AR traditionally prefers to test the more affordable models in a new product’s line-up before evaluating the flagship of a range, but some manufacturers bank on the halo effect of their top offerings. Thus the supercharged 5,0-litre V8-engined version of the Range Rover Sport was availed to us first (see the test in the February issue) and we were, quite literally, blown away by it. The arrival of a V6-powered model was met with a degree of trepidation by our testers, however.
You can’t blame us, really. As an entity, the sheer sense of occasion that emanates from the Sport’s every pore automatically lends itself to being a paragon of excess that is bigger, faster and louder than all other performance SUVs. The one thing you wouldn’t expect to hear is a less brash voice that calmly appeals for restraint. But in the 3,0 SCV6, that’s what we appear to have encountered.
Beneath that acreage of a bonnet lays a new engine based upon the V8’s all-alloy block that employs similar technologies such as variable-valve timing and direct fuel injection. Nestled between the cylinder banks is a Roots-type twin vortex supercharger with a water-cooled intercooler, an arrangement that’s said to be more compact than that of the supercharged 5,0 V8’s blower assembly.
Being two cylinders shy of its big brother, the V6’s outputs of 250 kW and 450 N.m are down 125 kW and 175 N.m and, on paper at least, don’t make for happy reading when you consider that it’s tasked with moving a car that weighs in just 73 kg lighter than the 2 445 kg V8 model we tested before.
Flooring the accelerator doesn’t result in an abrupt burst of forward momentum that sees your eyeballs rattling in your skull. In fact, below 2 000 r/min the engine seems to slightly strain against the Sport’s bulk.
We suspect that hint of hesitance in forward momentum could be as much a symptom of the transmission calibration as the Sport’s sheer heft, especially given a supercharged engine’s tendency to smoothly deliver on low-end power. But, in the overwhelming majority of driving scenarios, the eight-speed ZF unit meshes brilliantly with the engine and never succumbs to frantic ratio hunting.
While the power isn’t delivered with the V8’s vicious kick, instead billowing smoothly upward, it’s by no means benign. This Sport model’s fairly calm demeanor belies the engine’s impressive mid-to high-rev strength, to the extent that the split-second lull is largely annulled by the 7,59-second 0-100 km/h sprint time.
For all it’s sense of occasion, the flagship model was almost overwhelmed by the ferocity of the V8’s performance, as if stomping on the gas severed the Sport’s otherwise impressively balanced driving experience. The V6’s more measured nature never instills a notion that the engine is running away from the car, leaving you to revel in the ample grip and surprising agility of this Range Rover.
The new engine takes up the V8’s mantle of smoothness and refinement by implementing a series of counter-rotating front and rear balancer weights. Those measures work a treat; providing smooth progress and ably suppressing engine noise when cruising. But the aural result of opening the taps is still satisfying: a staccato metallic snarl punctuated by a hint of ‘blower whistle.
We suppose that those in the market for a Sport won’t be overly troubled by the cost of fuelling this leviathan, but given recent petrol price hikes, economy’s becoming more of a consideration. The V6 came into its own in terms of fuel economy, returning 12,4 litres/100 km on our fuel route; the V8 consumed a comparatively alcoholic 14,0 litres/100 km.
Otherwise, the tenets of the Sport experience remain intact. There’s still that imposing frame, looking especially fetching in its orangey metallic hue. The cabin is as opulently leather-lined, chrome-accented and, in HSE guise, toweringly equipped as you’d wish for and the air-sprung ride still wafts over most surfaces, only getting flummoxed by closely knit ripples and large road scars.
The adoption of the new motor doesn’t appear to have dented the Sport’s core values, instead adding an interesting new facet to the range. In fact, this engine’s capability in a challenging role even had some members of the team pondering whether anything more is necessary.
That said, this model’s price sticker sits only R200 000 or so from the V8’s. By using the manufacturer’s online configurator, we’ve discovered the entry-level V6 S model can be moderately specced to a more palatable R900 000.
But perhaps the greatest challenge the V6 encounters is the perceptions of the uninitiated buyer who will probably want to go the full-fat route. Essentially, the V8 model is the one you want, but the V6 is probably the one you should have.