New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

New Range Rover Sport hits SA

2009-10-26 16:04

Hailey Philander

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Land Rover
Model Range Rover Sport
Engine 5.0l V8 supercharged petrol; 3.6 V8 diesel
Power 375 kW from 6 000-6 500 r/min; 200 kW @ 4 000 r/min
Torque 625 Nm from 2 500-5 500 r/min; 640 Nm @ 2 000 r/min
Transmission six-speed automatic
Zero To Hundred 6.2 seconds; 9.2 seconds
Top Speed 225 km/h; 209 km/h
Fuel Consumption 14.9 l/100 km; 11.1 km/h
Steering Speed proportional power assisted rack & pinion
Tyres 275/40R20 106Y All Terrain
Front Suspension Air sprung independent double wishbone
Rear Suspension Air sprung independent double wishbone
Service Intervals 6 months / 12 000 km
There's something magnificent about watching a 2.8 tonne SUV charge up and over the top of a sand dune, flicking up grains as the wind plays on the tops of the surrounding dunes. Slow it down in your mind's eye, and it's even poetic.

Even if this is the magnificent vehicle is just on its way to rescue another stricken Range Rover stuck at the bottom of the selfsame infernal sand dune.

See, Land Rover had taken a group of journalists out to the Atlantis dunes on the Cape West Coast to try out the new sand launch control feature on its Terrain Response System.

We'd already had a chance to sample the new crawl mode on the Discovery 4 drive the previous day, crossing rivers and creeping across scary rocky passes (with sheer drops mere centimetres away) to prove the point.

In the soft stuff

That I'm still alive today is probably a testament that it works.

The sand launch control, on the other hand, was another story entirely.

In theory, the system applies more traction at low speeds, allowing you to not become bogged down in the soft stuff and gain that all-important momentum to skip across the sand. In theory.

In Land Rover's defence, with such a tight launch schedule and several vehicles to account for, it was meant to be a quick trip into the dunes for a bit of sand driving. But with hard tyres on hot sand, the dunes were having none of that and claimed prisoners by the Sport-ful.

It was fun, though, and since we'd imagine that most Range Rover Sports will barely taste the sand at their local beach bars, knowing your car could, in theory, blast through a few sand dunes should be comforting in itself.

Of greater importance to these drivers, perhaps, would be the new dynamic programme on the Terrain Response, which does all the things you'd expect from a programme such as this. It channels the chassis changes to sharpen throttle response and gear changes and the rear roll bar is said to be 20% stiffer. Since the Range Rover Sport's ride is inherently more sports-biased, these adjustments shouldn't startle too much.

Styling changes

But most of the changes to the most potent Range Rover are minor, to say the least. A few design tweaks here and there - new headlamps, grille and front airdam, and a badge that is now black and silver across the Range Rover Sport range.

The amendments beneath the metal are more telling though. There you'll find the chassis changes extending to include a new Adaptive Dynamics System, which works with active ride control to improve stability, and adaptive damping to suit a range of on- and off-road terrain given a particular driver's style.

Range Rover Sport shares a range of features seen on the Range Rover and Discovery 4 launched in the past month, including the clever 360-degree camera view, towing assist, and an all-new interior including the easy to use touchscreen for the centre console that makes the facia look a whole lot neater.

Further changes include new seats, fewer switches and new ambient lighting for the cabin.

Super power

But the biggest news is the introduction of new engines - the 3.6-litre TDV8 and the supercharged petrol mill recently introduced in the Range Rover.

The petrol unit is bigger and noticeably more powerful than the 4.2-litre unit it replaces, but direct fuel injection (a first for Land Rover on a petrol engine) and variable camshaft profiling help to reduce consumption and emission figures dramatically, while shoving up performance and engine response.

Both petrol and diesel models are fitted with a new ZF six-speed automatic transmission that allows manual-like changes through steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. The transmission has a sport mode that alters shift patterns to suit different driving styles and should be lots of fun juggling gears through faster switches.

Bigger brakes, too

375 kW and 625 Nm of unbridled power from a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 is plenty of fun, yes, but thankfully bigger power also means bigger brakes for the Sport. The Supercharged model uses a performance brake system from Brembo with 380 mm ventilated discs with aluminium six-piston calipers and 365 mm ventilated discs at the rear.

Brakes have been updated for the TDV8 with 360 mm ventilated discs with twin pots for the front wheels and 350 mm ventilated discs with single piston calipers at the rear for the turbodiesel model.

And even though there's nothing wrong with the turbodiesel, the inherent fun quotient of the supercharged model means you'll probably be punishing those Brembos a whole lot more.

Not because you want to, of course, just because these machines are so quick, they'll thoroughly bamboozle you before you even get the chance to blink. The Sports sits (relatively) low to the ground and with active roll control further developed with the addition of more accelerometers, you're unlikely to feel much in the way of body roll. It's fantastically eerie.

The Range Rover Sport promises to be a capable SUV in most situations it'll be chucked into, but it's also alarmingly quick (with the assuring ability of being able to deal with this haste). With its changes being kept mostly subdued, it should remain a hit at suburban organic markets for several years to come.

5.0 litre V8 Supercharged - R961 000
3.6l TDV8 - R934 500


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