We test the more powerful six-cylinder Range Rover Sport.
Practical interior with smart touches
Purposefully restrained styling
The Range Rover badge
Overactive stability control
Odd place for interior door pulls
Ventilated seats cost extra
It's over before the 23-inch wheels start rolling: The 2023 Range Rover Sport has either captured your heart or it hasn't. You see the new two-row midsize luxury SUV from across the parking lot. The door handles disappear into the sheetmetal—a good start, but your neighbor's S-Class can do that, too. Then the SUV lowers itself in park, sitting seductively atop those oversized rims thanks to its air suspension. The more you look, the more you admire its purposefully restrained design. And you may not admit it out loud, but the prominent "Range Rover" badging on the hood adds tremendously to its appeal.
We liked the 2023 Range Rover Sport when we first drove the entire lineup in Spain, but at some point you'll need to know what it's like on a daily basis. That's why we're now focusing on the nearly 400-hp six-cylinder SE Dynamic model, a $100,000 as-tested SUV that delighted in some ways but disappointed in others.
We've seen "Sport" badges applied to more non-sporty SUVs than we can count (we don't like to count very high), from the Nissan Rogue Sport to the Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. With the Range Rover Sport, sportiness is relative. Compared to the bigger and heavier Range Rover? Sure, the Range Rover Sport is sporty. But when you consider all the other SUVs available for around $100,000, the picture changes dramatically.
Start with 0-60-mph acceleration. Most 2023 Range Rover Sports will be powered by the 3.0-liter turbocharged mild hybrid inline-six powertrain that's good for 355 hp in the base model and 395 hp for the SUV we tested. Above that is a limited-release plug-in hybrid, a First Edition V-8 that's available to order, and a fully electric model by the end of 2024. Our P400 test SUV—with 395 hp—managed a 0-60-mph run of 5.8 seconds, thanks in large part to a dynamic launch protocol that involves engaging the sportiest drive mode and switching off the stability control.
To put that sub-6.0-second figure in context, the 2024 Porsche Cayenne S starts in the $90,000 range, but the German SUV is equipped with a 468-hp V-8 that Porsche conservatively estimates will allow it to hit 60 mph in as little as 4.4 seconds. Maybe the vaunted Porsche crest isn't right for you, and the understated 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLE580 is more your style. With a 510-hp V-8 under the hood, the GLE580 can barrel from 0 to 60 mph in a manufacturer-estimated time of just 4.3 seconds.
So whichever alternative you choose, it'll outpace an I-6-equipped Range Rover Sport. Unless, that is, you're stepping out of the last-gen Range Rover Sport I-6, which we tested hitting 60 in 6.2 seconds. It's worth remembering, however, that one of the Range Rover's biggest selling points isn't its straight-line speed. How many luxury brands would let journalists loose on an off-road course in an SUV with 23-inch all-season tires? Probably only one.
Sport In Design, Not In The Drive
On the road, the six-cylinder 2023 Range Rover Sport SE Dynamic feels solid, maybe even a little fun for a short time in its sportiest drive mode. Soon enough, though, you'll feel that edge dulled by an overactive stability control system, which has a tendency to execute frequent (and frequently annoying) tiny brake checks in an effort to keep the SUV in line. It's worth noting that similar vehicles we've driven in the same way on the same roads have had no such issues.
On the test track, that same driving trait defined the experience. "No matter which mode I put it in, normal or dynamic, stability control on or off, it simply will not let me do a clean figure-eight test without electronic interference," road test editor Chris Walton said. "That said, the engine is very linear in the way it delivers power."
Real-world performance is similar in terms of power delivery. The engine provides smooth and quiet acceleration in every situation except full-throttle blasts, where there's a slight delay. And as we noted in our first drive of the Range Rover Sport, although it isn't quite luxury-car smooth, the 2023 Range Rover Sport's ride quality was surprisingly good, even when equipped with those enormous 23-inch wheels. The eight-speed auto also delivered seamless responses most of the time, though slowing steadily to a stop sometimes led to less than smooth downshifts, and a few drivers may find it too eager to build speed with gentle accelerator pedal inputs.
When it came to slowing down all 5,378 pounds of luxury SUV, the Range Rover Sport's best 60-0 mph braking performance was 125 feet, with the test team reporting lots of dive and "quite a commotion from the ABS system" when stomping on the binders. Remember, this is a panic stop, so it's something you may never experience. A base Cayenne we tested in 2019 stopped a full 20 feet shorter, but driving a Porsche is a completely different experience.
The Goldilocks Of Range Rovers
The Range Rover Sport's allure is about more than just the badge and slick design (though its rear styling gives us pause). The 2023 model fills a sweet spot in the brand's lineup: two rows, five seats, and just enough room for a power rear-seat-recline feature that's standard on every trim. What we didn't expect were all the practical storage options, from the ingenious split cargo area solution to the extra glove box in front.
On the down side, the interior door pulls are presently located low and toward the far end of the door panel and would best be moved to an easier to access spot. We also hope future models will pop out the exterior door handles as you approach, to make entry easier. But those are small prices to pay, right? As an exclusive and luxurious around-town runabout with off-road capabilities beyond your wildest dreams, the new Range Rover Sport is a good fit for a status-driven buyer who needs a midsize SUV; it's just not very sporty with the I-6.