While Elon Musk has his Tesla pickup truck from science fiction with an other-worldly design, I was recently driving something a little more practical but equally cool — the Range Rover Sport HST MHEV hybrid. It’s a sport utility vehicle with a hybrid engine, and it packs a lot of tech for people who want a taste of the future.
I’ve picked up a habit of reviewing cars because there is so much tech in them. I’m not driving these vehicles around a track like a professional car reviewer, but I have driven a lot of tech-laden electric cars in the past year, including the Jaguar I-Pace, the BMW i3s, the Mini Cooper SE Countryman (hybrid), the Volkswagen e-Golf, and the Ford Fusion Energi.
After the CES 2019 tech trade show in January, I figured it made sense to start writing about cars now that companies are packing so much technology into them. I’m also getting ready for the day when these cars can drive themselves. And I’m looking at the other tech embedded in the cars as it starts to fade into the woodwork and become just one more feature.
Like a lot of cars I’ve driven this year, this one uses technology for advanced safety features, passenger comfort, infotainment, and general driver assistance.
Basics of the Range Rover Sport HST MHEV
The base model of the 2020 Range Rover Sport sells for $82,950. It has a 48-volt hybrid electric vehicle engine and a three-liter six-cylinder gas engine. It can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 5.9 seconds, and it has 395 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque and gets gas mileage of about 23 miles per gallon in highway and city driving.
It’s a beautiful sport utility vehicle, and it’s pretty big, with five seats you could seat an army in. You have to take a hefty step upward to get into the Range Rover Sport. When I was getting into the car at night and unlocked the door it cast a spotlight on the ground so I could watch my step as I approached. It was a surprise, and I wished I could customize the feature with a Bat Signal.
I had a bit of trouble putting the car into reverse or drive. You can push the stick (which is in the center console) forward or back as you wish. But you have to remember to push the button on the side of the stick in order to make the gear stick, which required a little extra presence of mind.
The car has a lot of power and would occasionally burst forward as I stepped on the gas, even when I was hoping to just ease it forward. The wheels on the Range Rover Sport HST have transparent covers so you can see the bright-red calipers for the brakes, which looks pretty good on the all-black 21-inch wheels.
Some reviewers have noted that you have to be careful backing up, as the backup camera on the rear-view mirror has some lag. However, I found the driving overall to be quite comfortable.
The car has a 12.3-inch dashboard screen and a couple of 10-inch screens. The infotainment screen is a color touch screen display. It lets you access a variety of Land Rover InControl services and apps that connect you with the outside world, and it can display both 2D and 3D maps. In-car maps offer voice prompts for turn-by-turn navigation and work even when you’re driving through a tunnel. The bottom touch screen handles climate control. You can control the system with voice commands if you wish.
The touchscreen panel went out for a brief time while I was driving. There are knobs for climate and volume, but I found I couldn’t even change the radio station once the screen had gone black, which was disappointing.
You can plug a smartphone into the USB connector in the center console and connect your phone easily for climate, entertainment, and vehicle controls. You can also use it to adjust heating in your seats or control the ambient lighting.
I was able to connect my iPhone directly to the car via the USB connector and then display the apps on my iPhone on the car’s display. That allowed me to play Spotify songs and audio versions of text messages.
You can link your iPhone to Bluetooth or the car’s Wi-Fi network, which can be used as a hotspot. To my delight, you can still get the car with a CD/DVD player, for no extra charge. You can also add extra USB socket plugs, for a total of five USB ports, four 12-volt power sockets, and two 110-volt power outlets.
InControl Touch can also show you an EcoData screen, which monitors your driving style and makes recommendations on how to be more fuel-efficient. For the rear seats, you can also get 8-inch screens built into the back of the front headrests if you wish. That’s nothing new, but you can connect to those systems using WhiteFire digital wireless headphones and HDMI, mobile high-definition link (MHL), or a CD/DVD player and USB connections.
The car has options for a Meridian Surround Sound System and Sirius XM satellite radio or HD Radio.
With the Connect Pro option, you can get internet connectivity via a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot so your car can do things like update its maps. You can also search for places of interest. The system accesses Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet, Qype, and other resources to deliver reviews or information on your surroundings. You can get fuel prices, see a satellite view of your map, share your estimated time of arrival, and find parking.
The connected navigation lets you use maps with real-time traffic flows and plan your route or reroute accordingly. You can set locations on your smartphone before your trip and the map will show up on the car’s touch screen when you get in. The car’s Smartphone Pack option supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and you can also get an app to view things like fuel levels on an Apple Watch.
A stolen-vehicle indicator allows you to track and recover your car in the event of theft. You can use your phone to check your fuel level remotely, find your vehicle in a crowded parking lot, record your journeys, or ensure that you haven’t left a window open. You can also use the car’s SOS Emergency Call to request emergency services to your exact location. If your airbags deploy, you will automatically be put in touch with professional help.
Safety and comfort features
A number of individually priced add-on safety and comfort features are available, including Park Assist, which parks your car in a tight spot and costs $815.
The Drive Pro Pack costs $1,970 but comes with “blind spot assist,” which lights up an orange indicator on your side mirror if another car is coming up in your blind spot. The pack also includes Adaptive Cruise Control and high-speed emergency braking, which will flash a red light if you’re at risk of collision. If you don’t react, it will automatically slow your car if the cameras detect you are approaching the vehicle ahead of you too quickly. It also has “lane-keep” assist, which sounds a beep if you veer out of your lane. It will even nudge you back into your lane if you don’t react.
The Climate Comfort Pack costs $1,385 and includes a heated steering wheel, which feels good on cold days. It also has twin-blade sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, four-zone climate control, and a sliding panoramic roof.
One of the coolest comfort features in this pack is the built-in refrigerator. Under the center console is a compartment to put things like a smartphone. But underneath that is a small refrigerator to hold a couple of bottles of water or cans of soda. I dug out a cold water bottle, and it hit the spot. I thought the feature was a bit much, but I wouldn’t complain about having such a luxury on a hot day. The fridge can hold about four small bottles.
If you get the Vision Assist Pack for $1,635, you can get auto high-beam assist, which turns on your high beams automatically when it thinks you need them. It also has configurable ambient interior lighting and a heads-up display — a small augmented reality display on your windshield that shows your speed directly under the speed limit for the road you are on.
If you’re on the lazy side, you can get an Activity Key, which is a wristband that replaces a key fob. As long as you are wearing it inside the vehicle, you can start the car.
The car also has something called Wade Sensing that lets it wade into water up to 33.5 inches deep, in case you need to drive through flooded areas. This system uses ultrasonic sensors in the side mirrors to visually and audibly alert you if water is approaching the vehicle’s wade limit. This feature is available with a surround-camera system that costs extra.
Worth the price?
The Range Rover Sport base model costs at least $82,950. This year’s models include SE, HSE, HST, Autobiography, and SVR, with different performances and options available. Configured with a bunch of the options listed in the safety and comfort section, the price of the model that I drove goes up by about $6,000.
It’s a luxury SUV, in case you hadn’t noticed. But it’s got a lot of tech marvels in a big beautiful package.