Range Rover Sport Square-Off- Turbocharged V8 vs. Plug-in Hybrid

Range Rovers have never had to shoulder such a burden. They are the crème de la crème of SUVs, usually gazed upon with quiet awe and desire.

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Adam Allen Writer - Carpages.ca

Next time you’re sitting a traffic light, take a quick look around.

We’re willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that most of the motorists in your immediate proximity are sat behind the wheel of an SUV. Slowly but surely, their rise in popularity has seen relentless upwards trajectory ever since the first Ford Explorer- decked out in Eddie Bauer trim and wearing Hunter Green Paint over a Tan Leather interior, probably- showed up in a Costco parking lot back in 1991.

With SUV popularity eclipsing the sedan a while back, it’s safe to say that they have ingrained themselves into the automotive landscape; they’re everywhere. And with the ubiquity that comes with being seen on every street corner, in every parking lot and in so many driveways- how do you get them to stand out? You can stuff a powerful engine under the hood and slap a hefty price tag on the windshield (a strategy that has paid off handsomely over the years for so many brands) but if the thing still looks like any old family huckster, what’s the use?

Range Rovers have never had to shoulder such a burden. They are the crème de la crème of SUVs, usually gazed upon with quiet awe and desire. These trucks exude presence from every pore, though its tough to pinpoint exactly one reason why. Is it the beautifully understated styling? Perhaps it’s the palatial accommodations of their interiors? Maybe it’s because they can go places off the grid that other SUVs wouldn’t dare set a tire tread in, all while spoiling passengers with decadent opulence? We’d say it’s all three.

We drove the range-topping Range Rover a few months back and came away suitably impressed by the experience, calling it “undeniably exquisite.” We still stand by those words and maintain that if some unknown trust fund we were not aware of ever starts writing big cheques, it would be the SUV we would unhesitatingly ensconce in our climate-controlled garage.

But what if you don’t need something as big, or you can’t make the final reach to make ends meet with the price tag? Enter the Range Rover Sport, a carefully reduced version of the Mack Daddy both in size and dollars. Full disclosure- in some ways, we prefer the Sport to the full-size Rangie because as lovers of sports cars, this is the closest thig in the entire lineup we’ll get to a two-lane-two-stepper.

Following closely behind its bigger brother, the Sport is all new for 2023. We don’t know if we’d label it ‘undeniably exquisite’, but gosh darn it if it isn’t a handsome thing. The softly rounded off edges, the way the door panels chamfer upwards without any breaks in the sheet meal- if you want to stand out in a sea of banal SUVs and crossovers, this would be a swell way to start.

There’s also a new suite of powertrains, starting with a hybrid inline-six, a plug-in hybrid version of that powertrain and a BMW sourced twin turbo V8. We’ll be testing the latter two in this space, and no, your eyes aren’t deceiving you- although pained in the same shade fetching hue of Varesine Blue and wearing the same 22” black wheels, we can assure you that these are two very different vehicles. A quick tell is the massive quad exhaust exits poking out of the rear bumper of the V8 model which is known as the P530; let’s talk about that one first.

P530 First Edition

It seems that British automotive nameplates are onto something these days, and that would be the emerging trend of recognizing that the Germans know a thing or two about building excellent engines, and then installing said engines under the hoods of their products. Rather than allocate the massive resources both from a financial and engineering perspective to build their own, why not just scoop a few up, install a plastic shroud with your logo on top and call it a day? Before you fall off your chair laughing at such a preposterous notion, understand that this practice is already in full swing. Pop the hood of an Astin Martin DBX SUV and you’ll be looking at Mercedes Benz familiar M177 4.0 twin turbo V8. Frankly, you can’t knock Aston’s taste in powerplants because this is one of the all-time greats. Now Range Rover is joining the pinch engine party since they (wisely) tapped BMW to provide a twin turbo V8 for its Range Rover lineup, and the 4.4 unit cribbed from the X5 M50i is a honey. It makes 523 horsepower/553 torques but does so with the consistency of a dram of 25-year old single malt scotch. Sounds pretty good, too.

This, then, is the hot rod of the RR Sport clique. Plant your foot down hard and the SUV rockets off the line with the same urgency as a sports sedan. Chuck it into a corner or two and while a sports sedan will leave it behind- you can tame physics, but you can’t eliminate ‘em- it will hold its own for something so heavy and with such a high centre of gravity. Standard four-wheel steering certainly helps in the agility department, but in early spring such as we are where Mother Nature can’t seem to make up her mind about weather, and so it was still shod on winter rubber; with its performance tires installed it would have been much sharper and accurate. It’ll do all that, and then (if your feeling brave and are ambivalent at the notion of taking a luxury SUV off-road) take you and your passengers as far off the grid as you dare, hiking itself up on its air suspension while its locking differentials apportion the power where needed.

Perhaps the Sport P530’s greatest trick isn’t found while in motion but sitting still. The way the air suspenders squat down and seem to hug the massive 22” wheels is wonderfully menacing. The styling, which was so warmly received worn by the top shelf Range Rover a few months back is a thing of subtle beauty on the Sport too. The stylists’ pens didn’t break new ground but instead refined a timelessly beautiful shape into something modern and contemporary. Porsche 911 designers can sympathize with this aesthetic tight rope- don’t mess up the iconic looks yet improve it from the last generation. We can say with confidence that they very much succeeded on this mandate; it’s flat out gorgeous and will look as such 10, even 20 years down the road- not an easy achievement, folks. Bonus style points are awarded for real, genuine exhaust outlets.

The interior receives similar treatment which also gives off a strong minimalist luxury vibe. Every surface is covered in supple leather and the build quality is top shelf. The only thing that spoils the party are subpar electronics which we’ll get into shortly. If you favor a luxury SUV with sporting aspirations that will turn heads wherever you go, this one’s for you.


As card carrying horsepower junkies, prior to driving these two distinctly different flavours of Sport we hypothesized that the BMM V8-powered P530 would be the one we’d like best; we have never identified as hybrid fans and have made no secret of our contempt towards a powertrain configuration that always seems to us as feeling half-baked in so many cars. So it came as a huge surprise that after spending time with these models of Rover Sport that we overwhelmingly preferred the plug-in to the fire breathing V8. Did this out our street cred as enthusiasts in jeopardy? Were we simply not paying attention? Turns out it was neither of those- simply put, the P440e plug-in hybrid is the better of the two, hands down. The irony that Range Rover can build one of the best hybrid systems we have ever encountered despite being plagued by endless electronic gremlins is not lost on us- and keep in mind that this engineering genius didn’t come from a brand that has been at the hybrid game for a long time, like Toyota or Hyundai.

That brilliance is on full display each time you’re whisked away on a silent wave of instantaneous torque that only electrons can provide. When the gas engine is asked to help, the handoff between the two is remarkably seamless, and of course the engine and battery pack can work in tandem smoothing out the powerband. Range Rovers have always been the choice of royalty, celebrities, and captains of industry, and experiencing the silent waft as they effortlessly negotiate traffic is a joy and dovetails nicely with the Range Rover ethos of upscale luxury.

Some of the credit for the decadent skimming over nasty tarmac goes to the multichambered air suspension. We love it when we hear the tell-tale hiss as it squats down on the wheels when parked, and the way the ride height is constantly adjusted so as to be as optimally setup as possible according to conditions. Despite its adjustability and adaptive capabilities, don’t think it’ll turn your Sport into a canyon carver. This is a heavy beast and feels it if you drive it with apex slaying in mind. Best just to leave it in Comfort mode and enjoy the superlative comfort; after all, what’s the rush when you’re piloting something like this?

Just like it shares the same exterior livery with the P530, the P440e has the very same interior as its stablemate except for one notable detail: whereas the V8 model goes for the austerity vibe with black being the dominant shade, the PHEV offers a whimsical Burgundy and Green colour combo that looks pretty darn awesome. And because it’s so much more hushed than the V8 version, it feels more serene.

One thing the two Sports do share isn’t going to be cast in the same celebratory light as your surroundings at large. We’re pointing at you, uncooperative information system and finicky electronics. Both our Sport testers were relatively new with few kilometres on the clock, and they suffered from annoyances that while minor in nature wouldn’t be acceptable in a base model Chevy Spark. We noted more than a few occasions where the electric door handles refused to retract thus making entry impossible; sometimes the trucks Start/Stop button required a few presses to wake up. Do you like listing to satellite radio? While the sound quality is undeniably excellent, the infotainment’s lack of response to simple commands like changing the station or toggling between audio sources will leave you properly steamed. We once counted twelve (!) taps to cycle to the next song on our playlist. Clearly there is work that needs to be done here, and we don’t mean gifting service advisors with the sanguine patience needed to diffuse the rage of angry customers who wonder why their big dollar luxo-SUVs aren’t working on the most basic levels.

Head scratching electronic niggles notwithstanding, there was another enigma that occurred to us over the course of the P440e’s tenure in the Carpages Garage. We were wondering why Range Rover chose not to lean heavily on the SUV’s strong Green credentials. The only tells that this is the PHEV variant are an additional ‘fuel’ door on the right rear quarter panel that accepts a charging adapter and a Province of  Ontario-issued Green Vehicle license plate. This seems like a missed opportunity to us- and not just because the hybrid technology underpinning this vehicle is astonishingly good. We went almost a full one hundred kilometres of distance before the battery was completely drained, allowing us to achieve sparkling fuel economy for such a large, heavy brute, meaning it unlocks the very real possibility of a day’s worth of commuting without burning a drop of premium fuel for most drivers who will buy this SUV. So, c’mon Range Rover! Add some discreet badging or offer a subtle design change for the 22” wheels; really anything to allow fellow motorists and passersby that you have opted for the greenest Sport there is and relish in the opportunity to make a serious environmental flex- we’re certain that the treehuggers will dig it.

In Summing Up…

The Range Rover Sport is a beautifully executed luxury SUV both inside and out. Its curb appeal and presence are palpable and that goes double for this recently unveiled generation. They are not without their faults, however- JLR needs to seriously up their game in designing electronics and user interfaces that aren’t so plagued with little bugs that begin to compound into a frustrating experience. We thought that after the two were parked and we began the process of deliberating which one was best that the BMW turbo V8-powered P530 would sweep the judges decisions, but instead the opposite occurred- we fell for the PHEV P440e’s unimpeachable hybrid drivetrain and the stellar fuel mileage it was capable of, all wrapped up in a package that is as visually compelling as its gas powered stablemate. Ladies and Gentlemen- we hereby declare a winner, and we think you’ll agree.

2023 Range Rover Sport P530 First Edition – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $140,399
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine:  4.4-litre twin turbo V8, DOHC, 32 valves
  • Horsepower: 523 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 553 @ 1,800 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 2,444 kg (5,387 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Economy: 14.8/100km (16 mpg)

2023 Range Rover Sport P440e PHEV SV-Dynamic HSE– Specifications

  • Price as tested: $139,126
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine:  3.0-litre turbocharged inline-6, DOHC, 24 valves
  • Electrification: 10-kW motor/1.70-kWh Lithium-Ion battery
  • Total System Horsepower: 434 @ 5,500 rpm
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 547 @ 1,500 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 2,713 kg (2,658 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Economy: 11.3/100km (21 mpg)