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2014 Range Rover Sport excels on and off-road

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If you’re well-heeled, it is the ultimate snow machine. No not a snowmobile, but Land Rover’s 2014 Range Rover Sport. With its multi-mode 4WD system, a ground clearance of 12 inches, and an air suspension system that can raise drive height by 2.6 inches, this Rover can roam through the toughest off-road trails or deep snow that we’ve been having here in the southeast. That, and it has a maximum wading depth of 33.5 inches if you should encounter high water en-route to the country club. The only vehicle that can do it better is the late Hummer H2 - but it probably wouldn’t fit in a normal size garage.

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For 2014, the Range Rover Sport has undergone a complete transformation. According to Land Rover, the Sport lost 800 pounds by using an aluminum unibody as opposed to the original steel body and frame. As such, the Sport version still tips the scales at a hefty 5,464 pounds. But its potent 5.0L, supercharged and intercooled V8 that generates 510-hp and sends its 461 lb/ft of torque through an 8-speed automatic transmission, can still crank out a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds (a 3.0L, 340-hp supercharged is also offered).

Goose the accelerator and the dual exhaust emits a delicious throaty rumble that resembles that from a Corvette ZR1 or Mustang Cobra.

With EPA mileage estimates of 14 city, 19-highway mpg, the Rover is thirsty. It does, however, have an ECO mode that shuts down the engine at stoplights or lengthy idles, but perks up instantly upon depressing the accelerator.

Since its debut the ’14 Rover Sport has chalked up some impressive awards starting with 4X4 of the Year by Petersen’s 4 Wheel & Off Road magazine (a second time); Road & Track magazine’s “Best Car” in the SUV category; and it received ALGs 2014 Residual Valve “Best Premium Midsize Utility Vehicle Award” for the second time in a row.

It’s understandable how these awards were granted. Aside from its brute power and off road prowess, the Rover Sport has an elegant, upscale interior. Opulent, premium cooled/heated leather seats adorn the cabin with 14-way adjustable front buckets that surround the torso and provide secure seating during off-road jaunts. A heated steering wheel also comes in handy on freezing mornings.

The Range Rover’s 4WD system is most encompassing as it offers four traction modes plus a hill descent mode, the latter maintains lower gearing and hence a slow, crawling mode that is good for steep downhill, off-road treks. There’s also a low range activated by a button on the console that requires a shift into neutral to activate. And if snow, mud or beach sand gets to be deep, the standard air suspension system lifts the chassis for better undercarriage clearance.

The air suspension system also performs automatic load leveling with three modes: Access, Standard and Off-Road. At normal height, cargo load height is 33 inches. Needless to say, the ride is pleasant and adjustable to your driving comfort.

As for the automatic transmission, its electronic shifter is similar to BMW’s iDrive that permits gear changes by flicking the handle fore and aft with a lockout for reverse. When going from reverse to drive there is some delay. A no-frills manual shifter is quicker.

The back seat (a third row is optionally available thanks to a 7-inch stretch of the wheelbase) is firm and folds to make 70-inches of storage depth (62.2 cubic feet). With them up, there’s 39 inches behind the rear seatbacks (27.7 cubic feet). The power liftgate will thoughtfully stop at any desired height by merely laying a forceful hand on it.

An 8-inch touch screen displays GPS nav, rearview camera and audio functions. The GPS nav, incidentally, offers a split screen view of wide angle and close-up maps. A separate iPad-type display is used for the speedo and tach gauges.

With a standard feature list too long to list, trust me it’s loaded with such goodies as All Terrain Stability/Hill Descent/Roll Stability/Gradient Release controls. Option wise, the test car included Dynamic Package ($2,500), Luxury Climate Control/Visibility Package ($3,545), Meridian audio ($1,950) and Rear Seat Entertainment ($2,000) to mention a few pricey ones. What started out at a base price of $79,100, escalated to a staggering $92,285 bottom line that includes every conceivable option and feature imaginable including a sunroof.

If you can afford the very best, the Range Rover Sport may be for you. It’s also offered in slightly lesser priced SE and HSE models.

To experience this highly versatile SUV, stop by Bennett Land Rover on the Tilghman Street extension in Allentown. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation on this page.

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