A Wheel Thing welcomes Range Rover into the garage, with the limited edition Range Rover Sport HST. Powered by Jaguar’s high output supercharged 3.0L V6 and with a bespoke body kit, the HST sits at around mid range (between the 250 kW V6 and the V8 engines) in the cars available.
The power plant offers 280 kilowatts and 450 torques (with peak twist at a too low 4500 rpm). Although responsive thanks to the electronic throttle, there’s the small matter of moving a minimum of two point five tonnes, hence the reason there’s a one hundred and five litre fuel tank on board. Yes. One hundred and five litres. One can almost hear Doctor Evil in the background… Urban consumption is quoted as being a sniff under fifteen litres per one hundred kilometres driven, with highway and combined as 8.4 and 10.8 respectively.It’s easy to understand why it likes a sip or three because it’s an immensely tractable and user friendly engine, with not just the power but the spread of torque being shared to all four paws via the eight speed auto and computer controlled drive system. It simply begs to be driven in anger, if only to hear the snarl both powerplant and exhaust give you.
Yes, there’s a lot of metal to move, which is a major contributor to the consumption, but if driven gently you’ll miss out on the essence of the thing. You also miss out on a connection to the drive, with everything electronic such as the “fly by wire” throttle requiring nothing more than a flexible ankle, lacking any feedback or pressure to do more than simply move your foot. The steering is light, lacking weight and a sense of presence or feedback.The eight speed transmission is smoother than polished ice, with only the rise and fall of the needle on the dash’s LCD screen giving you a sign it’s changed ratios. Knock the selector into Sports mode, use the paddles or leave it to think for itself, and you’ll find it’s crisper, quicker, a touch sharper and harsher to the senses though. Only occasionally did it feel uncertain, unready, and that was mainly just after switch on for the engine or coming out of an accelerative push and backing off suddenly with a quiet thump from underneath as it dithered between gears.
The on-board drive system offers a range of terrain modes, under the name of Terrain Response, like Mud, Snow, Gravel, and works with the torque splitting system, traction control, and transmission to adapt instantly to the surface being driven on. What you don’t get, however, is a dual mode or high/low range style transmission, instead relying on the Torsen centre diff and electronics to do the work. When Dynamic mode is chosen, the LCD screen changes the dial surrounds to an angry red, a hint at the on tarmac orientation the HST has.Taken onto a well graded dirt road, not gravel but more akin to limestone, the big HST was fairly surefooted, with only the occasional skittish behaviour exhibited. The ABS system didn’t seem overly keen on this terrain though, with some testing showing indecisive behaviour. On the positive side was the superb dust sealing the company imbues the Range Rover with. Yes, black jeans very easily showed the dust but that was from rubbing against the car outside, as the sealing kept it there.The suspension is airbag fitted, allowing the driver to raise or lower the body, depending on speed and terrain. If raised to maximum height and then pedalled to around 30 kmh, the HST automatically lowers itself. For those unaccustomed to such a thing, it’s an eerie, uncanny thing to witness from inside, with rear following nose in raising to maximum height. It’s speed sensitive too, so once you’ve raised it to maximum height and hit 30 kmh or so, it’ll automatically lower the car again. There’s also a feature called Auto Access Height, which brings the car lower down to allow humans to get in just that little easier.
Naturally it’s adept, sure footed, with a light steering feel and has an uncanny ability to tuck the nose in tightly coming into low speed ninety degree bends. On tarmac, it’ll change direction quickly enough but there’s no mistaking it for a convertible, not with that mass. The HST needs a powerful brake system to haul it in at speed and gets one. There’s an instant connection between pressing the pedal and feeling the pads grip the discs, something quite a few manufacturers should aim for. It doesn’t mean it’s grabby, it’s far from it. There’s a proper sense of progression as the pedal descends through its travel.
The brakes are visible through the huge 21 inch diameter alloys, complete with 275/35 Continental tyres doing double duty as road and light off road capable rubber.Being a Range Rover, the driver and passenger are swaddled in luxury; from the proper (Connolly) leather bound electric seats, with heating AND (bless) cooling, glass roof with retractable sunshade, digital radio and a digital TV system for the front passenger (with headphones). Although the touchscreen is cluttered, reducing the radio info to a few square centimetres of screen space, it’s still relatively intuitive to use once some practice has been done.It’s a nifty piece of tech, the TV system, blocking the driver from seeing the screen when under way, showing them just the radio or satnav instead. There’s a premium Meridian audio system to listen to as well, with USB, Auxiliary, and Bluetooth streaming. It’s clear, punchy, with well defined bass but sensitivity was lacking, with dropouts and range not as far reaching as other cars with DAB fitted that have been parked in the drive. The HST also came with a Head Up Display and, to be honest, it didn’t seem as easy on the eye as that found in a certain Australian built lion branded vehicle.
It’s not all roses, with some odd ergonomics, such as placing the window switches into the very top of the door trim, right next to the window yet the actual door handle is not where the body naturally reaches for. A Wheel Thing consistently reached for the door handle thinking it was a few inches above where it was actually sited. Although a seemingly logical spot for the window switches, again it seemed odd when the hand and arm reached and didn’t find them where expected. Some of the plastics seemed a bit hard to the touch and the cabin somewhat dated in overall look.There’s a couple of nice luxury touches; at night the lamps embedded into the base of the wing mirrors shine a Range Rover profile downwards and there’s a lit logo in the sill panel. Nowadays, LEDs are being used inside for lighting, replacing the small bulbs once used, and they emit a purer white light. There’s a proper cool box fitted in the console, with a real chill when switched on and it’s big enough for a couple of cans or a 600 mL bottle or two.In profile, the Range Rover HST shows a distinct wedge profile, with a sharp rake to the front screen and not quite so for the rear, but also the more recent design changes of the last few years, with the smoothing off of the squared off, bluff and blunt, look the range has had since inception. It strengthens the family relationship with Land Rover and brings the car into line with the streamlined, aero look that other makers have on their bigger SUVs. Being clad in a colour called Zanzibar highlights the subtle straking embossed into the sheetmetal.There’s the vents slotted into the front fenders, the bespoke HST badging, blacked out head and tail lights that angle back into their respective corners, a black painted roof and pillars match the satin black wheels and the blacked out front end vents. Of course one gets a power tailgate leading into the LED lit cargo area. Under the skin lies Park Assist, visual aids for the system, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control plus Wade Sensing should you take the beastie swimming. Perhaps the most interesting addendum, though, is the automaker’s ‘InControl Remote’ app. Using a smartphone, drivers will be able to interface with their Range Rover by checking fuel level, monitoring window and door lock status, and pre-setting cabin temperature.
At The End Of The Drive
This was A Wheel Thing’s first Range Rover drive and, frankly, one of the hardest reviews to write. A Wheel Thing wanted to fall in love. But didn’t. The Range Rover Sport HST, although a luxury off road capable SUV, failed to engage on an emotional level. I felt removed and isolated from the expected experience, for the most part. It was a frustrating sensation, and not one I welcomed.
Although a comfortable office, the luxury feel needed more; more softness on the plastics to impart a real sense of luxury, with perhaps something like walnut burr trim as well. The touchscreen was somewhat cluttered to look at with the radio screen selected and the TV feature is of questionable value, as was the sensitivity of the DAB radio.
A discussion with a person well accustomed to dealing with the brand elicited the response of “Perhaps it did everything too well”. Perhaps it did. But that’s the point of the Range Rover range. It’s intended to be the best and, again, bare in mind the HST sits mid level.
On the upside is the presence the car has, the brawny ability of the engine and the undoubted ability the Range Rover has. The muted roar of the exhaust and the mid range punch on road are, for a driver oriented person, both enticing and sensual.
Head here to check out the Range Rover Sport and book a drive for yourself: Range Rover Sport
For A Wheel Thing TV: A Wheel Thing TV: 2015 Range Rover Sport HST