Land Rover will unveil the production version of the Range Rover Sport at next month's Detroit Motor Show. It will be launched in South Africa later next year.

Land Rover will unveil the production version of the Range Rover Sport at next month's Detroit Motor Show. It will be launched in South Africa later next year.

Known as project L320 within the Solihull-based company, the Sport was inspired by the Range Stormer concept (shown at the Detroit Show earlier this year) and although it bears a resemblance to the Range Rover, it is based on the underpinnings of the new Discovery, which was launched to the South African media in October and will go on sale locally by mid-2005.

When the Sport goes on sale, it will be the fifth nameplate for the brand and complement the Range Rover. The flagship model will be fitted with an uprated version of Jaguar's 4,2-litre supercharged V8 engine (producing 287 kW and 550 N.m of torque), and ZF six-speed automatic gearbox that offers CommandShift and electronically-selectable low range.

The Range Rover Sport is instantly recognisable, with its elaborate wheel-arches, raked roof, and tailgate-mounted rear spoiler. The Range Rover's "floating roof" look and clamshell bonnet have been retained. However, the bonnet castellations have been smoothed away and the windscreen given a more acute angle.

Inside, the sporty five-seater is finished in leather and wood, with metallic inserts. There is a high, sweeping centre console and the seats were tailored for a more sporty and supportive fit. Adaptive cruise control (its first Land Rover application), bi-xenon adaptive front lighting, satellite navigation, audio systems by Harman Kardon and a twin-screen DVD entertainment system, with high-resolution screens enclosed in the front seat head rests, will be available.

"It is the best 'driver's vehicle' that Land Rover has ever made," said Matthew Taylor, Land Rover's managing director. "The cockpit is more cocooning than the SUV norm. The emphasis on the driving experience will make the Range Rover Sport an attractive proposition to those who currently drive luxury executive cars or more sporty SUVs".

Compared with the new Discovery, the Range Rover Sport's wheelbase is 14 cm shorter and air suspension is standard on all models. The double-wishbone suspension has been tweaked for a sporty ride and handling and a speed-proportional variable ratio steering mechanism added.

Terrain Response, an electronic management system that governs the operation of the engine, gearbox, air suspension, drivetrain, traction control and brakes to best suit conditions, will be carried over from the Discovery range. The driver uses a six-position dial to select Dynamic (for high speeds or winding tarmac roads), Normal (for day-to-day driving), Grass/gravel/snow (for slippery conditions) or Sand; Deep ruts; Rocks (for extreme low grip terrains).

One of the system's settings, Dynamic, senses cornering forces and acts to optimise body control and handling in open road driving. The system decouples off-road, to allow greater wheel articulation during tough all-terrain driving, Land Rover says.

Other electronic systems offered on the Range Rover Sport will include brake assist, dynamic stability control, hill descent control and, on the supercharged version, four-piston Brembo front brakes will be standard.

Other models in the range will have either a normally-aspirated a 4,4-litre V8 (which produces 224 kW and 424 N.m of torque) or a 142 kW 2,7-litre turbodiesel unit that pushes out maximum torque of 440 N.m.