2005 remains a year of nirvana for us motoring journalists as we welcomed the first iteration of the Range Rover Sport – an SUV designed to be a sportier-looking and fun-to-drive variant of the flagship Range Rover.
It was a model that appealed to everyone with a superbly well-appointed interior, a potent turbodiesel, as well as V8 supercharged petrol powerplants. Introducing its third generation a decade after the second version joined the competition back in 2013, the complete clue regarding the SUV lies within its Range Rover Sport designation. That said, this is the car to buy if you are looking for 'Sport' in your luxury SUV, says the marque.
I spent time at the helm of the D350 Dynamic HSE model, which adds dynamism to a luxurious package. You see, it's based on the same platform that underpins its not-so-sporty Range Rover sibling, and that creates an enticing recipe and a good one, at that. You get a luxurious interior, superb off-road technologies, and an imposing stance. While it's very similar in some respects to its bigger brother, it has its distinctive charisma and may well be an icon in its own right.
When you step inside, you get to appreciate the exceptional work the folks at RR have done. Though less posh than its bigger sibling, it has a different approach to luxury than its counterpart. The Range Rover Sport D350 Dynamic HSE doesn't coddle you with plush amenities or lavish extravagance, but it still offers a cosy ride.
You might think the engineers had an easy job creating this, but they had a clear vision; to craft a high-end car that exudes luxury without flaunting it, a formula that succeeded. That said, niceties such as the tactile and lightweight Ultrafabrics premium textiles, finished in new Duo Tone colourways, an intuitive 13.1-inch curved touchscreen infotainment system that's not overly prone to fingerprints and a 13.7-inch digital instrument cluster are other factors that place it closer to the flagship model than ever before.
I am not impressed by the Ultrafabrics on the door panels as they look cheap and flimsy, and I doubt they will last long. They have a dull, synthetic appearance, and they feel rough and scratchy to the touch. I would have preferred something more natural and elegant, like leather or suede.
There's a bit of complexity with the menu system if you are new to the infotainment system, but once you get to grips with it, it works well. Besides having physical buttons for functions like the rear defogger, A/C, air recirculation and climate control, it uses haptic feedback. I laud Range Rover for its consistency with the knobs for fan and heated seat adjustments.
When driving the Range Rover Sport D350, it impresses in multiple ways. First, it adeptly absorbs road bumps, displaying excellent road manners while maintaining stability and agility. Secondly, it's an easy car to live with daily despite its immense size, and the rear-wheel steering makes it remarkably agile at low speeds by reducing the turning circle.
Third, a prime feature of the RR Sport is the 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that churns out 258kW and 700Nm of torque. It perfectly complements the SUV's essence, being simultaneously efficient and potent.
This engine option might be the most popular choice among buyers, offering the best balance between performance and efficiency. Furthermore, with the seamless and responsive 8-speed automatic gearbox, navigating any terrain is a masterclass in mechanical smoothness.
I never dared to venture far off the beaten track with the SUV, mindful of the risk of scratching it or damaging the enormous wheels. Yet, with all the off-road systems and advanced attributes in place, it could go farther than most as the Range Rover Sport maintains its connection to the brand's roots.
The Range Rover Sport D350 Dynamic HSE continues to excel as an SUV that prioritises comfort and off-road capability while retaining its driving agility.
While I was not too concerned about fuel consumption, I achieved a decent 10.9l/100km consumption figure during my time with the SUV, which is remarkable for a large and powerful vehicle of this calibre.
At R2,189,200, the Range Rover Sport D350 Dynamic HSE is just one capable SUV best suited for long cruises and suburban lifestyles. That said, it's the most refined and luxurious ride I've ever experienced in its class.