Review: 2023 Range Rover Sport passes the plug-in vibe check

Land Rover redesigned the Range Rover for the 2022 model year, and now the luxury SUV’s smaller, more athletic Range Rover Sport sibling has arrived for 2023.

And what an arrival. On sale soon in the U.S., the Sport had its coming-out in Madrid just a few weeks ago, where Land Rover ushered it through both off-road trails and on-road cruises, and still found time to showcase three distinct powertrains while also parading the vehicles through the streets of Spain’s capital city in fashion-runway formation. 

If you don’t come away from the Range Rover Sport with the desire to be in it, I don’t know if we can be friends. The same holds true for Madrid, where we flew, slept (a little), then drove to its northwest on a scorching 99-degree day and back in time for Tempranillo o’clock. The Range Rover Sport and the city too have an affable, ritzy vibe that some luxury vehicles and destinations spend years and millions to curate, and fail.

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Range Rover Sport: Low-key, high style

Like the Range Rover, the design of the Range Rover Sport follows a “less is more” philosophy. The exterior looks like it was hewn from a single solid, while the interior continues the clean crisp look we’ve come to expect from Land Rover.

In a place like Madrid, where panache means hotels with indecipherable bath fixtures and an early-dinner reservation at 9:00 p.m., the Range Rover Sport fits in perfectly. It’s a statement piece of automotive jewelry, one with SUV proportions rendered in soft curves and a few plumb-straight lines. The Range Rover long ago led the march away from boxy SUV lines toward a modern silhouette: the Sport nails it with retractable door handles, thin bands of LED headlights, as few cutlines as possible, and a slight wedge at its heels that gets capped by tall, thin LED taillights. 

You’ll want to nest for hours amid the soothing tones and touch-friendly materials draped in its cabin. A curved 13.1-inch touchscreen dominates the center of the dash and a 13.7-inch panel of digital gauges wash the interior with a soft glow, reflected on a substantial amount of gloss-black trim. Elsewhere, the Sport’s trimmed to a warmer standard than it was last year, with richer wood and leather and a less starkly defined dash. A few knobs control some major functions not buried in the touchscreens, but the shifter’s too vague for most drivers to slip into Reverse on first try.

With no more third-row seat on its options list, the 2023 Range Rover Sport makes the most of its 194.7-inch overall length (4.2 inches less than the similar Range Rover) and 118.0-inch wheelbase (identical to the bigger SUV). The front seats have, at a minimum, 20 ways of adjustment and real leather upholstery, to go with almost three and a half feet of leg room. Land Rover can upgrade them with more adjustment, heating, cooling, and massaging functions, or even more fancy leather and coordinating leather and woven trim for the dash.

The second row’s excuse-free seating fits two people best, with 37.8 inches of leg room and enough head room for 6-footers to comfortably ride behind tall people in front. A third person can sit in the middle comfortably, but trust us, you’d rather choose the between-seat cooler that can hold a few small bottles of Rioja and some local cheese. Pair that with rear-seat entertainment screens and power down the backrests for a great nap—or fold the seats forward to boost cargo space from 31.9 cubic feet behind the second row to 65.9 cubic feet behind the front seats. Tuck it all away with a tap on the power tailgate and a day’s worth of shopping gets locked safely away, whether it’s golf bags or Hermès bags.

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Range Rover Sport: Plug-in power

All versions of the new Range Rover Sport move quickly into traffic slipstreams, carry themselves with poise on pavement, and trundle willingly off-road, but some versions do all that with more grace and efficiency than others. 

The Sport platform, shared with the larger Range Rover, supports a wide variety of powertrains, including an electric setup. Land Rover plans to have six electric models in its lineup by as early as 2026, starting with electric versions of the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport in 2024. We won’t be surprised if the electric model is the most powerful in the Range Rover Sport lineup. 

However, before it arrives the title will go to a Range Rover Sport SVR packing a V-8. The Range Rover Sport P530 First Edition, available in the 2023 model year only, comes equipped with a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 good for 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, or enough for 0-60 mph acceleration in 4.3 seconds. It’s delightful as usual, with a rorty soundtrack and muscular appeal, and it carries a tow rating of up to 7,716 lb.

The entry versions come with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 and mild-hybrid hardware. As the P360 SE, the combination’s good for 355 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. It carries almost 5,000 lb around, though, and its 5.7-second 0-60 mph time looks racier on paper than it feels on the street, probably because of its sewing-machine smoothness, the effortless shifts from the 8-speed automatic, and the surefooted traction of all-wheel drive. Above this is the P400 SE Dynamic with the same powertrain as the P360 SE, but with 395 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, good for a 5.4-second 0-60 mph run.

Completing the range is the P440e Autobiography, which comes powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 and an electric motor in plug-in hybrid configuration. This setup is good for a combined 434 hp and 619 lb-ft of torque and an electric range of about 48 miles thanks to a 31.8-kwh battery. Roughly as quick as the P400, it’s zero-emissions quiet at low operating speeds, and has an EV lockout switch or battery-preserve mode to keep that silent power available in neighborhoods.

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

 

2023 Range Rover Sport: To the pavement and beyond

Regardless of the grade, the Sport comes with an air suspension, adaptive dampers, and Terrain Response traction controls. On pavement, the symphony of electronics—with the available rear-axle steering of the most expensive models, which turns the rear wheels up to 7.3 degrees opposite the front wheels at low speeds for crisper turn-in—gives the Range Rover Sport the buttoned-down feel of a high-riding sport sedan. In the Comfort drive mode, the ride quality is superb, and the steering builds up weight in useful ways, even with the enormous 23-inch wheels Land Rover sells. 

In Sport, the Range Rover Sport’s steering gets truly hefty and its suspension lowers and stiffens for a winding-road driving experience on par with BMW’s sportier X5s and yes, with the Porsche Cayenne. It’s even more complex when a body-roll-control system gets fused on the most expensive versions—but with its standard setup alone, and particularly with the added weight of the plug-in package, the Sport comports itself with grace.

Once it leaves the streets, the Range Rover Sport has the hardware to plug deeply away at rarely used rightaways. Its traction systems spin into modes that alter shifts, throttle, and stability control to tailor responses for rocks, sand, and mud, while its suspension lifts to a maximum of 11.1 inches of ground clearance or 35.4 inches of wading depth. It sports the uncanny ability to go exactly where the risk of scraping up a $100,000 luxury SUV is greatest—and it does so with ease. The electronic controls, including control over front and rear differentials, knit all its talents together to take the mystery from off-roading. It even enables a luxurious experience on remote trails: New on this generation of the Range Rover Sport is adaptive cruise control for off-roading. The driver has four settings to choose from, each of which maintains the suitable speed when off-roading and enables the driver to fully focus on the steering. If luxury is the ability to go anywhere at any time, and to fit in without fuss, the Range Rover Sport defines it.

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2023 Range Rover Sport: Safety, technology, and features

Like the new, tech-centric Range Rover, every Range Rover Sport comes with the latest in safety technology, above and beyond the margin afforded by its standard all-wheel drive. It has automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors, a surround-view camera system with specific off-road views, off-road cruise control, LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control that permits brief 15-second stints of hands-free driving.

It also starts with a plush list of features that only grows in tandem with the price tag. The $84,350 Range Rover Sport P360 SE gets 21-inch wheels, 20-way power front seats, leather upholstery, wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto, and a wireless smartphone charger—and can be fitted with 22- or 23-inch wheels, a black or body-color roof, premium LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, a hitch and towing cameras, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. P400 Sports have all that plus the higher-output mild-hybrid drivetrain, while the $105,550 Autobiography P440e plug-in hybrid ladles on 22-inch wheels, heated and cooled 22-way power front seats, semi-aniline leather, power heated and cooled second-row seats, a head-up display, Meridian 3D audio, and a rear camera mirror—leaving room for the optional cooled center console and $4,550 Signature sound system.

At the top end, the $122,850 P530 gets almost all those touches, as well as the swell V-8. It’s a one-year act only, to be followed up with an all-electric Range Rover Sport. When it gets that battery implant, the powertrain will match its already alluring vibe.
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Land Rover flew Motor Authority to Madrid to drive the new Range Rover Sport and thoughtfully left plenty of time to explore El Prado. 

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