I’m perched atop a bank, deep in the Herefordshire countryside, being guided through the next series of challenges by a man head to toe in khaki from the Land Rover Experience team at Eastnor Castle.
Placed around the new Range Rover Sport are tiny cameras that feed images back to the screen to show you what’s what. All I can see from the front cameras is a long drop and then water – no land, just water. You see, the drop is so steep, the bonnet is facing the sky and there’s absolutely no opportunity for you to make a decision on where to point the wheels without relying on the screen.
Inching forward a little, the car yaws like a see-saw and then tips its weight forth down the muddy luge. I am now looking at the cameras which are submerged, the water is cloudy from all the silt and mud I’ve just churned up. There is literally nowhere to go now other than upriver so onward we go, bow wave ever-present, like it was the most ordinary thing in the world.
My wonderment of the moment was disturbed when the phone rang, the number appearing underwater on the screen, amongst flowing reeds and small fish.
It was the Montpellier Chapter Hotel I was staying in that night, calling to confirm a spa appointment. I explained that I was in a river, that eventually I would come across another perpendicular bank up which I would gracefully climb, then across a series of fields and tracks to a gate which would throw me out onto an A road to take me straight to Cheltenham but yes, I should still make the 6.20pm appointment.
Life with a new Range Rover Sport – it is mind-boggling just how capable this luxury machine is.
Now lighter by half a ton and more agile than the outgoing model thanks to its all-aluminum construction, this latest model has raised the bar yet again to new levels of performance, fuel economy and CO2 emissions.
It would be easy to say all you need is the 3.0 litre TDV6 diesel engine because it really is all you need. It’s rapid, smooth and a long way off the sound of a regular diesel, but then you stand next to the 5.0L Supercharged V8 version when it’s fired up and the noise is so utterly fantastic, you get swept up in all that V8 cement-gargling growl.
Take your mind away from mud and ruts to smooth, runway tarmac, and the V8 will propel you from 0 – 60mph in just 5 seconds. That’s outrageous for a car of this size. A flurry of seconds later, you’ll be cruising at 155mph, the top speed with this engine. Seeing another Sport thunder down the runway whilst you watch widens the eyes somewhat. If it’s possible to look regally sporty, this does.
But, nothing makes your eyes widen more than driving up a ramp onto a cargo 747 jet to then take on an assault course for cars within, where precision, composure and balance is all. Exiting the big bird had us all leaning back trying hard to counter balance the sheer perpendicular angle of the car, upstanding on the pedals.
The styling of the Sport has had plenty of influence from its stable-mate, the Evoque, with the roofline, tailgate and side-profile being the outward clues. Inside, the car is more roomy than the current model, yes, a fraction longer and wider and sitting on a longer wheelbase, and for the first time now offers seven seats, the third row being two automatically stowing child’s perches.
This is a highly skilled machine but reflecting that the Sport is more used to providing very high levels of on-road refinement and luxury, more are sold in New York City than anywhere else in the world. That’s not to say that New Yorkers demand more sumptuousness, it’s just that they will rarely be exposed to anything more challenging than a loose drain cover and that really is a travesty.
If you own a Range Rover/Sport or in fact any product from Land Rover, I urge you to ring Eastnor Castle and book yourself and your family in for an overnight stay. The setting is utterly beautiful, but it’s what you get up to with the Land Rover Experience team that will alter your understanding and appreciation of this car, hereon in.
As we’ve experienced, our own self-preservation limits will run out far and away before that of this colossally impressive machine.
Priced from £51,550. For more information about the Range Rover Sport, click here.