The Range Rover Sport came of age in second generation form, bigger, lighter and sharper in its reactions. Now, Land Rover has usefully improved it, adding in Plug-in PHEV petrol/electric power for the first time in the shape of the hi-tech P400e variant. As you'd expect, this dynamic luxury SUV also gets up-to-the-minute safety and connectivity technology in its latest form, plus there's a 'Low Traction Launch' system for peerless all-terrain capability.
Can this car really be what designer Gerry McGovern calls the 'Porsche 911 of SUVs'. The impressive 'Sports Command Driving position' anticipates such a showing - and once on the road, this car delivers it, the impressively light aluminium body structure making it feel a lot more nimble than you expect.
Key changes beneath the bonnet have altered the engine line-up in recent times, which now starts with a 240bhp version of the brand's four cylinder 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel engine, the first time that a four-cylinder unit has been featured in a 'Sport'. Performance from this variant is reasonable - 62mph from rest takes 8.0s en route to 128mph - but if you need more pulling power, then you're going to want the 306bhp SDV6 diesel that most customers choose. Other alternatives include an engine freshly added to the line-up, a 300bhp turbocharged petrol P300 Si4 unit. Plus, as before, there's a supercharged 340bhp 3.0-litre petrol V6 and a 339bhp SDV8 diesel. At the top of the line-up, the 5.0-litre supercharged petrol unit lives on, now offered with either 525 or 575bhp, the later output available in the flagship sporting SVR variant. The most technologically advanced derivative is the 404bhp 2.0-litre petrol/electric P400e PHEV plug-in hybrid version.
Off road, as you would expect, this car is peerless, especially if you specify it with a Terrain Response system that'll always choose the perfect off-road set-up. There's the further option of Land Rover's latest and very clever All-Terrain Progress Control system and now a clever 'Low Traction Launch' set-up that assists you when pulling away on slippery surfaces. Plus, you can now monitor things via what's called an 'All-Terrain Information Centre', accessible via the centre dash touchscreen. For on road use, the quicker models get Torque Vectoring and 'Dynamic Response active lean control' to sharpen things through the bends, plus a 'Dynamic programme' that quickens up throttle response, steering and gearshifts if you're feeling sporty.
Minor changes have been made to the exterior styling, with more piercing intelligent Matrix Pixel LED headlights sitting alongside a redesigned grille. This is complemented by a restyled bumper with a more aggressive profile. Otherwise, it's as you were, so the clamshell bonnet, the 'floating' roof, the powerful wheel arches and the side fender vents that have always defined this model are all present and correct.
And inside? Well, you'd be disappointed if you didn't have to climb up into a Range Rover - that's part of its appeal - though older folk can ease the process by selecting the lower 'Access' mode on models fitted with air suspension. Once installed in the generously side bolstered seats though, there's no mistaking that you're at the wheel of this British institutional model's younger, slightly smaller and much sportier twin. For a start, you're sat a tad lower than you would be in a Range Rover, plus the more compact thicker-rimmed wheel's smaller, the upright gearstick more purposeful and the centre console higher. The key interior change with his revised model lies with the addition of the brand's latest Touch Pro Duo infotainment system which features a pair of high-definition 10-inch touchscreens that form the centrepiece of the minimalist cabin.
In the back, there's plenty of room thanks to the large wheelbase and the option of a sliding seat. Which you'll need if you choose the 7-seat option and want to make the atmosphere for third row occupants a bit less cramped. Boot capacity isn't massive at 784-litres, but with the rear bench folded, the 1,784-litre total will be sufficient for most.
With the fully-fledged Range Rover now a plutocratic purchase, it's this Sport model that for us, now most faithfully continues a model line stretching all the way back to the 1970 original. That very first Range Rover was a car you didn't have to be afraid to use as intended, on or off road. And nor is this one.
Get the fundamental thing right with any great design - in this case the weight - and everything else then tends to fall into place. The aluminium platform that here makes this car so relatively light solves at a stroke the two issues that blighted the original first-generation Range Rover Sport: stodgy handling and high running costs. And yes, it does leave room for proper 4WD hardware to be fitted without compromising paved road prowess. Which is something that German rivals could learn from.
True, it's a pity that pricing can't be more affordable - though the introduction of the SD4 four-cylinder version does make the bottom of the range a little more accessible. Still, the right version of this car offers exactly the right kind of luxury SUV experience for those fortunate enough to be able to enjoy it. A Range Rover Sport that is in every way a proper Range Rover. Enough said.Click here to find out more about our Land Rover Range Rover Sport range