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VEHICLE ANALYSIS: 2015MY Range Rover Sport SDV8

By Glenn Brooks | 6 February 2015

Another change for 2015: roof and door sills can be painted in body colour or contrasting black

Another change for 2015: roof and door sills can be painted in body colour or contrasting black

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The 2015 model year Range Rover Sport is now on sale, and there are two main mechanical changes: an extra 40Nm of torque for the 4.4-litre diesel V8 and a new evolution of ZF’s 8HP70 eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Last year was the best yet for Land Rover, worldwide sales having reached 381,108, up 9% on 2013. More Range Rovers, Evoques and Range Rover Sports were sold than in any previous year. That was helped by the arrival of additional variants, such as a diesel-electric powertrain for the bigger Range Rovers, and the Evoque Autobiography Dynamic, plus ZF’s 9HP nine-speed automatic gearbox. 

Later this year we’ll see an Evoque convertible and a facelift for the five-door and coupe but the first news for the brand’s 2015 model year vehicles is the extra oomph for the Range Rover Sport SDV8. At 250kW (339hp), power is unchanged but torque has risen to 740Nm, developed between 1,700 and 3,000rpm. CO2 is the same 229g/km, and the revised engine drinks no more diesel either, its Combined average staying at 32.5mpg. V8 diesel versions of the Range Rover, in both standard and long-wheelbase forms, also gain the new engine. 

So as to be able to handle the torque boost, ZF has re-engineered the 8HP70 with a revised torque converter incorporating a twin-spring damper. I contacted a company spokesman to double check that the new gearbox wasn’t in fact the 8HP75 that was announced last year. ZF's man in Germany confirmed that the 75 is on its way, but not yet released. Will it be used by JLR? For the moment, neither firm is saying.

This quote from a July 2014 press release is what got me wondering about the 8P75: "The new 8HP entered volume production at the start of July in the BMW 520d as the 8HP50 version that is designed for torques of up to 500 Nm. In the future, the 8HP75 will be part of the ZF portfolio for drives with even higher torque of up to 750 Nm". Perhaps we’ll see something more on this topic when Land Rover announces its 2016 model year vehicles.

Despite its weight (2,398kg), the RRS SDV8 can reach 100km/h in 6.9 seconds and its top speed is now 225km/h (140mph). Load the car up with a full complement of seven people and their luggage and that new engine will be required to push three tonnes through the air. I didn’t have the opportunity to put that to the test, but with four adults and some gear in the boot, acceleration was still strong, and the braking was as confidence inspiring as the handling. You can’t say that about every other big SUV out there. This one has no-fuss traction even on the slipperiest of wintery roads and if you’re brave enough to take a vehicle that costs GBP82,650 (plus options) off-road, there’s not much you can’t throw at it. 

The Sport’s air suspension can be raised to provide up to 278mm of obstacle clearance, fully 78mm more than the standard ride height. Wading depth? That’s 850mm, with approach and departure angles each being 31 degrees. There is up to 115mm of regular movement, from the lowest setting (for easier entry and exit) to the standard off-road height. An automatic extension, triggered by sensors, and a manually-selected extension, both raise the body by 35mm, giving a total movement range of 185mm.

A choice of two full-time 4WD systems are offered with this vehicle. The first provides a two-speed transfer case with low-range option. This is for the most demanding off-road conditions and means a front-rear 50/50 percent default torque split, and 100% locking capability. The alternative system weighs 18kg less and features a single-speed transfer case with a Torsen differential. This automatically distributes torque to the axle with most grip. The default front-rear torque split is said to be 42/58 percent so as to provide a rear-wheel drive bias.

It’s only when you glance at the various settings for the 4x4 system and suspension that you even think about this being anything other than a luxury car, albeit one that feels more firmly sprung than a Range Rover. That’s intentional of course. 

There must always be a place in the Land Rover range for its top model, which is why there isn’t a long-wheelbase Sport. Equally, it seems unlikely that the Range Rover will become available in SVR form. A Sport SVR prototype was revealed at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June 2014, powered by JLR's 550hp supercharged 5.0-litre V8. The production model's debut was at the Pebble Beach Concours in August 2014.

I mentioned the Sport being a seven-seater. Land Rover calls it a 5+2 but that’s fair, as the third row is really only suitable for kids. These seats have a 50/50 split so you can fold one or both flat into the floor, which is done by electric motors, though the latter is a GBP1,500 option. 

The interior, while similar to that of the Range Rover, does manage to look distinctive. I’m not sure the gear lever of the Sport is an improvement over the rising selector dial that’s also standard for all Jaguars, though. Reason being, sometimes it can be tricky to make it switch from neutral to Drive, which, if you're making a three-point turn, isn't exactly ideal.

The press car had chocolate, tan and beige leather seats, while the top of dashboard was dark brown with cream coloured soft leather on the lower sections, which matched the door coverings, while the pillars, headliner and sun visors were trimmed in beige alcantara. 

This car’s heated windscreen and steering wheel are two things you will always miss once you’ve had them, as is the tailgate that can be opened AND closed by the key fob or a button below the dashboard. A reminder that the Sport has a top-hinged hatchback, unlike the Range Rover’s two-part arrangement.

An option on the press loan vehicle was a GBP5,000 (yes really) 1,700W Meridian 23 speaker audio system. Is it worth the money? For people in the market for cars like this, that’s not really a relevant question. The sound is something else, I have to admit. There’s even little speakers above your head. Something else that was pretty cool was the TV. This costs GBP800, and for an extra GBP600 you can have a ‘Dual View Touchscreen’. The driver sees only the usual controls (audio, HVAC, Navi etc) but the passenger, watching the same screen, sees whatever TV channel they want. Ingenious.

While the SDV8 is the only engine that has been altered for the 2015 model year, there’s still various other choices, depending on the the country. This includes two supercharged petrol units (340PS 3.0-litre V6 and 510PS 5.0-litre V8) and two diesels (a 3.0-litre V6 with 258PS or 292PS) plus a V6 diesel-electric hybrid, with the 550PS 5.0-litre petrol V8 to be added later in the year for the new SVR. There’s still no four-cylinder engine in the Sport but that should change next year, once production of JLR’s new Ingenium series starts ramping up. And as announced a few weeks ago, a diesel will become available in the US from October 2015: the specially named and modified Td6 is an addition for North America's 2016 model year.

It’s a shame the US won’t be getting the 4.4-litre diesel as it sounds so much better than the 3.0-litre V6, though I wouldn’t say its aural qualities are as noteworthy as its rivals the Cayenne S Diesel and X5 M50d. That surprised me, as JLR is usually superb at fine-tuning (or like its rivals, artificially enhancing) the exhaust notes of its big capacity engines. There’s my one suggestion for how the Range Rover Sport SDV8 could be improved. Well, maybe two: the chassis is already so well set up that even more torque would be welcome. How about an ‘SDVR’ Land Rover?