Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: March 17, 2023
The last horse in the stable to go under the knife, the Range Rover Sport finally gets a refresh for 2023 with new looks, an updated interior, new powertrains including a plug-in hybrid, and all the latest tech and gadgets. The price tag has subsequently swollen with it, starting at $108,450 for the Dynamic SE trim, and up to $133,650 for the First Edition.
Smoother and sleeker though less muscular than the outgoing model, the Range Rover Sport follows the brand’s new design language brought forth by the Evoque and Velar, but the rear comes off as somewhat generic and anonymous, and we wouldn’t blame you for mistaking one for a Nissan Pathfinder. Minimalism and soft shapes are all the rage these days but we think the sheetmetal is too conservative and too difficult to distinguish from the other models in the range (no pun intended). From some angles, the Sport exudes celebrity road presence but from other angles, not so much.
There’s still much to like here, from the pop-out door handles that remain flush with the bodywork when locked, the quad exhaust outlets on the V8 models, and its overarching stance with the optional 23-inch wheels. The fake vents on the side fenders, lower front bumper, and hood seem unnecessary but at least the exhaust tips are real. And in this subdued shade of Varesine Blue, the Sport blends into traffic rather than standing out like a premium six-figure peacock. We think brighter shades suit its silhouette better, like Borasco Grey, Lantau Bronze, or Fuji White.
While the exterior may be a mixed bag, the interior is visually pleasing. Borrowing elements from the full-size Range - the only real difference between them is the center console and steering wheel - the design and upholstery in this cabin are spectacular. Satin forged carbon inserts on the door panel and center console add a sporty flair, the semi-aniline leather is among the best, and it’s all complemented by a large 13.1-inch curved center screen and 13.7-inch digital instrument cluster. The fan controls are still a little laggy but the user interface and touchscreen controls are ace and sport a low learning curve. It’s a modernized rig through and through, and Land Rover left no stone unturned.
It’s as spacious inside as the full-size Range Rover - unsurprising as they share the same vehicle width and wheelbase dimensions, but the darker Ebony upholstery in this Sport gives it a slightly more cramped feel. But they have kept many of the features that we loved about the outgoing Sport like the adjustable armrests, winged headrests, and massage seats. They have also enlarged and flattened the window sill so you can now comfortably rest your arm on it, just like its bigger brother. And typical of Range Rovers, the cabin is extremely well insulated from unwanted noise, muting out wind and tire squeal better than any in its class.
There are more powertrain options than ever for the Range Rover Sport with a standard inline-six turbo, a plug-in hybrid, and a punchy V8, the latter of which we tested. And we’re beaming that an eight-cylinder war drum is still on offer, as a fully-electric variant will be coming out later in 2024.
This 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 is a peach of an engine. Borrowed from BMW but tuned in-house at Land Rover, this P530 spec delivers 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque through an 8-speed automatic and will reach 0-100 km/h in a speedy 4.5 seconds, the same as a Porsche Cayenne Coupe GTS and the outgoing Range Rover Sport SVR. Acceleration is expectedly strong, dragging the SUV through the air like it weighs nothing, and the exhaust noise is different from BMWs as well - mellower, not as raspy, and more mature and professional sounding, but no less sonically exciting, especially on cold starts.
We noticed a bit of disconnect between the gas pedal and forward acceleration with some overrun when lifting off the pedal. Power delivery seems to go from zero to 100% without much build-up or linearity as well, making it difficult to modulate a smooth drive. It’s more prominent at low speeds and the same goes for the brake pedal too. You don’t really get used to it either, and the lack of engine braking doesn’t help. We did not notice any turbo lag so it’s likely something software related, and hopefully an easy fix. The start-stop system provided some choppy transitions too. Of note, the Range Rover that uses the same P530 powertrain did not exhibit this behaviour, and it has us refraining from recommending the V8 for the Sport altogether, and sticking with the smoother inline-six variants instead.
We also don’t recall a Sport being this stiffly sprung, even with the adaptive air suspension and 22-inch wheels equipped. The comparative Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 and BMW X6 M50i feel much more composed on the road, as the Range doesn’t seem to coddle or neutralize large impacts with the same grace or polish. It feels more like a sport-tuned suspension, and we’re sure the optional 23-inch wheels will ride even rougher. But in that light, the Sport is a much more agile companion than before and it turns in nicely. Add in brake-based torque vectoring and a new all-wheel steering system, and it now handles like an X5 - nimble during low-speed maneuvers and exhibiting minimal lean when tackling higher-speed corners.
The Range Rover Sport finally gets the attention it deserves for 2023. The looks are too conservative for our liking and the P530 V8 powertrain is punchy and potent but lacks a bit of refinement, as does the ride quality. But our high expectations are still at ease thanks to its spacious interior, quality materials, top-shelf amenities, and off-road capability. But in a packed field of premium SUVs now sporting similar six-figure price tags, sometimes a little extra care and attention go a long way, and we think the new Range needs a bit more.
Model: 2023 Range Rover Sport P530 First Edition
Paint Type: Varesine Blue
Base Price: $133,650
Price as Tested: $140,399
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,946 / 2,047 / 1,820
Curb weight (kg): 2,700 (est)
Engine: 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8
Horsepower: 523 hp @ 5,500 - 6,000 rpm
Torque: 553 lb-ft @ 1,800 - 4,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 16.1
Tires: Michelin X-Ice Snow; 285/45R22