Price: £81,570 (range from £51,550 to £81,575)
Engine: 367cc, V8 cylinders, 32 valves, turbo diesel, 339bhp
Transmission: eight-sped automatic, four-wheel drive
Performance: 140mph, 0-62 in 6.9 sec, 32.5 mpg, CO2 229 g/km
Many of us rage at the brashness and selfishness that goes with the battalions of 4x4s that nowadays patrol our roads. They are mostly unnecessary for the tasks they perform, they clog up streets because they can't squeeze past each other, they are heavy and thirsty, and they reverse into lower-set cars because their drivers fail to notice the existence of life below their elevated level.
All that said, they are here to stay, because too many people convince themselves that such a behemoth is an essential adjunct to a status-driven life. And, leaving aside my prejudices outlined above and reconfirmed nearly every day, there is no doubt that driving, or being driven in, the latest Range Rover models is a lush experience.
The smaller, highly fashionable Evoque has become massively popular, while the latest version of the full-size Range Rover is much lighter and more frugal than its predecessor. And now there is a new incarnation of the model which hitherto most overtly illustrated the unhealthy disregard for fellow citizens too often associated with 4x4 drivers: the Range Rover Sport.
The old one, square-cut and brash, was a product of the rolled-steel-joist school of structural engineering. The new one, instead, is based on its larger, dearer sibling's new aluminium, and chassis-less, underpinnings, a construction lighter by a massive 420kg.
The new Sport is also more rounded, elegant and subtle in design, making it look like the bridge between Evoque and full-size Range Rover that it is. It's also £20,000 cheaper than the full-fat model, despite being little smaller: the extra outlay for the top model goes on extra equipment and the warm glow that comes from owning the grand one.
Most Range Rover Sports are bought with a 3.0-litre, V6-cylinder turbodiesel engine in either 258 or 292bhp form, and, given the easy pace and sub-200g/km CO2 on offer, there is little reason to do otherwise. At the other extreme is a 510bhp supercharged petrol V8 for the bottomless of pocket, while in between lies the subject of this test, the unusual prospect of a diesel V8. This 4.4-litre engine produces 339bhp and a massive 516lb ft of pulling ability to haul the car's 2.4 tonnes, and its exhaust gases sadly include a high-tax 229g/km of CO2 every kilometre.
But what an extraordinary generator of smooth, seamless, effortless energy it is. Something this large and diesel-powered shouldn't be able to reach 62mph in just 6.9 seconds, but it does so if asked. Yet better, to an appreciator of physics if not to someone with an automotive conscience, is the way this hefty seven-seater (children-only in the back row, realistically) tidily flits through curves and smothers disturbances beneath, as though its mass has been sucked through a black hole.
Here is a Range Rover for the post-profligacy age, still an extravagant purchase but more tasteful than its predecessor and less overbearing than the full-size version. It's also more fun to drive than the biggest one, as well as being cheaper. A Range Rover Sport can never be a rational purchase, but its V6 diesel versions get the closest to that side of the justification process. Our SDV8 test car, however, did give an intriguing insight into the art of the diesel-powered possible.