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Range Rover Sport goes anywhere in luxury and discomfort

The 2017 Range Rover Sport offers luxurious accommodations, an offers plenty of off-roading amenities. Comfort, though, is in the eye (and back and neck) of the beholder.
The 2017 Range Rover Sport offers luxurious accommodations, an offers plenty of off-roading amenities. Comfort, though, is in the eye (and back and neck) of the beholder.Read moreJaguar Land Rover

2017 Range Rover Sport TD6: A comfy, fancy ride from on high?

Price: $72,945 as tested (no options on test vehicle, but a long list of standards).

Marketer's pitch: "Designed to be driven."

Conventional wisdom: liked the "composed handling; fuel-efficient diesel option; true off-road capability" but not the "third-row seat just for kids; modest cargo capacity."

Reality: Well, it's fancy, anyway.

Winter fun: As we mark yet another winter holiday season, and have suffered through the region's first visit with the polar vortex, it's high time to start testing some SUVs for the upper crust. Though not exactly a comparison, next we'll run through a Lexus, a Cadillac, and, finally, a Volvo.

Back-road trip: We were headed up north to visit Sturgis Grandma 1.0, and I was tired of making the same boring highway trip. We ended up going between the two highway options, and felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere, getting onto six-foot-wide dirt lanes and finally traversing Hawk Mountain.

Through it all, the Range Rover did what Range Rovers and Land Rovers are known for doing – smoothing out the bumps, and simply going wherever one wants. The 254-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 produced plenty of power, and the 443 pound-feet of torque also made pulling out feel energetic, especially in light of the Range Rover's hefty 4,709 pounds.

Fuel economy: The Range Rover turbo-diesel we tested also did it all with a pleasing tick-tick-tick from the engine compartment. Sure, we were producing all sorts of particulates, but it also got 24 mpg in some heavy driving.

Shifty: The eight-speed transmission comes with a BMW-style shifter, with shiftability on the left and a simple trigger motion to access drive or reverse. Shifts were crisp and clear in shift mode, and smooth when I let the machine do the work for me.

On the road: A sport mode took some of the roll out of the curves and amped up the power a bit but didn't provide any noticeable boost in joy or excitement.

Off the road: The Range Rover offered all manner of height adjustability, and different settings for hills and road surface. The two-speed transfer box, All Terrain Progress Control, and other features of the extra duty package showed this Range Rover meant business.

Friends and stuff: Without the third-row option, the Range Rover Sport seems an odd configuration: A tight, fixed rear seat and a huge cargo bay in the back.

Sturgis Kid 4.0 suffered several hours of abject misery in the backseat, to hear the 6-foot-1 teen tell it. Foot room and legroom are surprisingly slim, and the seat itself is fairly uncomfortable.

The Driver's Seat was also quite firm, and the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat reported discomfort as well. Even with 16 ways of adjustment, I didn't find great comfort in the accommodations.

Still, the accommodations are beautiful, with two colors of leather covering everything, and Shadow Zebrano wood trim and silver trim.

Play some tunes: Since this marked my first foray into Range Roverland, I felt as if I just joined some club that did not want me as a member. The radio interface relied heavily on touch-screen components, and it took quite a while simply to find a volume knob. (It's a clear, unmarked silver dial, directly under the stereo but grouped with the heater controls.)

After that, it was touch-screen city. The graphic interface on Sirius XM gives artist and radio station names, but a button must be pressed to find out the song title – often the one thing a listener really wants to know.

From there, three touch-screen clicks get you back to the map, although just one returns you to the radio. My notes make no mention of the sound from the 825-watt Meridian Premium Audio, which puts it into acceptable territory.

Night shift: The map lights provided a clear but not-too-bright glow for nighttime reading or hunting around the cockpit. It certainly didn't interfere with the headlamps, as it was fairly subtle.

Where it's built: Solihull, England.

How it's built: Consumer Reports claims the Range Rover Sport's reliability will be much worse than average, although without the usual array of data to back it up. But the conventional wisdom about English vehicles has long been … you'll get to know Angus, that chap who's brilliant with a spanner, quite well, indeed.

In the end: If you like them pretty but are smarter and tougher than Mr. Driver's Seat and have short kids, this may be something you'll like.