by Frank A. Aukofer

More than anything, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport imparts a feeling of superiority.

It’s not unlike imagining yourself in an episode of “The Crown,” with the trappings of Buckingham Palace. Or living in “Downton Abbey,” though more like Lady Edith Grantham instead of cook Beryl Patmore.

RangeRoverSportTd6048The superior feelings arise from the storied reputation of Great Britain’ s Land Rovers — and their Range Rover offspring — which are among the most capable passenger vehicles anywhere.

Obviously, there are others with the competences to evoke similar emotions, notably America’s Jeep. But Jeep produces workmanlike and middle-class vehicles, like the go-anywhere Wrangler and even high-performance versions of the Grand Cherokee.

Land Rover hews to the luxury side of the road in its modern iterations. It was not always so. After the company started in the wake of World War II, its vehicles were ubiquitous in rugged, road-less areas in Africa and elsewhere in the world.

RangeRoverSportTd6051Now you’re as likely to see a Land Rover or Range Rover parked next to high-end designer stores as negotiating the desert terrain of Moab, Utah.

Driven for this review was the 2017 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6, a midsize, two-row sport utility vehicle. It is the direct descendant of the Land Rovers of the 1950s and 1960s, including the 88 Series made famous in the movie, “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” The Sport can even be ordered with diesel power — a $1,500 option — like many of its predecessors.

RangeRoverSportTd6077Though it can be equipped with a winch like the one that hauled the movie’s 88 up into a tree, the new Sport is as well outfitted as any luxury car. Amenities include automatic climate control, perforated leather seats, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, touch-screen infotainment interface with a navigation system, hands-free power tailgate, rear-view camera, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a panoramic sunroof.

With all that, the tested Sport likely is as capable off-road as any of its progenitors because it came with a powerful diesel engine and modern, computer-controlled off-road driver assists. Chief among them is Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, which adjusts drivetrain components with driver-selectable settings for normal use, snow, mud and sand.

RangeRoverSportTd6083There’s also hill-descent control, emergency-brake assist, hill-start assist, low-traction launch and trailer stability control. The Sport can tow a load that weighs more than 7,700 pounds.

As a high-end HSE model, the tested Sport arrived with plenty of standard equipment and a long list of options, including quad-zone climate control, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control, reverse traffic detection, lane keeping assist and adaptive headlights. All of this added up to a suggested delivered price of $86,445.

RangeRoverSportTd6103It is powered by a 254-hp turbocharged V6 diesel engine that develops a mighty 440 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, that likely could pull an elephant out of a mud hole — if one could be found on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. Urea injection is used for pollution control.

Power gets to all four wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. A single-speed electronic transfer case apportions the power.

The main thing you notice about the Sport HSE Td6 is what you don’t notice: Cabin noise. Land Rover’s designers and engineers have so muffled the diesel engine sounds that most people would be hard-pressed to guess that it is a compression-ignition oil burner.

RangeRoverSportTd6111What it delivers — as most diesels do — is improved fuel economy. The city/highway/combined fuel consumption of the tested Sport comes to 22/28/24 mpg — exceptional for a bulky vehicle that weighs 5,335 lbs.

On the road, however, you barely notice the bulk. The Sport has a hefty feel from its electric power steering and tracks well in a straight line. The air suspension system soaks up road irregularities.

A few quibbles are in order. The panoramic sunroof has a cheesy, perforated sunshade that admits too much sunlight. Sunshades should be opaque. Also, the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sun from the sides.

Visibility to the rear is restricted by large, back seat headrests, the collision warning sometimes voices false alarms and setting radio presets is needlessly complicated. On the plus side, if the driver forgets to shift out of “drive” when shutting off the engine, the transmission automatically shifts to “park.”

None of the quibbles, however, impinge much on the feeling of superiority.

RangeRoverSportTd6044Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Range Rover Sport HSE Td6 four-door sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter diesel V6, turbocharged, 254 hp, 440 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 108/28 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,335 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,715 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/28/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $73,645.
  • Price as tested: $86,445.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

RangeRoverSportTd6063Photos (c) Land Rover.