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SUV is still a dream drive.

MORE years ago than I care to admit, as a young reporter, my dream was to own a Range Rover, writes Steve Howarth.

I saved my meagre wages for years until one day, in my mid 20s, I bought a very second hand early 1970s two door V8 classic - which boasted the original farmer-friendly 'wash down' interior of plastic seats and rubber mats.

It drank fuel and ate tyres but I felt like I was the king of the highway - back then there was nothing on the roads like a Range Rover.

Fast forward to 2017 and those awfully nice people at Land Rover have loaned me the 2017 Range Rover Sport to try out and it has a lot to live up to.

The first thing to say is that Range Rover no longer has the market to itself - there are now many worthy contenders for that ultimate luxury SUV crown. So how does this PS95,760 flying armchair measure up? The Range Rover Sport was first introduced in 2005 as a more affordable alternative to the fullblown Range Rover - which went even more upmarket - and it became one of the most successful vehicles Land Rover has ever produced.

The current model is the second generation, launched in 2013 and revised two years later. Significantly lighter than its predecessor, thanks mainly to all aluminium construction, the Sport is an amazingly capable vehicle on and off road. It was also the first Range Rover to offer a seven seat option (currently an extra PS1,500).

Our top-of-the-range trim Autobiography Dynamic comes with an enhanced Terrain Response 2 system, which makes exploring in the rough stuff a doddle thanks to automatic terrain sensing, which auto-engages the correct mode when it detects a change in the surface being crossed. Then there is All-Terrain Response Control, introduced with the late 2015 upgrade, an 'off-road cruise control',' letting the driver select a desired speed and leaving the car to do all the hard work.

The basic Terrain Response system optimises suspension and gearing for mud, snow, rocks and sand, as well as throttle response and traction control.

And your RR Sport can also now wade through water up to 850mm deep! (there's even a display that shows you the depth of the water that you're driving through).

A 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol was added to the range earlier this year but our test car is the 3.0L SDV6 Diesel - the range best seller giving up to 44 mpg (way more than double what my 1970s petrol V8 could do) with 306bhp which can shift the twoand-a-half tonne machine from 0 to 60 in 6.8 seconds and hit a top speed of 130.

Now if that is not fast enough for you there is always the 335bhp V6 supercharged petrol or the 4.4-litre V8 diesel (334bhp) and for the very brave a 5-litre V8 Supercharged petrol (0-60 in 4.5 seconds and 503bhp).

All Range Rover Sport models are fitted with the excellent eight-speed automatic ZF stick-shift box (unlike the rotary control in the Range Rover) which is straight out of the Jaguar F-Type, Our Autobiography has a panoramic glass roof, 20-inch Brembo-branded brakes, Oxford perforated leather, climate front seats, heated rear seats, 'smart' adaptive cruise control, adjustable air suspension, Land Rover InControl Apps and Wi-Fi tech for the basic PS80,300 plus options costing another PS15,360 which included 21" special alloys, privacy glass, adaptive Xenon head lamps, park assist, surround camera system, wade sensing, soft door close, 20-way memory massage heated and cooled front seats, rear 10" entertainment screens, dual view front touchscreen, head-up display and (for an eye-watering PS5,000) a premium Meridian sound system.

The Sport range starts from PS60k for the HSE SD4 and PS63,545 for the SDV6 and tops out with the mental 161mph, 5-litre V8 SVR from PS97,800.

Now that's a lot of cash but it could just be a good long-term investment I think I paid around three grand for my second hand and much abused RR Classic all those years ago but Land Rover, under their 'Reborn' programme, are now offering early 70s two-door fully restored cars - a snip at PS135,000!
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:May 26, 2017
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