2012 Range Rover Sport Supercharged Review

Still king, but what will they replace it with?
By Imthishan Giado

2012 Range Rover Sport 

True luxury is as much about exclusivity as it as about craftsmanship.

Yes, you can build your car from the same vibranium used to build Captain America’s shield, but paint it red and no one will know the difference from regular ol’ aluminium. And consequently no one will care.

2012 Range Rover Sport

But tell everyone that it’s the only one of its kind in the entire world, and suddenly the interest levels shoot through the roof. Exclusivity builds interest – that’s why Ferrari built only 400 Enzos and McLaren just over 100 F1s. Build a car in vast numbers and your customers will see it on every street corner – especially in the car-crazy Gulf.  It should be a recipe for failure.

2012 Range Rover Sport

So why doesn’t this recipe apply to the Range Rover Sport? After seven years in production, the middle Rangie has yet to wear out its welcome and still sells in impressive numbers – impressive enough that it’s almost as ubiquitous on our roads as the Japanese competition.  That’s even more of an achievement when you’re talking about a car that still costs AED399,000. This is the car that is near as makes no difference, the default buy in the luxury sector. If you have more money, you buy the big dog Range Rover. Simple.

2012 Range Rover Sport

What is the secret of this elemental appeal?  Maybe it’s something to do with that iconic silhouette, the classic box shape, defiant of advances in aerodynamics. I still maintain that the original version of the Sport was the best, particularly in the launch colour of Vesuvius Orange; truly it was the car that showed young people it was cool to drive a Range Rover.

2012 Range Rover Sport

Over the years Land Rover has seen fit to tinker slightly with perfection and none of the additions have been really successful, apart from the upgraded interior. The LED headlight ornamentation stand out as a particular affront – it’s Land Rover chasing a trend rather than setting it, a mistake they didn’t make with the Evoque. But who am I kidding? Everybody loves to customise Range Rovers and there are worse examples out there, bespoilered and usually in pink on huge 24s. So the base Supercharged Sport, with no spoiler – no sidesteps even! – and no chrome HST trim remains my personal choice. Judging by how few of these barebones cars you see on the street, it appears I’m the only one who thinks so.

2012 Range Rover Sport

The interior is perhaps where the Sport is starting to show its age a bit, even though it was upgraded just a few years ago. I raved about how good the interior is in the Evoque with its straightforward console layout and crystal clear interfaces and the Sport displays much of the same influence.

2012 Range Rover Sport
Really, everyone should at least once in their lives sit in the driver’s seat of a Range Rover. They call it the ‘Command Seating Position’ for a reason  – perched up on your leather throne, elbow resting gently on the leather lined doortop with all the door and window controls just a finger’s stretch away, right hand guiding the four-spoke tiller; the only way you could feel any better is if Amber Heard were sitting in your lap. Or for the ladies who’ve seen Magic Mike, Matthew McConaughey.

2012 Range Rover Sport

Don’t mistake my rose-tinted affection: the Sport is immensely likable, but it isn’t perfect, mostly due to how old it is under the skin. That’s a fact you’ll be reminded right between the eyes every time you start up the car, when a horribly low-res Range Rover appears on the dash between the tach and speedo. And you’ll be wondering the same when you’re on the highway, hit the cruise control and nearly go in the back of the car in front of you exclaiming, ‘what? No radar? On a car that costs nearly 400,000?!”

2012 Range Rover Sport

In fact, there’s an alarming lack of toys on the Sport with the most useful upgrade  for this 2012 car being…a power tailgate. The main console interface has been upgraded to the latest Evoque system – and just like on that car, the onscreen buttons are too small and it’s slow to react, requiring multiple stabs of the screen to move through the pages. Not that there are many pages in the first place; navigation, HVAC, audio and…that’s about it.

2012 Range Rover Sport

Yes, you heard right – no multiple configuration options for the suspension, no optional power modes for the engine or transmission. Heck, there isn’t even an mouse or knob to play with the main interface – it’s your finger or else. That goes for Land Rover’s formidable Terrain Response system as well which has been downgraded from a knob to a pair of buttons. Below them are a mess of indecipherable identical buttons for controlling the height of the air suspension, low range, and one to fire the rockets, probably.

2012 Range Rover Sport

Luckily what is there works well. The Harmon Kardon Logic 7 system is ear bleedingly good and hooks up easily to your phone via Bluetooth, while the A/C cools that leather-lined cabin down sufficiently quickly given our current scorching summer. Note I said ‘sufficiently’ – the Evoque is still faster to cool down (a benefit of its smaller cabin and newer system) and neither is as quick to cool as your average Land Cruiser. Perfectly acceptable for a European marque, however and much better than the 335i I drove the other day, for instance.

In the year 2012, this lack of pointless gadgetry will not do, so you can bet your bottom dollar that the new big-daddy Range and the Sport will be festooned with all manner of gizmos and tech toys, air-cooled massage seats and God knows what else.

And that’s a shame because even though it’s old, and even though it doesn’t have any toys, this Sport is still utterly magnificent to drive.

2012 Range Rover Sport

Land Rover: here's one we made earlier!

It only takes one corner to see the full magnitude of the accomplishment of Land Rover’s suspension engineers. This is an SUV that weighs nearly 2.7 tonnes but is still capable of dancing through the bends thanks to the cross-linked air suspension that magically zaps away excess body roll, keeping the Sport flat and level. Turn in is remarkably good – if somewhat artificial in feel – thanks to the immense mechanical grip delivered by those wide 22-inch tyres. The steering delivers loads of feel, and the massive Brembo brakes clamp down on excess speed with the intensity of a Manhattan parking inspector.

2012 Range Rover Sport

Then there’s the POWER. 510bhp of it and while there are faster SUVs (cough, Grand Cherokee SRT8, cough) the Sport still delivers on the straight, knocking the 0-100 benchmark in just 6.2 seconds, all the way up to a (limited) top speed of 225kph.

But even when you’re not hooning about around town, the Sport still feels like a very special car to drive, relaxed and refined, an SUV that’s got nothing to prove to anyone. While other marques feel the need to stuff ever bigger engines into their hoods/trousers and create bizarrely mutated creations, you cruise by in the Range with a smile on your face.

2012 Range Rover Sport

The only emotion I can use to describe driving this car is immense, smug self satisfaction. It may be one of the most common cars on the road even with its gargantuan price tag, but never once do you feel shortchanged with the experience thanks to that immense feel-good factor you get from driving around in this leather-and-wood living room. And if you crave customization, well there are plenty of local tuners to provide to all tastes.

This car is so good that it almost makes me sad. Whatever Land Rover is cooking up in its secret Gaydon lab has surely being defined by big markets like the Chinese rather than their own good instincts – so we can expect more flashy trinkets on the outside, nightclub lighting on the inside and more power than one could responsibly deploy on the public roads.

Don’t screw it up, guys.

Price: AED399,000($108, 630)
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8, 510bhp @ 6000rpm, 461b ft @ 2500rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 6.2s, 225kph (limited)
Transmission: Six-speed auto, four-wheel drive, 12.7L/100km
Weight: 2638kg


2 responses to “2012 Range Rover Sport Supercharged Review”

  1. Usama Khan says:

    beautiful review! just one question though. I’m planning to put my money on a used 2009-2010 Sport. is it worth? & a word about maintainence costs & issues would be welcome. how are the parts priced, say as compared to a land cruiser or tahoe. & any known faults with these vehicles? thanks & keep up the good work!

  2. admin says:

    [Imthishan] I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a used Sport, but I would only buy one from the main dealer, with a full service history. If they are well maintained, Land Rover products tend to be quite reliable, although it will never be flawless as a Land Cruiser (your problems will tend to be electrical glitches) and parts prices are also more expensive.

    So much more satisfying to drive than a Japanese SUV, and if you bag one with some warranty left, you’re laughing!

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