We took the 2020 Range Rover Sport HST into the worst weather we could find to see how it coped with snow and ice. The quick answer? Splendidly.
Land Rover’s Range Rover Sport is one of our favorite Jaguar/Land Rover (JLR) vehicles. It is the “right-sized” larger five-passenger vehicle in the family. It fits in your garage without fuss, will not spill over in a parking space at the mall, but manages to feel huge inside. The Range Rover Sport HST is indeed sporty. It will run from 0-60 MPH in about the same times as a good sports sedan will (around 6 seconds) and it handles and brakes as well as any performance crossover we have tested. But is it good in the snow and ice that Range Rover so often portrays the vehicle driving through in its advertisements? The simple answer is, “heck yeah!” The reason why is a bit more involved.
Our Tester – 2019.5 HST Sport
The tester we drove was a new 2019.5 model year Range Rover Sport. The brand updated its Range Rover Sport recently and the 2020s are unchanged. We used the 2020 model year price configurator to match our test vehicle and came up with $99,680. Throw in some floor mats and call it an even $100K. Our tester was posh inside with premium leather on most surfaces. The heated steering wheel was a joy to hold. There was not a single luxury feature we could find missing short of massage seats. There are Range Rover Sport trims that can be had for prices in the mid-$70Ks, and ones that can run to over $120K. If you need a pair of occasional-use seats, you can opt to add a third row. Or opt for a Range Rover.
Range Rover Sport Drivetrain Options.
The Range Rover Sport drivetrain options have been updated for 2019.5 to be a bit greener. Ours was a boosted six-cylinder. We saw an average of 19 MPG in our testing. Not bad for the vehicle’s size and capabilities. And we were not gentle in our testing. If you would like more power, the Range Rover Sport can come equipped with a 575 hp Supercharged V8 engine like the one we recently had in a Jaguar F-Pace. You will not be disappointed. Or you can save a few dollars and a few barrels of fuel per year and opt for the 2.0-liter four-cylinder hybrid. There is even a diesel-equipped Sport if that’s how you like to roll.
Winter Driving In The Range Rover Sport HST
We headed to the woods of New Hampshire to find the slipperiest conditions possible in which to test our Range Rover Sport HST. The HST has a multitude of handy high-technology all-terrain features. Some that we employed during our treck to the back-woods included Hill Descent Control, Selectable Drive Modes, Low Range, and the ability to raise or lower the vehicle. Range Rover opts to fit all-season tires to its HST. These are a sensible choice for almost all conditions, but not the best option for ice and snow. However, technology can step in during driving in some situations to help you.
Range Rover Hill Descent Control
Hill Descent Control (HDC) is just what it sounds like. Imagine a very steep slippery hill you need to drive down. Without HDC, once you begin your descent, the vehicle’s anti-lock brakes will try to stop you from slipping. The wheel sensors detect the slip, send a message to the controller that says “Don’t lock the wheel” and you then have almost no brakes. Down the hill you go out of control. There are two things you can do prior to that event to help save you from a crash, minor or major. First, buy winter-rated tires. They use a compound and tread design that adds traction. You thus slip less and the anti-lock brakes don’t conspire to leave you with no stopping ability. Second, a low range transmission and skills can help. If you know how to use your vehicle’s transmission to let the vehicle slowly creep down using the engine to brake the vehicle, you can augment the added grip of winter tires to safely head down a steep slippery hill. The problem is, you may not be sure that your skills, the vehicle’s grip, and the transmission will do the trick for you. It takes practice. Which you may not have.
HDC works differently in practice. During our trip, we indeed did start down a hill on our all-season tires, did, in fact, lose grip and braking power, and did start to slide out of control. However, we were ready having read up on the Range Rover Sport’s abilities.
We enabled hill descent control and it stepped in immediately, stopped the vehicle from sliding, and allowed a controlled descent. This, with a press of the button on the drive mode selector panel. Magic. No skills or special tires required. And it works on the fly.
Range Rover Height Selection
During one of our forays off the plowed roadway, we encountered a foot of “toothpaste” snow. Sticky, wet heavy stuff that wanted to let the tires dig down and lower the vehicle. The Range Rover Sport HST has over eight inches of ground clearance. However, the vehicle can be raised up to about 11 inches with the touch of a button. We did so and it lifted us above the wet sloppy mess and prevented the vehicle from being high-spotted. You can see the vehicle in the image above on its stilts. Not only does the added height add clearance, it also changes your approach and departure angles so you can tackle steeper terrain.
Range Rover Terrain Select Modes
Speaking of terrain, the Range Rover Sport allows you to literally dial in the best all-wheel, four-wheel drive system for your particular day. Ours was snow and ice, so we selected that mode. It instantly changed the feel of the vehicle over snowy roads. The throttle gets a little heavier so you don’t overpower the wheels and induce spin. The all-wheel drive also seems to come alive and reduce the wheelspin you get on slick roads.
We also experimented with low range. The Range Rover can be set to have a much more aggressive low range than the “L” found on most vehicles, which is really just first gear. In our driving, it was not needed. However, should we have helped another motorist by pulling them out of a snowbank, this would have been a great feature.
Note: Our BestRide testing staff includes graduates of the Team O’Neil Winter Safe Driving Program. Our skills and training go beyond the norm in many ways. Still, we never use our test vehicles in unsafe public situations. The testing discussed in this story was conducted in areas with no other vehicles present.
Interior image courtesy of Land Rover.