Ford's UK SUV unit Land Rover has announced first details of a new model line - the Range Rover Sport - which it describes as a sports tourer SUV, claiming the new model is the best-performing and best-handling vehicle it has ever built.

Engine choices for the new range, which will be sold world-wide, with an eye particularly on SUV Central - North America - are a supercharged 287kW/390hp 4.2-litre V8 engine derived from the Jaguar unit, a 4.4-litre normally aspirated V8 and, for Europe but not the US, and a 2.7-litre V6 turbodiesel, also pinched from Premier Automotive Group stablemate Jaguar (it debuted in the S-type) and shared with Land Rover's recently redesigned Discovery.

"The Range Rover Sport is an additional, fifth nameplate for the Land Rover brand," said managing director Matthew Taylor. "It takes us into the growing performance SUV market but is different from all rivals. We see it as a less frenetic, more refined alternative to existing performance SUVs. It is ideal for fast, comfortable, long-distance driving and practical enough for everyday use. Yet it is also exceptional off-road, offering better all-terrain ability than any competitor."

Despite appearances to the contrary, the Range Rover Sport is more compact than the Range Rover and will be priced to fit between that model and the Discovery 3/LR3.

The new model has four-wheel drive as standard (unlike North American SUV makers, Land Rover does not offer 2WD-only versions) a ZF six-speed 'intelligent shift' automatic gearbox featuring sport programming and so-called CommandShift, which offers manual control of gear changes. Low range is electronically selectable.

The Range Rover Sport is a five-door design with a single-piece rear aluminium tailgate that includes an opening rear glass for easy access.

The five-seat cabin is constructed from 'premium' materials, including leather, wood and metallic finishes.

"It is the best 'driver's vehicle' that Land Rover has ever made," claimed Taylor. "There is the traditional 'command' driving position, yet the cockpit is more cocooning than the SUV norm. We believe the emphasis on the driving experience will make the Range Rover Sport an attractive proposition to those who currently drive luxury executive sedans, as well as the more sporty 4x4s, thanks to its overall refinement and unmatched breadth of capability."

Although developed with greater emphasis on on-road performance than any previous Land Rover, the Range Rover Sport is claimed to be "exceptionally competent" across all terrains. The 'Terrain Response', system, introduced with the Discovery 3, is standard on all models and allows the driver to choose one of five terrain settings via a rotary control on the centre console. The system then automatically selects the most appropriate settings for the electronic controls and traction aids - including ride height, engine torque response, hill descent control, electronic traction control and transmission settings.

The integrated body-frame structure, also first seen on the latest Discovery, has adapted for the Range Rover Sport to reinforce the vehicle's sporting character. This includes a six-inch/14cm shorter wheelbase (108inches/275cm) for improved agility. Four-corner air suspension is standard on all models and the double-wishbone suspension has been tuned for sporty ride and handling, especially when cornering.

The 'Dynamic Response' system, which senses cornering forces and acts to optimise body control and handling performance, debuts on the Range Rover Sport where it is standard on supercharged models, and optional on others. The system decouples off-road, to allow greater wheel articulation during tough all-terrain driving.

Adaptive cruise control makes its first appearance on a Land Rover model and the standard or optional equipment list also includes bi-xenon adaptive front lighting, on/off road satellite navigation, and a twin-screen DVD rear-seat entertainment system, with screens in the front seat head rests.

The Range Rover Sport makes its world debut in January 2005 at the Detroit motor show and will be sold from from mid-2005 in Europe and North America; arriving later in other markets.