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Future Classic Friday: Range Rover Sport

Published 31 May 2019

Land Rover’s first hint at a smaller Range Rover came in 2004, with the reveal of the Range Stormer concept car at the Detroit Auto Show. 

The styling study was designed to take the Range Rover back to its roots - a three-door, sports-themed SUV that was smaller and more agile than the rather grandiose Range Rover L322, which was now very much a luxury car more than it was a leisure SUV.

By the time a production model arrived in 2005, the design had been toned down a bit, but the Range Stormer styling was clearly visible in the car’s vented wings and front-end styling. 

Range Rover Sport (2)

It was based largely on the semi-monocoque integrated body-frame structure of the Discovery 3 and also shared its running gear, engines and Terrain Response system, though the wheelbase was shorter by 5.5-inches. The truncated chassis and low roofline meant that the Range Rover Sport was never more than a five-seater, though this was deliberate - it was priced at a very similar level to the Discovery, but was aimed at a different type of buyer. Someone who wanted a Range Rover, or at least the cachet of the brand, but didn’t have the means to buy a full-sized one. 

It was plusher, sportier and less utilitarian than the Discovery, but also a good deal smaller and far less practical. 

It also famously attracted the attentions of environmental charities, with Greenpeace protesters infiltrating the production line in 2005 and slowing down the delivery of much of the launch stock - blissfully unaware that in doing so, they were giving Land Rover even more publicity and making the waiting list for one of its most hotly anticipated new models even longer…

Range Rover Sport (3)

Unsurprisingly, the Range Rover Sport was a big hit - over half-a-million were sold worldwide between its launch in 2005 and its replacement in 2013. Later ones are, of course, still very desirable second-hand cars, but the early examples are getting rare now, with many of them being broken up by specialists as a source of valuable spares for more valuable later cars - a theme that’s not uncommon among high end luxury cars. A good number are exported, too - though sometimes without the owner’s consent… sadly, the demand from some less scrupulous import markets has made the Sport one of the most stolen cars in the UK. 

The least desirable model, to both a buyer and a car thief, is the launch spec 2.7 TD V6, which has average performance at best, yet is barely less thirsty than the 4.4 V8. The 2.7’s are also prone to turbo failure and automatic gearbox problems, neither of which tend to bother the Jaguar-developed AJ V8.

Later cars got the much improved 3.0-litre TD V6 along with the 3.6-litre TD V8, which was a completely in-house design and a wonderful engine, which is still being used today after well over a decade in service. 

Range Rover Sport (4)

Whichever model you go for, though, the Range Rover Sport feels special. It’s as cosseting and upmarket as the ‘big’ Range Rover, and more importantly it was the car that set Range Rover onto the trajectory of becoming a brand in its own right, rather than just a model. Without it, we wouldn’t have the Evoque or the Velar, nor would the original Range Rover have continued its evolution into premium luxury. 

You can love or loathe its image very easily, but one thing you can’t deny is the impact that the Range Rover Sport had on the market and the depth it added to the Range Rover brand. If a car’s future classic credentials are backed-up by its importance to its maker and the way it influenced its future, then the Range Rover Sport has its place in the history books pretty much guaranteed…

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