superior score in all three categories, a rare and winning combination of all things SUV.
Because the Range Rover comes outfitted with a supercharged engine, it relies on forced induction just like a turbocharged engine would. However, a turbocharger provides a boost somewhat higher in the RPM range, while a supercharger typically kicks in lower. In this case it begins to reach its top performance at 2,500 rpm and maintains it up to 5,500 rpm.
Some may argue that a supercharger does not have the performance lag of a turbocharger. And that is true as the turbocharger is hooked to the engine manifold and is driven by exhaust gases while the supercharger is mounted to the engine and utilizes a pulley that works in tandem with the accessory belt. Certainly, there is no lag, but your anticipation of the boost kicking in may give you at least the perception of lagging.
Perceptions aside, this robust Range Rover Sport delivers. Its off the mark acceleration is excellent and it keeps on giving well above highway speeds. Take it on the twisty roads, however, and the SUV’s mass becomes evident.
Although you definitely will hug the corners and stay planted, you will sense some body roll. This is no Jaguar F-Type, but when it comes to steering, handling and gutsy performance, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better performer among SUVs. This model benefits from a Terrain Management System that, when operated in Dynamic mode, provides tighter body control, reduced roll and improved steering and performance.
The Range Rover Sport Supercharged’s only strong rival is the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S; both vehicles have lapped the famous Nürburgring Formula One course in Germany. I’ve been told that the SVR edition is faster than the Porsche, but the proof of that needs to be demonstrated on the track.
Choose a Range Rover Sport and you are making a serious investment in a motorized conveyance. The base model with the smaller supercharged engine retails for $63,350. The model as tested begins at $79,995. With multiple package upgrades, including a Meridian audio system, tow package, Comfort and Dynamic packages, the test model topped $91,000. Choose the Autobiography edition and your final price can top $100,000.
If you are not convinced that you need that much power, the base model is a smart place to begin. I have driven Land Rover and Jaguar models with the supercharged V6 and found no lack of power with any product. You will also enjoy a slight benefit in fuel economy, achieving 17/22 mpg city/highway.
The current Range Rover Sport has been on sale since the 2014 model year, and a quick look at our Used Car Listings indicates that a Supercharged model can be had for roughly $70,000. Choose the previous generation (2006-2013) and you should have no trouble finding a 2- to 3-year-old Range Rover Sport for around $45,000.
As a status symbol the Range Rover Sport Supercharged delivers the goods. That you can take it off road or challenge sports cars are bonuses that should not be easily dismissed.