2008 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE Review
By Brendan Moore
Land Rover sent one of their top models, the Range Rover Sport, over to the house for me to drive for a week. I was happy to see it as I hadn’t driven any of the Land Rover family for a few years, and I wanted to see what had changed in those intervening years. The Range Rover Sport HSE has basically been unchanged since 2006, but I had never spent any seat time in this vehicle before now.
Actually, regarding the pecking order, I need to be more specific here; the Range Rover is the big boy flagship model of the Land Rover family; there are two trim levels within the smaller, shorter-wheelbase Range Rover “Sport” model. The obviously well-equipped HSE trim level is the “entry-level” model. The highest trim level Range Rover Sport is the “Supercharged” trim level, which is pretty much the same vehicle but with 390 hp from a 4.2 liter V8 instead of the 300 hp from a 4.4 liter V8 that the HSE has.
The HSE has the previously referenced 4.4 liter V8 with 300 hp, a six-speed automatic transmission with Normal, Sport and Manual modes, and, of course, full-time AWD. The HSE is rated at 12 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway by the federal government.
The HSE also has four-wheel electronic traction control (4ETC), two-speed electronic transfer box with electronic center differential, four-channel, all-terrain ABS with four-wheel vented disc brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), cornering brake control, all-terrain dynamic stability control, hill descent control (HDC) and emergency brake assist (EBA). It also has automatic load leveling that happens as a result of a four-corner electronic air suspension.
If you’re starting to think the Range Rover Sport is a luxury SUV with some serious off-road chops, you’d be right. It’s always been that way, though. I’ve driven every generation of Range Rover that has shown up in the U.S. and they’ve always been extremely capable machines in the muck. The only difference now is that the new version has just a fantastic amount of luxury items inside its cabin. But its still built like an anvil underneath. You can feel it ooze out of every pore of it’s being, despite all the luxury equipment slathered all over the thing. It is a tough, hard-core off-road vehicle capable of doing things that other luxury SUVs cannot even begin to contemplate. It is the Range Rover Sport’s greatest virtue.
It is also the vehicle’s greatest fault. The HSE has a nice ride on the highway and around town, but you can definitely feel the tough truck underneath most of the time. It’s quick off the mark, but it’s more or less a case of a big linebacker lunging off the snap of the ball – impressive power for a very short distance, but certainly not a graceful runner after that. The ride is blocky and a bit choppy on street surfaces and of course, smooth on the highway, but it is not quite as good as some of its luxury SUV brethren. Close, but not as good.
Of course, as mentioned before, the Range Rover Sport is the clear winner if you need a luxury SUV to actually go off-road with some frequency. In my opinion, there is no better choice in the luxury SUV segment.
About that luxury – my tester had so much luxury equipment it would make your head spin. It was finished in a brilliant “Zermatt Silver” and the interior was swathed in buttery-soft black leather. The exterior styling is familiar, but it is still purposeful and dynamic.
Inside, all the usual accoutrements of a luxury SUV, like a plethora of now-standard type of audio/navigation stuff, i.e.:
Auxiliary Audio Input Jack, Harman Kardon(R) Logic 7(TM) AM/FM Radio With 550-Watts, Surround Sound and 14 Speakers Total; 6-Disc CD Changer Located In Center Console; MP3 Player; Sirius(R) Satellite Radio, GPS and DVD Navigation Aid With 7-In. Touch Screen and Voice Activation, Wireless Communication Access For Bluetooth(R) Enabled Devices, Dual In-Glass Diversity Radio Antenna.
My test vehicle had the luxury interior package, which consisted of premium leather seats, heated front and rear seats, heated front wind screen, heated washer jets, adaptive front lamps, wood trim and cooler box. That was another $3000. Add in Sirius satellite radio for $400, destination charge of $775 and that is another $4175 added to the $58,225 base price, which brings it up to a healthy $62,400.
The Land Rover is still built in the Solihull plant in the UK, and for the time being, that’s where it will continue to built since Tata, the new owner of Jaguar and Land Rover, has stated that there will no layoffs in the UK as a result of its recent acquisition.
You may have just noticed that I sneaked in the recent purchase of Land Rover by Tata (I’m clever like that). But, hey, it needed to be brought up. Some of the Land Rover dealers here in the United States were leery of Tata owning Land Rover when the rumors first started surfacing regarding Tata’s interest in Jaguar and Land Rover, but Tata seems to have won them over with their promises of maintaining the status quo around the good things and investing enough capital to cure some of the recent bad things, e.g., not enough investment in new product. Personally, I think the purchase by Tata was the best scenario out of all the possible sale scenarios put forth by Ford’s announcement that Jaguar and Land Rover were for sale. It could not have worked out any better from my point of view. Ford had sort of reached a cul-de-sac with both brands, anyway, so best to let a new captain plot a different course.
Back to the HSE – if you need an SUV to do the things that SUVs are tasked with here in the States, as well as really go off-road or go though heavy snow on a regular basis, this is the vehicle for you. If you go off-road only occasionally, you might want to consider some other luxury SUV that has a better street and highway deportment. If you never go off-road, it would be criminal to buy this vehicle.
It just wouldn’t be right, it would be like hiring Alan Greenspan to do your taxes. Sure, he could do it, but both you and he would be embarrassed afterward.
So don’t do that. Buy it if you are going to use the Range Rover Sport HSE the way it is supposed to be used. And, then, enjoy.
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