Lets get this out of the way first: The Range Rover Sport is not a Range Rover. Rather, it is a shortened version of Land Rovers new T5 platform, which is the basis of the less expensive Discovery 3.
The Range Rover Sport, which goes on sale in Europe in June, is Land Rovers answer to high-performance, carlike SUVs such as the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5.
Land Rover believes its customers are not going to be worried about the platform – so long as the vehicle fulfills the brands promise.
How many Porsche Cayenne owners ask whether its on a Volkswagen platform? said Geoff Upex, Land Rovers design director.
Executives predict the Range Rover Sport will outsell the Range Rover slightly.
If Land Rover achieves big volumes with the Sport, it will be the vehicle that drives the company back into the black.
Last year Land Rover sold 12,906 Range Rovers in western Europe according to UK-based researchers JATO Dynamics. The companys top-selling model is the Freelander, which sold 42,877 units in western Europe.
Land Rover thinks it needs a sportier model that does not carry the stereotype of a vehicle for African bush safaris.
Hence, the Range Rover Sport was engineered with more on-road performance in mind, right down to the 20-inch wheels and aggressive gearing of the six-speed transmission provided by German supplier ZF.
In addition to the base 4.4-liter engine, a 390hp supercharged 4.2-liter V-8 has been borrowed from Jaguar, Land Rovers sister brand in Ford Motor Co.s Premier Automotive Group unit.
The current Range Rover is based on an architecture co-developed with BMW. The Discovery 3 platform was done in-house with help from Ford.
Executives hint that the T5 platform also could be the basis for the next Range Rover.