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Range Rover SportIt’s Sat­urday night — after mid­night, in fact, so tech­nic­ally Sunday morn­ing — and Wellington’s infam­ous strip, oth­er­wise known as Cour­tenay Place, is pump­ing. Teens and 20-somethings bounce off each oth­er on the packed pave­ments; taxi drivers play dodgems with drunk­en youths as they weave through slow-mov­ing traffic seem­ingly without pause for thought; and for once it’s a warm even­ing, which adds to the rev­elry and party atmosphere.

Amongst the mêlée, the Range Rover Sport, strik­ing in deep char­coal hues and killer 22in rims, makes quite an impact. Sur­pris­ing? You might reas­on­ably expect that the nat­ur­al hab­it­at of such a large and cap­able off-road­er would be the vast Can­ter­bury Plains, or rarely explored tracks deep in the South Island, rather than Wellington’s urb­an night­spot. But thanks to the influ­ence of hip hop and oth­er pop­u­lar cul­ture, the Ran­gie is just as syn­onym­ous with glam­our and bling.

The Sport sits on the same wheel­base as its big broth­er, the Range Rover Vogue, launched back in 2012 to crit­ic­al acclaim. But the Sport sits lower, and its roofline has a marked rake that makes it appear — at least in my mind — quite a bit smal­ler and more dynam­ic than its high-rid­ing sibling.

The SDV6 Auto­bi­o­graphy test vehicle retails for around $155k, and sits about middle of the pack in terms of the dies­el range, but still car­ries a reas­on­able premi­um over the entry-level TDV6 Vogue SE, which starts at $125k. The extra invest­ment secures 215kW (25kW more than the TDV6) and a genu­inely impress­ive 600Nm of torque. It’s also sig­ni­fic­antly light­er than its pre­de­cessor, shed­ding sev­er­al hun­dred kilos in its new guise.

When you sit behind the wheel, there’s no deny­ing the Sport is still a big vehicle, seem­ingly dwarf­ing vir­tu­ally everything else on the road. But it doesn’t take long for it simply to shrink around the driver, and it feels remark­ably agile. It’s frankly incred­ible how com­posed the Range Rover feels even when tack­ling tight corners and poor cam­bers, and it’s a sheer test­a­ment to both the soph­ist­ic­ated dynam­ics of the car and the suc­cess of all the elec­tron­ic aids that it works so well.

And it’s quick. From stand­still, the big Ran­gie will get off the line with sur­pris­ing haste, effi­ciently work­ing through the truly excel­lent eight-speed gear­box and max­im­ising every bit of the torque on tap. The 0–100km/h dash is dis­patched in just 7.2 seconds — no mean feat con­sid­er­ing that even in its new slimmed-down guise, the Sport weighs 2,115kg.

Inside, the Range Rover is as lux­uri­ous and sump­tu­ous as ever. The fully adjustable front seats are akin to those you might find on the bridge of a super yacht, while the interi­or lay­out is second to none. It’s one of the best interi­ors I have encountered recently, and stands out for its usable ‘smart’ inter­face, which is more than can be said for some. The Sport can be optioned for sev­en seats if required, but regard­less, it offers plenty of space for five adult pas­sen­gers, and provides 784 litres of load space with all seats upright. In Auto­bi­o­graphy guise, expect such creature com­forts as the 19-speak­er, 825w Meridi­an sound sys­tem, heated and cooled front seats, and a cool­er compartment.

If you’re wor­ried the Sport is a case of style over sub­stance, rest assured. If you can live with the odd scratch on the paint­work, the Sport will take you (with­in reas­on) wherever your off-road heart desires, with its mul­tiple ter­rain set­tings and a twin-speed trans­fer box to keep you on the move.

And the ver­dict from the Cour­tenay crowd? A couple of thumbs up from excited lads and overt stares from girls in party mode would sug­gest the new Sport has def­in­itely hit the mark when it comes to its refreshed styl­ing. In oth­er words, it’s a clear case of cov­er­ing all your bases.


Tech specs

Mod­el reviewed: Range Rover Sport SDV6 Autobiography

Price: $155k

Fuel eco­nomy: 7.5 litres/100km (manufacturer’s figures)

0–100km/h: 7.2 seconds

Over­all: It’s big for sure, and prob­ably not for every­one, but there is a reas­on the Range Rover remains the king of the SUV – it really is that good.[/warning]

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