x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Looking pretty good for hitting such a lofty milestone

Range Rover celebrates its 40th birthday with the release of a new Sport.

Range Rover has avoided the mid-life crisis with the Sport.
Range Rover has avoided the mid-life crisis with the Sport.

Happy birthday, Range Rover. Wow, what a milestone you've reached this year - the big 4-0. It's been quite a ride for you.

When you first came out in 1970, you made quite an impression. You were like nothing on the road then, really, offering off-road prowess with on-road poise and luxury; well, relatively speaking, of course. Sure, you were a little portly, but you still got it done.

Well, my, look what you've grown into. I certainly hope I look as good as you do when I hit 40. I know you, Sport, are the smaller, more nimble of the Range Rover brand, based on the Land Rover LR4 chassis, but you've got a lot more class and panache to offer. New for you this year are smart LED running lights and stop lights, and a cleaner look. With a low roofline, you certainly look sportier than the rest of the range!

The 5.0L V8 is also new for 2010, with direct injection and more than enough power to blow out those 40 candles. It's up 70hp from last year to 375hp, and your acceleration is pretty impressive for an SUV. No, it's not the 510hp of the Supercharged version, but it's still good enough to go fast - at least in a straight line. My only question is, why does the steering wheel shudder under heavy accelleration? Try and sort that out, Sport.

But you can't ignore the laws of physics. When you get up in years, you need to hit the gym a bit more to trim down the weight, and - don't take this the wrong way, Sport - but you could certainly use a few laps in the pool. At 2,489kg, you're no lightweight, though I must say you certainly hide it well. But while the engine has enough power to get you going at a decent clip, it's the corners that belie your hefty mass, Sport, with your tyres all squealing and the understeer coming on quick. While your cornering is pretty good for a car this size, you certainly don't make me think of comparing you with a Porsche. Hey, isn't that car quite a bit older than you are? Just sayin' ...

That extra heft also has an effect on your efficiency. With a combined fuel economy of 13.9L every 100km (and that's a pretty optimistic number), no one will confuse you for a green, hippie type, will they? C'mon, Sport, I know it wasn't a consideration when you were younger, but people are more concerned with saving the world these days.

But your ride is certainly comfortable enough for anyone who may be getting on in years themselves. Considering you do take the corners tighter than your softer cousins, the suspension still soaks up the bumps and cracks in the road quite well, very befitting for a luxury vehicle of your stature.

Speaking of luxury, you've really matured from your early days in that department. Passengers are veritably swaddled in the best of leather and sumptuous wood trim inside, with more than enough room to coddle four adults comfortably. Passengers in the back get a nice, elevated, stadium seating arrangement, too. And, I'm so glad you cleaned up the dashboard, this year, too - with about half the buttons of the last version, it looks a lot less confusing and much more refined.

I know compared with the higher-spec HSE model you've got fewer options, but you're still pretty well kitted out. The only option I really wanted is a reversing camera - I think you're big enough to warrant that as standard equipment, don't you?

But I'm also glad to see that, in your advancing years, you still have what it takes to tackle the rough stuff off the tarmac. Really, that's the defining point of Range Rover, isn't it; it's raison d'être. And you carry the tradition well.

I see inside that you're outfitted with all the off-road doodads: a big Terrain Response knob, descent control, locking differentials underneath; everything to make off-roading as easy as pie. You've learnt a lot from the early days of simply relying on a low-gearset shifter and some expertise behind the wheel. The only thing holding you back from being a serious off-roader is your wheels - even deflating the low-profile tyres, the 20-inch alloys will occasionally sink into softer sand. You're obviously intended more for the road than the dirt, Sport, but thanks for the added off-road tech, anyway.

Well, Sport, I hope you enjoy your brand's big birthday this year. I must say, you've certainly kept up with the times, and I'm glad to see how you've learnt and adapted through the years. And, don't worry - the only time I'll think of you as over the hill is when I'm tackling a large dune in the desert.