South Africans are generally lax about the keep-left-pass-right rule on highways, but some Capetonian drivers make ignoring it an art form. While we were stuck behind plodders blocking the fast lane, this at least was a chance for the powerful Range Rover Sport D350 to cruise in fuel-saving mode as we headed north of the mother city to check out art forms of a more appealing nature.
We were en route to the Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch, which has original works by some of South Africa’s finest contemporary artists on display throughout the property. The experience of driving the R2.4-million Range Rover Sport included an overnight stay at the luxurious lodges on the wine farm, as might befit owners of the swanky SUV.
Delaire Graff is located near the top of the Helshoogte Pass, one of the Western Cape’s most entertaining stretches of tar and loved by driving enthusiasts. Put through its paces, the Range Rover Sport swept through the long, sweeping curves with as much finesse as you can expect from a large SUV.
The third-generation car is the most advanced and dynamically capable Range Rover Sport yet. Making it more agile is active roll control and dynamic air suspension, which varies in stiffness according to the driving situation to provide a balance of ride comfort and cornering prowess. Handling is further enhanced by all-wheel steering, torque vectoring by braking, and an electronic active differential. The steered rear wheels improved high-speed stability in Helshoogte’s curves and made the big vehicle more manoeuvrable when we arrived at the estate and parked alongside all the other luxury SUVs.
A 3D surround camera provides a virtual view of the bits unseen by the driver, to help navigate tight parking spots or extreme off-road turf. Though slightly shorter than the Range Rover, the Sport is just as wide at over 2m, and any hi-tech help is appreciated when squeezing it into a tight bay.
When the first-generation Sport was launched in 2005 it was the first model to extend the Range Rover lineup, which now also includes the Evoque and the Velar. The new third-gen Range Rover Sport has the brand’s latest reductionist styling, but the minimalist design does not lack theatre. It’s an SUV in a power suit. The big vehicle’s “floating” raked roofline and black 23-inch wheels command attention, exuding confidence and more than a little menace. The clean lines are enhanced by flush door handles, which glide out when the car is unlocked.
A sumptuous seven-course chef’s signature dinner at the hotel included a wine pairing, with the sommelier explaining how refined palates might experience hints of anything from liquorice to cotton candy and Granny Smith apples.
Refinement is the overriding experience in the Range Rover Sport. The next morning, when we headed out on longer, straighter country roads, it was the comfortable ride that stood out most. The vehicle wafts like a limousine, and active noise cancellation reduces the effect of road and tyre noise.
The art of smooth sailing is aided by a refined but lusty 3.0l turbo diesel engine that effortlessly whisks the large SUV past long trucks, and it isn’t particularly thirsty. Even when we burned the candle a bit, the Sport averaged a respectable 10.6l per 100km. Beefy turbocharged six- and eight-cylinder petrol engines are also available in the range.
Unlike the Range Rover, which has up to seven seats, the Sport is only a five-seater, but it’s still impressively roomy. At the touch of a button the rear seats fold down to expand the boot. The cabin is opulent, with the reductive design extending to the interior, including Meridian speakers that are hidden behind the textile of the rear doors. The latest Pivi Pro infotainment system has a curved 13.1-inch touchscreen with haptic controls that have a satisfyingly pronounced click.
Functions can also be vocally summoned using Amazon’s Alexa. Apple CarPlay and Android auto connect via Bluetooth, with a wireless charger for smartphones.
The adaptive all-wheel drive shifts power between the front and rear axles as driving conditions demand, and the Range Rover Sport is fully geared for off-road adventures with the latest Terrain Response 2 system if you wish to test the fortitude of the low-profile tyres.
• From the December edition of Wanted, 2023.