2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Introduction

The Range Rover Sport fits between the Land Rover LR4 and the flagship Range Rover in the Land Rover lineup, bridging the gap from a price standpoint. The Sport is the shortest of the three, both in overall length and in height, and it's built on a shorter wheelbase. And it only seats five.

Range Rover Sport was substantially revised for the 2010 model year with fresh styling, a new 5.0-liter V8 and 6-speed automatic transmission, more luxurious interior, safety enhancements, additions to the Terrain Response system, and a new surround camera system designed to aid towing and driving off road.

The 2011 Range Rover Sport lineup gets a new GT Limited Edition model in Fuji white with special trim inside and out and added luxury features.

Compared with the big Range Rover, the Sport is seven inches shorter overall, on a wheelbase that's five inches shorter. It's a little narrower. And the roof is lower. Priced about $20,000 less, it's less luxurious inside and slightly less roomy. The Sport and Land Rover LR4 share platforms, drive systems, suspension, and powertrain. The Sport boasts more standard equipment, more upscale styling, and generally a more luxurious approach to the same mission: go anywhere, do anything, in any weather. The Sport rides on a 108-inch wheelbase, five inches shorter than that of the LR4. So it may seem neither here nor there.

But the Sport has been rolling in accolades. Most recently, it was a double winner at Mudfest, a long-running annual competition for SUVs, put on by the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Twenty-three Northwest automotive journalists voted it SUV of the Year, and also, in the sub-class, Luxury SUV of the Year. Meanwhile, the Land Rover LR4, the Range Rover Sport's fraternal twin, won Off-Road SUV of the Year.

It's powered by the same engine as the Range Rover and LR4, a compact new 32-valve V8 made by Jaguar that's gotten rave reviews after its first year. It makes 375 horsepower and 375 foot-pounds of torque, which we found to be plenty during our test drive of the Range Rover HSE.

The hotrod Range Rover Sport Supercharged model pumps out 510 horsepower and 461 foot-pounds of torque. It's the latest generation of Eaton supercharger, a twin vortex, with dual intercoolers.

All models use a smooth and quick-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission that was new for 2010, with Normal, Sport and Manual modes. It has a two-speed transfer case that can be shifted on the fly, with a low range that will drive the vehicle through unimaginably rugged offroad conditions, using the magical Terrain Response system.

Contrasting stitching has been added to the leather upholstery in 2011, but the standard sound system on the HSE has been downgraded from a 480-watt, 14-speaker harman/kardon with 6 CD storage, to a 240-watt, 9-speaker harman/kardon single CD.

The Range Rover Sport competes in the crowded midsize luxury sport utility vehicle segment with the Acura MDX, Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Audi Q7, BMW X5, Volvo XC90, Infiniti FX, Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Toureg, and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

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