By AARON COLE
According to me, and my semi-official survey of everything on the road, I’d say the love affair with Range Rover and Land Rover appears to be at its end.
My nowhere-near, officially unofficial results are based entirely because the best-looking SUV on the planet has fewer rolling chassis on the road these days than Hudson Motor Car Company.
I’m speaking, of course, about the Range Rover Evoque, which looks better than Eva Longoria and drives better than her famous ex-husband Tony Parker ever will.
I don’t get it, America. Here is the best of both worlds: You get your coveted Range Rover badge and Greenpeace doesn’t lose a lung in the process.
Oh, and by the way, even Stevie Wonder would tell you that the two-door version is the best looking SUV ever created.
I just don’t get it. Furthermore, according to my unofficial counting methods of looking around at every odd stoplight, the Range Rover outsells the Evoque — like a bajillion-to-1.
Time to examine the car so many of you insist on buying, instead of the one I keep telling you to.
For starters, the 2012 Range Rover Sport is pretty much exactly like the 2011 Range Rover Sport, which was pretty much exactly like the 2010 Range Rover Sport. For that I admire Range Rover; they’ve got some kind of moxie over there. No need to update the design, they say, it was right the first time.
Which is to say that design is a one-handed Etch-a-Sketch user’s dream: big, boxy and devoid of anything resembling a curve.
From front-to-back the 2012 Range Rover Sport is designed to please only one person, the driver. Every inch of sheet metal is (still) asked to serve a purpose, which makes fashioning a Range Rover Sport like fashioning Bear Grylls.
Perhaps, I’ll conjecture further, that’s why it’s been so appealing to some people who have more money than, say, sense; uncompromising and functional is beautiful in design and delivery. Don’t believe me? Check the business pages and see how AAPL stock is doing these days.
However, when your aerodynamic benchmark is a barn door, certain truths emerge.
First, mileage suffers. Consider that our standard V8 Range Rover Sport managed fuel economy only somewhere in the teens — and that’s highway.
Second, it doesn’t matter if you stuff F1 suspension in the Range Rover, body roll is a way of life when the center of gravity is somewhere on par with LeBron James.
In that way, the Range Rover Sport isn’t suited for highway cruising per se.
Yes, it absolutely can shuttle you across the country, but you would need a natural affinity for gas station food (you’ll stop at a lot of those along the way) and you’d really need to hate the mountains (because that’s the only place the Range Rover makes sense.)
Maybe I’m biased, coming from a distinguished line of living in mountain states but I can’t imagine why on earth someone from Dayton, Ohio would ever need one of these things.
Our test model, the naturally aspirated V8 produces 375 horsepower and 375 ft.-lbs. of torque, which if you’re wondering, is all this car really needs.
If you’re the type that finds spending your money happening at a much slower pace than you’d like, there’s a supercharged version available that produces 510 horsepower and 460 ft.-lbs. of torque.
Curiously, the supercharged version only sacrifices 1 mpg city/highway for nearly 100 more horsepower, which means to me that the test drivers weren’t driving it nearly like I would. I mean, it powers the nearly 6,000-lb. car from 0-60 mph in fewer than 6 seconds, who wouldn’t goose it everywhere?
If beating sports cars off the line isn’t good enough for you, maybe you could take comfort in the Range Rover’s sumptuous interior?
If it weren’t for Land Rover’s unsurpassed legend of building Armageddon-ready wagons they’d be sought by every other carbuilder just to do interior alone.
But they are. So they’re not. Instead we’re left to drool over the capability of the Range Rover Sport.
(Which, I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, isn’t simply a “Range Rover Lite.” It’s a completely different animal altogether. So that, along with that rumor that gum takes 7 years to digest, can go to bed now.)
For starters, the SUV can raise or lower itself 2.1 inches to cope with off-road conditions. The base 6.8 inches of ground clearance means the Range Rover Sport can crawl over anything; the off-road setting’s 8.9 inches means it’s ready to crawl up the side of your house.
The increased ride height gives the Range Rover clearance under the carriage but also the 34/29/25 approach/departure/breakover angles mean that the SUV is short on body when it needs to be. In comparison, the ride height and entry angles are surpassed only by the Jeep Wrangler, which, while vastly less expensive, won’t chill your Chablis quite like the Range Rover Sport while you’re off-roading.
Add to the mix interesting sounding things like boron steel-enforced frames (a thing), hydro-formed body frames (another thing that’s a thing) and cross valving computer controlled suspension (is valving a word?) and one would be left with the most interesting, capable SUV in the world.
Well, at least the one that you’re willing to buy.
The other, most interesting SUV in the world is harder to spot in the wild than a white tiger.
Aaron Cole is a syndicated auto columnist. He knows he’s wrong, but he’d rather hear it from you. Reach him at email@example.com.