MOAB, Utah – Land Rover is known worldwide for creating trucks that handle the toughest-of-the-tough, from the greenways and thick mud of England’s Eastnor Castle to the bone-jarring tracks and inhospitable outback of interior Australia. To date, automakers that specialize in cars rather than trucks have created the niche-oriented high-performance sport-utility vehicles craved by American up-and-comers, companies like BMW and Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. With the new Range Rover Sport, however, it could be said that Land Rover has taken a different approach to the performance-utility market by first gaining a master’s degree in off-road prowess and later a Ph.D. in premium luxury. Now, this British company, known for some of the most capable and confident bush wackers and a member of Ford Motor Company’s Premier Automotive Group (PAG), is ready to enter the rapidly growing luxury-sport segment of the SUV marketplace that is dominated by BMW and Porsche, with its all-new 2006 Range Rover Sport.
Our evaluation of the new Range Rover Sport included an intense four-wheel-drive trail in Moab, Utah, one of the best-known locations for four wheeling in the U.S. The course included a rich mix of off-pavement terrain, along with an aggressive and technical rock hill climb known as “Wipe Out.” But what blew our backcountry boots off our test-driving feet was the 275-mile drive from Aspen, Colorado to Moab. For it was throughout this drive day that we were able to evaluate and push the limits of the two versions of this new model – the naturally aspirated and sprightly Range Rover Sport HSE, and the higher-powered Range Rover Sport Supercharged.