Jumping into the Sport my first thought was, it’s a bit cramped. No, let me rephrase that, I don’t mean cramped as what a 6’ 2”, 19 stone bloke feels like driving a Defender, perhaps snug is a better word. Perspective I think is required before I dig myself any deeper. During the previous week I had been fortunate enough to have been driving an L405 Range Rover, which is simply awesome and makes you feel like gentry surveying all that you own. Jumping into the Sport was like slotting myself into an F Type, you’re cocooned, shoehorned into place, not overly, but you know that you’re not likely to roll around the cabin when gravity is demanding otherwise, it’s just right. Once you’re in, everything is in place, with only a few buttons and knobs to hand as most things are controlled via the monitor, screen or whatever it’s called.
Returning from Parkwood Off Road Centre where Lee and I had put both the Sport and Full Fat through their paces I was quickly getting used this scaled down version of the Ranger Rover. Looking through the rear view mirror I found that visibility wasn’t as good as I imagined. Because of its new sloping roofline the rear window isn’t that big, and because the windows were tinted it created a darker space. Though this isn’t really a complaint, more an observation.
Arriving home caused a quite a stir with the neighbours, as this Chile Red, £90k 4x4 was covered from roof to tread in Yorkshires finest mud. I was tempted to leave it in that state, but I thought I’d better make an effort and clean it.
After a thorough wash you would perhaps think that its first job would be to hurtle us down to the south of France, perhaps tearing up the Autobahn at 140mph. No, its first job in my hands was to take my old couch and various other bits and pieces t’ tip. Real life review folks, real life! With the rear seats folded down you’re left with an enormous amount of space, it’s vast. If you go for the 5 seater model and opt for the full size spare (highly recommended!), then you also get a hoist to help get the thing out of the well, which can be handy!
Once you press the Start/stop button, it fires up with a mighty roar then settles down to a harmonic rumble, the muted pulsating throb that you only get from a 5ltr V8. Every time I started it, it stirred my soul, and that left me with a serious dilemma, do I continue to brim the Sport and drive it as much as I can, or do I eat? Food is over rated, besides I need to lose a few pounds!
The Sport is an absolute joy to drive, whether you’re in the city, cruising along the motorway, off roading or, despite its girth, negotiating narrow country roads. It’s intelligent too, I’m not talking about its fancy suspension, but I love the way the dash board advises you on the correct tyre pressure for your loads, without you even asking! ‘Yep, everything’s fine driver, carry on your journey.’
Fuel consumption wise I honestly didn’t think it was that bad if I’m honest, cruising up to the Lake District on the M6 she was averaging 27mpg, or so the computer told me, which I thought was very reasonable. Of course when you start putting your foot down that figure decreases sharply, but so do the miles!
Admittedly, burying your foot into the carpet is quite addictive, as soon as you press the accelerator the bonnet rises and you hear that roar. I was told the same happens at 120mph, though I’m too much of a wimp to try those speeds, besides I’m far too attached to my drivers licence. I miss that roar, it isn’t something you get with a 300Tdi Discovery that I had at the time.
The day before it was due to return to Gaydon I thought we’d visit an old stomping ground of mine in the Lake District and head up to Wrynose and Hard Knott Pass’. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a wide car folks, it may not appear so when you’re walking around it, but it’s something that you become acutely well aware of whilst squeezing £90k worth of car between stone brick walls!
Trying desperately not to drive like a lunatic, I made my way up and over Hard Knott with all the windows open just to hear ‘that’ noise, and then disaster struck. Cutting a right hand corner too much I caught a rock on the off side and my heart sank as I heard the unmistakable sound of air escaping from the rear off side tyre, pss, pss, pss, pss...
Pulling over at the next available passing point I discovered the worst possible scenario, not only had I split the sidewall, but there was absolutely no mobile phone service.
I’ve discussed elsewhere of the importance of ticking the option list and buying a spare with your new car, or if second hand making sure you at least have a space saver as opposed to the emergency repair gunge. Thankfully, this press car had a full size spare.
The next part belongs in a comic strip. Removing the spare out of the deep rear well wasn’t a problem, but for those who aren’t as hefty as me, Land Rover provide a handy and well thought out sling / pulley system. I loosened the wheel nuts, located the jack in its position and began lifting the car. After removing the nuts I flung the wheel to one side, grabbed the spare and heaved it into position and... hang on, why is it not aligning? ‘Weird.’ I thought, I mustn’t of jacked it up enough, I estimated at least another 2” or so.
So, up another couple of inches, I turned to lift the spare into position and... still too low! I honestlythought I was losing it until I realised what was happening, the higher I jacked up the Sport, the more the hub lowered because it thinks it’s off road and the wheel is off the ground, and therefore the computer tells it to lower itself for traction! Apparently, what I should have done in the first instance was to engage ‘off road’ mode which would have raised the vehicle, at least I know now for future mishaps.
Thankfully the rest of our journey was less fraught, we stopped off at Coniston to watch a firework display through the panoramic roof then called in at the Gateway Inn by the roundabout on the A591 to sample their great food before heading home.
During our journey home I pondered on the benefits of too much technology in cars these days. Personally I would be more than happy with just air conditioning and cruise control. Stop/Start technology is good for when you’re stuck in traffic jams but encourages bad practise, as it only seems to work when you have your foot on the brake, consequently blinding everyone behind you with your high level brake lights. I also worry on the life expectancy of the starter motor, and prices.
Active Cruise Control is great, it will stop you dead when the car in front stops. However, if you’re mentally exhausted after a long and arduous day in the boardroom, I can see how tempting it would be to set everything to auto and end up in a ditch ‘cos you’ve nodded off.
In the end I thought it was a great vehicle, and yes I want one. I don’t really care if there’s something out there that can reach 60mph a second quicker, or rolls that little bit less around corners, I for one love the whole package. It’s a hooligan when you want it to be, it can be docile around town and as practical as any Range Rover, just with extra V8 burble!
Off road it’s just as you’d expect from any modern Land Rover, unstoppable. Though there was one particular hill at Parkwood Off Road Centre that did defeat the Sport, but we can put that down to the low profile tyres, it doesn’t matter what size engine or electronic wizardry you have, if there’s no grip, you’re going nowhere!
If I have one complaint it would be that the rear seats, for me, are horribly uncomfortable, I think the seat base is too flat whilst the backs are too far raked, but I don’t care, as long as I’m behind the wheel that’s all that matters.
Pondering on the week with the V8 I find myself likening it to jumping from my old 2-1/4 petrol Land Rover Lightweight into a friends V8 version, you simply can’t stop smiling as it invoked such a sense of excitement and exuberance. Even though it has been a while since it went back, I can’t help but smile inside when I think about it, what a cracking car!