The popularity of the Range Rover brand in the United States makes it a coveted acquisition. Yes, the storied marque from the United Kingdom is fit for Kings and Queens, and also for successful entrepreneurs and cognoscenti from around the world. As a previous owner of a 2012 Range Rover, I understand first-hand the allure of Range Rover and the Land Rover brand, and it only gets better with the all-new 2023 Range Rover Sport. Pursuitist recently traveled to Madrid, Spain to check out the new “Range.”
The first historical record of Madrid dates back to the year 865, when Emir Muhammad I commissioned the construction of a fortress in the village of Mayrit, on the banks of the river Manzanares. ‘Mayrit’ means ‘plenty of waterways’, which is why the city’s first recorded coat of arms read, ‘I was built on water / My walls are made of fire / This is my flag and my coat of arms’. Madrid belonged to the Islamic world until 1083, when Alfonso VI of Castile took over the city.
Few vestiges have remained from this era. On Calle Mayor, next to the Institute of Italian Culture, there used to stand the Grand Mosque and, most probably, as in every Muslim city, the souk. On the site of the former mosque rose the Church of Santa María, of which some remains can still be seen. Close by, on Cuesta de la Vega, parts remain of the old town walls that enclosed the citadel. It was inside these walls that Christians found a statuette of Virgin Mary with a candle that had been burning for over four hundred years at the time they seized the area. Almudena, derived from the Arabic al-mudayna that translates as ‘the little city’ or ‘citadel’, has been, since then, the name mostly used by Madrileños to refer to the Virgin.
In a city with such storied history, there are scores of historical sites to visit. In the Medieval District of Madrid, be sure to visit the National Archaeological Museum, with a collection of decorative objects from the Visigoth Kingdom of Toledo to the late Middle Ages.
Historic Madrid served as the perfect backdrop for our test drive of the new Range Rover Sport. And why not? We found the Spanish capital city to be full of life and verve, with a population that is courteous and welcoming, but at the same time they understand the value of “the good life.” Madrid’s streets are always bustling, with cafes and bars full until the early morning hours, no matter the day of the week. Madrid is a great walking city, but also totally accessible via ride-share, taxi, and public transportation. We felt 100% safe while there.
The full-luxe Madrid Edition Hotel served as our base in Madrid. The hotel showcases 177 rooms, 21 spacious suites and two penthouses with modern decor and posh detailing. Some suites feature stunning views of the Royal Palace, the Almudena Cathedral and Gran Vía with many offering a panoramic view of the Descalzas Square. The Madrid Edition also features a signature restaurant, Sky Bar and rooftop terrace, outdoor pool, and fitness center and spa.
The service and amenities at Madrid Edition were first rate, and the hotel is conveniently located with walking distance of great restaurants, high-end shopping, and aforementioned historic landmarks.
Es Hora de Conducir!
Yes, it was time to explore and drive the Range Rover Sport. The Sport, now in its third generation, is all new for the 2023 model year. Though it shares the same platform as the Range Rover, it’s a bit shorter but is the same width.
Range Rover Sport Styling
The new Sport’s styling in a word is gorgeous. My initial reaction given its overall great looks and proportions was “they must have us driving the new Range Rover before we drive the Sport.” It’s big, bad and ruggedly handsome. Our test rig was adorned with Firenze Red paint, with a blackout roof and side pillars. Up front, wicked-looking LED Daytime Running Lamps sweep below full LED headlights, and flank the blackout upper grille. The lower grille is also blacked out, and sits between air intakes which enhance brake cooling. Ten spoke, 23-inch gloss black wheels add to the side view, highlighted by a tall beltline. At the rear, the blackout theme continues on the roof spoiler (which sits behind two GPS roof antennas) and lower diffuser housing chromed quad exhaust tips. The rear tail/brake light band sits high on the hatch lid, giving height to a design that works from every angle. Cool features include deployable door handles with proximity sensing, soft door close and approach unlock. The walkaway lock helps ensure security.
Range Rover Sport Interior
Even at my prodigious 6’9” height, the front row of the new Sport is a very good place to be, thanks in part to increased leg and knee room over the previous model, as well as superbly comfortable 22-way adjustable, heated and ventilated memory front seats with massage function and winged headrests.
A new air purification system named Cabin Air Purification Pro is optional. It combines high filtration and advanced technology to significantly reduce odors, bacteria and allergens, including viruses. An advanced carbon dioxide management function allows owners to purify the cabin before a journey, or while they are driving, which helps with driver alertness.
Powerful Meridian audio systems are available, and the 1,430-watt Meridian Signature Sound System is the most advanced audio system ever fitted to a Range Rover Sport. It features 29 speakers, including subwoofer and four headrest speakers that enable those travelling in the four main seats of the vehicle to experience personal sound zones. Active noise cancelling helps to reduce the effect of road and tire noise entering the cabin.
In normal driving, microphones and accelerometers inside each wheel arch constantly monitor the sounds passing into the vehicle, while digital processors calculate the level of noise-cancelling sound required to filter this from the cabin – much like a pair of high-end headphones.
Luxury vehicle manufacturers are investing big money into all-out infotainment systems, and Land Rover is no exception. Consider the new “Pivi Pro” system found in the Sport.
Pivi Pro features an easy-to-use interface with a home screen that can be personalized to include most frequently used functions, while the majority of features are accessed within just two taps of the main screen. Haptic feedback enhances the system by reducing the need for the driver to take their eyes off the road to confirm their selection. The Pivi Pro screen features a 13.7-inch interactive display, with high-definition graphics that echo the main Pivi system, and a reconfigurable layout so drivers can see the information that’s most important to them.
Alexa is embedded in Pivi Pro and is activated by saying “Alexa” or tapping the Alexa button on the touchscreen.
Alexa works without a smartphone – all owners need to do is log in via their Amazon account for the vehicle’s built-in eSIMs to provide connectivity. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Wireless Android Auto are both standard.
Range Rover Sport Performance and Drive Experience
For U.S.-bound Sports, several drivetrains are available, all with Intelligent All-Wheel Drive (iAWD), and mated to an eight speed automatic transmission as standard equipment. The top performance engine is an all-new 4.4-liter V8 twin turbocharged motor outputting 523 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque. Zero to 60 mph comes up in a scant 4.3 seconds. The engine is sourced from BMW, and is the same engine found in the X5 M550i. Why the Bimmer mill? Because like many other manufacturers, Land Rover is moving quickly towards a full-electric future. By 2024, you will be able to choose from the first of six new all-electric Land Rover models, with a full electric Ranger Rover Sport expected to be the first model released for sale.
If you want partial electrification now, you have several choices:
- P360 SE – Mild Hybrid 3.0-liter turbocharged straight six with 355 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque (MSRP $83,000)
- P400 SE Dynamic – Mild Hybrid 3.0-liter turbocharged straight six with 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque (MSRP $90,000)
- P440e Plug-in Hybrid –This configuration mates the 0 liter turbo six-cylinder with a 105kW electric motor and 31.8 kWh battery, producing a total system output of 434hp and 619 lb-ft of torque. Zero-60 mph time is 5.5 seconds. Fuel economy is estimated at 51 MPGe (MSRP $104,200). All-electric range is an estimated 48 miles with fully charged battery. P360 & P400 range is estimated at 20 city/25 highway mpg and P530 estimated 15 city/ 20 highway mpg
Except for off-roading in the P400 SE, I spent most of my test time in the so-called “First Edition” trim, featuring the aforementioned V8 twin-turbo powertrain and an MSRP of $121,500.
Road manners in the V8 powered version are super impressive, and benefit from new advanced chassis technologies and the inherent stiffness and strength of the new flexible mixed-metal architecture (MLA-Flex) – which provides up to 35 percent higher torsional stiffness than the previous Range Rover Sport. Additional chassis and suspension enhancements include:
- New Dynamic Response Pro, unique to First Edition, works hand-in-hand with Dynamic Air Suspension, which features switchable-volume air springs. Dynamic Response Pro helps provide roll control via a 48-volt electronic active roll control system, capable of applying up to 1000 lb-ft of torque across each axle, providing high levels of body control and cornering composure
- Dynamic Air Suspension enhances the bandwidth of the suspension. This works by varying the pressure within the chambers (higher pressure provides stiffer damping) to deliver traditional Range Rover comfort with the dynamic handling expected from the Range Rover Sport. To optimize responses, the vehicle monitors the road ahead using eHorizon navigation data to pre-emptively prime for upcoming curves
- Adaptive Dynamics 2 technology contributes to dynamic capability by continuously controlling the Active Twin Valve Dampers to reduce unwanted body movements
- Cornering agility is enhanced with All-Wheel Steering, Torque Vectoring by Braking and an Electronic Active Differential. All-Wheel Steering provides rear-wheel steering of up to 7.3 degrees out of phase with the front wheels to achieve enhanced agility and maneuverability at low speeds, while turning in-phase for enhanced stability at high speeds, giving the new Sport a tight turning circle and sports-car like agility
Legendary Land Rover off-road capability continues in the new Sport, as it is outfitted with Land Rover’s latest Terrain Response 2 system, which applies the most appropriate settings for the terrain. On a special off-road course and driving P400 SE trim, we experienced a really cool feature called Adaptive Off-Road Cruise Control. It helps drivers navigate tricky terrain by maintaining steady progress according to the ground conditions. Drivers can select one of four comfort settings and the system adjusts the speed accordingly, allowing the driver to focus on steering. Our trail was full of large rocks, so being able to concentrate on steering was a great help. The system is impressive and confidence building for newbies and a solid convenience for dedicated off-roaders.
Range Rover Sport Safety
Key standard safety systems include driver-focused Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. All models are fitted with Emergency Braking, 3D Surround Camera, Wade Sensing, ClearSight Ground View and Maneuvering Lights, Cruise Control, Driver Condition Monitor, Lane Keep Assist and Traffic Sign Recognition; as well as expected safety gear like multiple airbags, electronic stability control and much more.
This new Range Rover portends a solid future for the brand. Perhaps the feature that will appeal to Range devotees is the ability to flash over 60 critical sensor and monitoring systems via Software Over The Air (SOTA) capability. This means any software issues can be rectified without owners having to visit the dealership, provided they opt-in to the service. As a big fan of the brand and former Range Rover owner, this is huge, and should catapult the brand’s reliability scores.
Pursuitist automotive and lifestyle contributor Brian Armstead has been involved in print, radio, web and television for over 47 years. Brian has traveled to 79 countries. He is a North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year (NACTOY) Juror.