Around The Bay Auto Weekend Wheels

Weekend Wheels: Why the Range Rover Sport feels like home

Luxury Living Tampa Bay

You’ve probably never heard of Wolverhampton. It’s in the industrial Midlands of merrie olde England, a three-hour drive north of London.

I grew up there. My 90-year-old mom still lives there. And thanks for asking, she’s doing pretty good. 

So I’ve been experiencing a swelling of chest and gushing of pride every time I feel the thrust of the new 3.0-liter straight-six engine that powers the 2020 Range Rover Sport MHEV I’m driving.

How come? This state-of-the-art motor, with its combination of electric supercharger and turbocharger to amp-up performance, is built by Jaguar Land Rover in, yes you guessed it,  Wolverhampton.

I drive past Jag Land Rover’s sprawling $1.3 billion Engine Manufacturing Center, where this new Ingenium motor is built, every time I go visit my mom. 

The plant, that went from a huge piece of scrubby woodland to a state-of-the-art engine facility, was built in 2014 and provides  jobs for over 700 workers.

So don’t expect too much of an unbiased review of this new engine from me. It’s built in Wolverhampton and therefore a mechanical masterpiece.

Actually, it’s pretty cool. That MHEV monicker is alphabet soup for mild hybrid. This means that there’s a honking 48-volt battery  that’s used to juice that electric supercharger. 

Stomp on the throttle from standstill, and before the turbocharger can spool up and deliver its boost, the supercharger is already spinning — at up to 120,000rpm in less than half a second. 

Think of it as adding a triple espresso to a tank full of Red Bull. 

OK, OK, I know. Too much techno-babble. But it lets Land Rover use a relatively small-displacement engine in the chunky Range Rover Sport and get very zippy performance.

How zippy? With 355-horsepower on tap with the Sport HSE P360 model I’m piloting, it can sprint to 60mph in just 6.2 seconds. And average 25 to the gallon on the highway.  

Couple this with an enormous 27.6-gallon fuel tank, you’re looking at nearly 700 miles of highway driving between fill-ups. Plan your bathroom breaks accordingly. 

The engine and its swift-shifting eight-speed automatic only enhances what is already a lovely vehicle. I’ve been a huge fan of the Range Rover Sport since its introduction in 2005, and the latest iteration is tough to beat when it comes to luxury SUVs.

It’s still the kid brother to the flagship Range Rover luxury liner, yet still offers impressive interior space in a more compact package.

And as always, the cabin is a W Hotel suite of sleek, stylish, contemporary design, with acres of hand-stitched leather, gorgeous matte wood veneers and sexy brushed metal.

Rear seat space is impressive, as is load space in the back. There’s over 27 cubic feet of space, but the Rover’s complex suspension and towering ground clearance means the load floor is pretty high.

Up front the dual-screen infotainment system looks very Apple-ish with its wide touchscreen, but unless you’re a 14-year-old video-gamer it’s still a pain to use. Too distracting, too much taking your eye off the road to operate, too complex. 

But the Sport drives beautifully. In addition to that lively, responsive performance, it’s a nimble and athletic handler, despite its 5,300-pound heft. 

It’s quiet and refined, too, with a lovely, smooth ride. A luxury sedan alternative? You bet. 

Interestingly, there are more Range Rover Sport model choices than cooked meats at the Public deli. Five engine choices — including a diesel no one buys — plus a confusing array of trim levels: SE, HSE, HST, SVR.

Me? I’d be deliriously happy with the P360 HSE. Priced at $74,250 supremely well-equipped, it’s the benchmark in this class.

As for having its engine built in Wolverhampton? Priceless.

Test drive the 2020 Range Rover Sport at Reeves Land Rover of Tampa, Dimmitt Land Rover of Clearwater, and Land Rover St. Petersburg. 

 

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