At base, buying a new vehicle is an expression of personal tastes — some of them barely rational.
For example, I recently helped my soon-to-be-16-year-old son buy a new vehicle, and I almost spit Mountain Dew through my nose when he rejected one sedan because of the design of its turn-signal stalk.
Whatever. We eventually found a vehicle that we both agreed was nearly perfect for him.
But I shouldn't cast stones. Driving a new Range Rover Sport a few days later, I found myself celebrating soft landings for my elbows. Not one to over-think my hand positions on the steering wheel, I search out padded surfaces to anchor my elbows while driving. In the Range Rover Sport my right elbow came to rest on the cushy center-stack lid, while my left elbow found a comfortable perch on a door panel.
Ah. Such a simple pleasure, but I have driven $100,000 vehicles that have precious little respect for my scrawny arms.
Moral of the story: To each his own.
The best vehicles get 1,000 things right and hope that a few of them stick in a buyer's mind. Land Rover, with its popular Range Rover Sport model, has mastered the art of customer pleasing.
In the last few years I've noticed that young men especially have developed an almost reverential attitude toward Range Rovers; believing perhaps they are the perfect manifestations of status and masculinity. Based on a week in a factory-issue, 2017 Range Rover Sport HSE, I'd be hard-pressed to disagree with them.
Some luxury SUVs are heavy on luxury and light on sport and utility. The Range Rover, by contrast, is one of the most comfortable vehicles in the world, but it has the heart of a lion. It's fit for both cruising down a boulevard or jumping a creek bed.
Our Kaikoura Stone tester with Espresso/Almond interior got lots of admiring glances during a week of Chattanooga driving. You can own it for $71,645 before discounts. Land Rover Chattanooga has four Range Rover Sports in inventory this week, including two with diesel engines and two with supercharged V-6 gasoline engines, like our tester's.
"The Range Rover Sport is the vehicle in Land Rover's line-up that is truly never out of place," says Zac Schmidt, sales consultant at Land Rover Chattanooga. "Land Rover's legendary all-terrain capabilities are alive and well in the Range Rover Sport, tackling any obstacle in its path."
STYLING AND FEATURES
There's something about the Range Rover's upright stance and black roof that make it look alert — like a soldier standing at attention with his shoulders back and his eyebrows raised. Meanwhile, chrome fender and hood vents give it the appearance of a creature that needs extra oxygen for peak performance.
Stand back 50 feet and you'll get the impression that the Range Rover's silhouette is timeless; that it will look classically handsome 20 years from now. That means a lot when you are writing a $70,000-plus check.
Inside the cockpit is where the Range Rover creates visual magic, managing to look both truckish and majestic in one sweep of the eyes. There is something comforting about the vast padded empty spaces on the dash. First, it looks like a soft place to land if your rock-hoping ever goes awry. Second, it telegraphs that there is not a lot of busy work — in the form of dials and buttons — to master.
The best cars beckon you to "sit, start and go" intuitively without reading the owner's manual. The emotional comfort continues when you realize that if you don't summon the Range Rover's supercharged inner beast it will be a quiet, sedate companion.
Thankfully, our Range Rover Sport HSE tester is so well-equipped that its sticker price reflects zero dollars worth of options. The last luxury car I drove had the equivalent of a new Honda Civic hiding in the fine print.
For your $71,645, you will receive such gifts as a 340-horsepower, supercharged engine with eight-speed transmission; full-time four-wheel drive; 20-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels; Oxford perforated leather seats; a panoramic glass roof; a Meridian premium audio system and blind-spot monitoring.
We didn't test the Range Rover off road, but we're betting 99 percent of the miles put on these UK-made SUVs will be soft-roading, anyway. On pavement, the Range Rover Sport performs like a champ, with a ready reserve of power if the situation demands it.
The all-aluminum unibody makes the Range Rover speedy and agile, and an electronic air suspension system makes "riding on air" a literal experience. My sons got a big kick out of the 360-degree parking aid, which implies a drone hovering over the vehicle, but is really just an image stitched together from strategically-placed corner cameras.
For those who would like to race their Range Rover at the track, there's a supercharged V-8 engine option. The diesel engine variant is for those who crave torque and towing capacity.
If Land Rover's Range Rover Sport has cornered the market on cool, it comes by it honestly. A four-year, 50,000-mile new vehicle warranty should give buyers an extra layer of confidence.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.
- Model: 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE
- Exterior color: Kaikoura Stone
- Interior color: Espresso, Almond, Ivory
- Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V-6
- Horsepower: 340
-Transmission: eight-speed automatic
- Fuel economy: 23 mpg highway, 17 mpg city
- Local Dealer: Land Rover Chattanooga
- Price (as tested): $71,645