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You could argue that edging over obstacles inside the

fuselage of a hollowed-out jumbo jet is a long way from anything a Range Rover owner is likely to put their car through. And

you’d have a point. But as a way of demonstrating the extreme capabilities of

the new Sport it would have been hard to come up with anything more memorable.

Besides, by the time I came to be driving into the 747 with

the mirrors folded so it would fit (just) through the cargo-bay door, the Sport

had already been driven on road and off it across Wales and the Cotswolds, as

well as proving its remarkable acceleration and braking capabilities on a

deserted runway.

Sport by name…

Land Rover bosses acknowledge that the old Range Rover Sport

was a little too close to the old Range Rover in character. The new Sport is

intended to offer something distinct from the Range Rover while retaining its

luxury and refinement.

Out on the road, these efforts have succeeded emphatically.

Both the test cars I drove were fitted with the Dynamic Response system, which

allows the driver to opt for more aggressive settings for the suspension,

steering, throttle and eight-speed automatic gearbox. Even without this mode

selected, the Sport rides more firmly than the limo-like Range Rover, but with only

a slight sacrifice in comfort. In fact, if the driver is getting a move on the

better tied-down suspension is probably more comfortable than the regular Range

Rover’s, as it stops any float or wallow over dips and crests.

With the Dynamic mode engaged the Sport is exceptionally grippy, agile and responsive for such a large 4×4, but

gearchanges are that bit more abrupt and rough surfaces make their presence

felt more. For the majority of driving, the standard on-road

setting is close to ideal. Certainly for towing duties the Dynamic mode can be

left well alone.

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As you’d expect of a Land Rover, the new Range Rover Sport’s

towing limit is 3.5 tonnes, whichever engine is under the bonnet. Kerbweights

are down, though. Dramatically so, in fact, with a reduction of up to 420kg depending on the model.

Of course, this puts a dent in the 85% match figure, as

usually recommended for secure and stable towing. However, given that the SDV6

diesel weighs 2115kg, an 85% match is still a hefty 1798kg.

With 288bhp and 442lb ft of torque, pulling a tourer

weighing that much should prove no trouble at all. Certainly my solo test drive

showed this engine to be every bit as powerful as those numbers suggest, and

refined with it.

The Sport’s reduced weight helps deliver some respectable

economy and emissions figures for something possessing the size and

aerodynamics of a country house. According to the official figures, 37.7mpg is

achievable on the combined cycle with carbon dioxide emissions of 199g/km.

I also drove the range-topping 5.0-litre supercharged V8

petrol. Few will find the SDV6 short of performance. None will complain about

the petrol. It’s staggeringly quick, sounds wonderful, and will go from

0-100-0mph in 16.5 seconds, as I found out on an airport runway. On the other hand, it’s

phenomenally expensive to buy, priced from £81,550 (the SDV6 costs from £59,995). Fuel bills will be expensive, too, with an official combined figure of

22.1mpg. It’s overkill for day-to-day driving, and more likely to find buyers

in the US or Middle East, where needing your own oil well to run one is less of

a problem.

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A true Range Rover

While the car’s on-road performance gets your

attention, it’s the way this combines with exceptionally ability off-road

which really impresses. I drove the car through ruts, rocks, mud and

deep water, and the Range Rover Sport coped brilliantly with whatever was

thrown at it.

The cabin also deserves praise. There’s much more legroom

for those in the second row than before, and the optional third-row of seats

which folds out of the boot floor adds to the car’s practicality. Everything

you see or touch looks and feels made to a high standard, and Land

Rover’s improved performance in recent customer satisfaction surveys like JD

Power suggests that quality now goes more than skin deep. What’s more, the wide

scope for personalising the cabin will allow owners can put their own stamp

on the car.

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The new Range Rover Sport is quite exceptional. Aside

from the price tag, it’s hard to find serious fault. A little less road noise

at speed would be welcome, but even this is nit-picking, really.

Land Rover has succeeded in making the Sport, well, sportier,

without compromising it’s credentials as a luxury 4×4. It’s undeniably

expensive, but for anyone with a luxury caravan like an Airstream to tow, the

Range Rover Sport must be close to the perfect match.