Motoring review: The Range Rover Sport is an impressive vehicle with one hell of a headrest

 

Price: £64,995 (£78,595 as tested)
Engine capacity: 3 litre V6 diesel
Power output (hp @ rpm): 292@4,000
Top speed (mph): 130
0-62 mph (seconds): 6.8
Fuel economy (mpg): 37.7
CO2 emissions (g/km): 199

Sometimes it's just one thing that you take away from a car as an abiding memory. In the case of this Range Rover Sport, it isn't its surprisingly brisk performance or undoubted presence, but something smaller, and, in its way, an even more impressive achievement: the headrest.

Usually these are fitted by car makers as a rather clinical device to minimise the risk of whiplash to the occupants, and they feel correspondingly hard and unyielding. And yet the interface between head and restraint is one of the more intimate aspects of your interaction with a vehicle.

Land Rover clearly recognises this, and has risen to the tactile challenge with its new Range Rover Sport – an preternaturally soft pillow, swathed in supple leather, and the closest thing you will get to an Indian head massage this side of, well, an Indian head massage. For its target demographic – rich, successful, business types, normally public school educated – that small piece of furnishing provides that quintessential quality for executive car, that ability to dispel stress after yet another god-awful day in the office.

For the typical Range Rover Sport customer, I imagine, it will be reminiscent of being cuddled in matron's ample bosom as she administers cool ointment on a graze to the knee or elbow after a nasty scrape on school sports day. I'll stop there, shall I?

Not that this impressive vehicle is without its faults. It is, let me say, an incredibly accomplished hunk of engineering. It can be specified with an on-board telly, electric rear hatch, touch-screen controls; a programme that will automatically get you in and then out of a tight parking space, a very handy thing in such a massive (about 5m or 15ft-long) machine. I believe it will even recognise road signs, with the right software on board.

It weighs about two tons, but will still return real-world fuel consumption of 33mpg in my experience (38mpg is the official claim). How is this done? Well, it has an eight-speed automatic gearbox, an advanced V6 turbo diesel engine; stop-start in traffic to enhance economy; the lot. Plus it will do the whole four-wheel drive thing just as well as any old-school Land Rover for most practical purposes.

The flaw is that, very occasionally, the combination of all this complication and sophistication can trip itself over, and the response to putting your foot down hard can be a little tardy, as if the car's giant brain is really having to work hard to do work out what to do (which it is). Apart from that, quite flawless.

One other thing. Unlike the myriad competition, this Range Rover has classic good looks. Land Rover got into this sector first, really, with the 1970 original, a still handsome design. That distinctive shape, the "floating" slim roof-line (because the widow pillars are blacked out), the squared-off edges and so on are all instantly recognisably Range Rover.

Now, by the way, the company has extended the brand's appeal and created a new niche in turn, with the mini Range Rover, the Evoque, an increasingly common and striking sight on our streets (or the better-heeled ones at any rate), usually in fashionable white.

This latest Range Rover Sport, in its turn, has successfully melded in some of the Evoque's modern styling design cues, such as those ultra- narrow headlamps. All in all, a very nice place to rest one's head.

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