Premier League footballers are not the brightest beings on the planet. Have you seen the way they dress? I mean, if wearing a Manchester United kit on the pitch wasn't bad enough, these boys don themselves up to the nines with the weirdest gear imaginable after ‘office' hours. But, what they lack in dress sense, they more than make up for in their choice of cars. And, overwhelmingly, the only set of wheels to be seen in for football's glitterati is a Range Rover. But why? There's only one way to find out — don my Everton shirt and make myself at home in the 2012 model year Sport.
It feels a bit tight in this. It's tattered and rough around the edges too. Hmm, I'm less than impressed. Yep, my poor old 1995/96 season top has seen better days. The Range Rover Sport, however, feels absolutely top notch.
I stroke, poke and grab everything from the intricately stitched and padded leather dash to the chunky gear lever finished with chrome trim. It's all A-grade materials here, including Oxford leather and Alcantara and there's been no cutting any corners — the fit and finish is exemplary. It's almost as if every Rangey is bespoke. We see loads of these on our roads and there's a very good reason why; they're ruddy brilliant. Merging old-school, boxy looks with almost supercar-like performance (in a straight line, at least) it's one heck of an SUV. That it performs admirably out in the rough and then like a limo on smoother surfaces is why it takes pride of place on so many drives. Nothing quite commands respect like this does.
This 2012 model gets even more admiration, not to mention attention, and it isn't just because of the gorgeous Firenze Red paint job. It now boasts a revised exterior, a refreshed interior and some upgraded features. The headlights gain a Gloss Black treatment, the tailgate graphics give it a neat new look while the 20in alloys, finished in Sparkle Silver, round it all off. A lower chin spoiler and front wheel deflectors help to reduce drag by increasing underfloor airflow, oh and look pretty good too.
Under the bonnet, the Sport packs a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 which debuted in 2010, and it is mated to a ZF HP28 six-speed automatic. ‘Responsive' and ‘refined' are just two words to describe this drivetrain. ‘Blimey' and ‘no way' and a bunch of expletives that we can't print would be some more when your right foot gets that naughty feeling. Performance is simply dazzling for something that weighs 2,590kg. I mean, it hits 0-100kph in just6.2 seconds and tops out at 225kph. It won't break the bank every time you stop at the pumps, not while sipping just14.9 litres-per-100km. The tranny provides rapid shifts while the gutsy motor has 510bhp and 625Nm of torque. This is one hot ride and even before you engage Drive, it's got the fires burning thanks to the combustion system. It employs multiple injection mode strategies to deliver 50 per cent more heat for fast catalyst warm-up which reduces emissions the moment you push the start button.
The twin-vortex system sucks air through twin intercoolers and coupled with a healthy dose of magic, the Range Rover behaves as if it's a 458 with amnesia. The best thing about the supercharger is not just the extra power it produces — it's the fact that it's almost completely silent. There's not a whirring or whining sound to be heard, just the V8's glorious roar emanating out of the dual tips.
You've got to keep all that power in check and so it's good to know it's equipped with an Adaptive Dynamics system. Working with the DampTronic feature, it monitors damper pressure500 times a second and continuously adapts it to the surface or condition you find yourself in. Meanwhile, the lightweight aluminium, six-piston Brembos bring some serious stopping power to the table. The variable ratio power steering feels just right; not too light, not too heavy and certainly not vague.
The 2012 Sport is loaded with new features. The highlights include a Dual View 7in touch-screen (which debuted in 2010 on the Range Rover) so you can read a map while your passenger watches a DVD, WhiteFire wireless technology that enhances rear-seat entertainment for the kids, an 825-Watt (up from 480-Watt in the outgoing model) Harman Kardon Logic 7 audio system with 17 — yes 17 — speakers and last but not least a new powered tailgate which can be operated by a button on the fascia, tailgate or key fob. It also has two additional features for the times you venture off-road; Hill Start Assist and Gradient Acceleration Control.
If I'd have made it as a Premier League star and was plying my trade with the Toffees, then I'd absolutely buy this Range Rover Sport. There's tons of technology under its skin, not that many footballers would understand much of it. They're quite happy knowing it looks good and is very fast. In fact, those are two great reasons to own one. The next time you laugh at players wearing a sarong and sporting dodgy haircuts, remember this; they might have the IQ of a donkey but they're probably roaring around in a Range Rover.