It’s 7am, and I’m pulling away from the official RWT starting point of Bloody Oaks service station on the A1 in Lincolnshire with the tank freshly brimmed. Acceleration feels every bit as vigorous as the claimed 8.5sec 0-60mph time would suggest.
I click on the ACC (adaptive cruise control) and settle down to enjoy the 12-hour drive that lies ahead. The sophisticated six-pot diesel engine is jogging along at about 1600rpm as the landscape slips past at 70mph.
Just as I’m contemplating the day ahead, the lorry I’m about to overtake decides that the outside lane is the place to be, regardless of our brisk approach. There’s enough room but the Sport’s self-preservation urge kicks in. Even as the ACC slows us down, a plaintive message appears on the dash – driver intervention required. My intervention extends only to covering the brake pedal, but I needn’t have worried – the Sport does it all for me.
The traffic’s building up a bit now but life in the Sport remains serene and relaxed. The ergonomics of the cabin are very good, although there’s one change
I would make – but I only realise this later in the day. Right now, I’m enjoying the ride. Road noise is minimal; surprising, given the fat, low-profile road tyres and sporty suspension. Wind noise is all but absent, even at the legal maximum.
Comfortably less than two hours after leaving Bloody Oaks, we arrive at Wetherby services. Twenty minutes later, the Sport and I (and a cheeky little latte) are on the way to junction 47 on the A1 near Knaresborough – the beginning of the scenic section of the test route.
The drive through Knaresborough, Pateley Bridge, Grassington, Kettlewell, and Middleham (before taking the Hawes road towards the two greenlanes we use regularly) provides an undulating, curvy course through truly wonderful scenery – ideal for experiencing a vehicle’s handling characteristics and performance. Latte beware.
The Sport is right at home on the twisting, bucking roads through the Dales. S-mode (ie, sports-orientated gearing) on the gearbox’s big round selector and Dynamic setting on the Terrain Response are the perfect combination; electrifying. The Sport feels even more eager to bound along the road in pursuit of the horizon.
It’s sleeting, snowing, raining and blowing hard. The DAB radio has lost its digital signal but I’m too busy being entertained by the Sport’s handling on the sweeping bends, flipping the paddleshift to move seamlessly between the eight ratios on offer.
In the wild, wintry conditions, I run out of courage long before the Sport runs out of talent, but I’m brave enough (just) to find out how poised it is; and as for accelerating out of bends, there’s far more performance than there is road to use it around here.
Dynamic mode almost makes a damp, slippery road feel like a dry road. Obviously, go into a bend too fast and you’re still likely to come unstuck, but that’s not my style, anyway. Mid-corner accelerating to propel you out is far more my method and it’s here that the Dynamic mode really pays off. It balances beautifully what you’ve asked the vehicle to do against what’s physically possible, given the grip available at each wheel. That’s how it feels, anyway.
The weather is marginally better by the time we reach Pateley Bridge; not quite so biblical. The Sport takes mighty Greenhow Hill at a sprint (what hill…?).
The road from Greenhow Hill to Grassington is clear of snow – only a delicate sprinkle of confectioner’s icing decorates the surrounding hills. All good so far, until I look at the sky – it’s not looking too clever.
The wind, rain and snow return like a wall of winter as I reach Grassington. Over the next few miles to Kettlewell, along Cam Gill Road (that’s it below) towards Middleham and then back towards Hawes, the weather continues to deteriorate but the Sport just shines brighter. Travelling between dry-stone walls that look hungry to sink their crooked teeth into the sleek flanks of this thoroughbred, I keep a constant eye on the road and the weather.
It’s 2ºC outside, but feels far, far colder than that because of the violent wind that’s bowling clouds of powdery snow across the hills.
Six hours after leaving home, we arrive at the entrance to the first greenlane near Stalling Busk. The weather looks set to get even worse but, for now, there’s a slight easing. Selecting Grass/Gravel/Snow on Terrain Response and low range, I raise the suspension. The first mile or so to the gate are easy enough. I can clearly feel the rough, bumpy track passing under the wheels; but at a steady 10-12mph, it’s not uncomfortable and the ultra-low profile tyre sidewalls are safe from damage. Interestingly, the engine’s ticking over at about the same speed in low-first at 10mph as it was cruising at 70mph on the A1.
Just beyond the gate, cresting the first big hill, we’re greeted by deep, drifting snow. The lane is blocked. Worse still, the weather is throwing another strop and getting very threatening. I reverse back down to the gate and retreat to the road.
Massive snow flakes begin to fall again.
The drive to my (welcome) lunch stop at Wensleydale Creamery reveals a minor flaw; snow builds up on the driver’s-side windscreen wiper, creating a broad trail of slush and snow right across my view. It clears after a minute or two but quickly builds up again. And speeding up the wipers has no effect.
By the time I set off again, the car is covered in an inch-thick blanket of snow, the sky is dark (even though it’s only 1.15pm…) and more snow is falling.
I flick on the heated front and rear screens to clear the condensation. I put Terrain response into Grass Gravel Snow.
The snow deepens. The next 20 miles or so would be challenging – even nerve-wracking – for the driver of an ordinary car, but the Sport never falters. Its fantastic array of driver aid technology overcomes every slippery corner, every patch of slushy snow.
Bradford’s rush hour has kicked in by the time I get there. My fellow drivers appear grumpy and aggressive as they jockey for position between the teeming road junctions. Sitting in the big, secure Sport, I remain unruffled and relaxed.
Once we reach the M62, it’s a non-stop run back to Bloody Oaks garage, which I reach just after 7pm. After topping up with 64.92 litres of diesel, I crunch the numbers – 360 miles and 25.1mpg, compared to the 32.1 combined mpg claimed by Land Rover. Conditions have been extremely arduous today, which explains the big difference.
What's the point?
LRO’s Real World Test gives an independent, ‘real world’ fuel economy figure based on a varied and enjoyable 380-mile route, rather than sitting on a dyno.
It’s a big drive to do in one day, so we get up early and start by brimming the fuel tank at a garage on the A1 in Lincolnshire.
By doing the same at the end, it’s easy to get a precise ‘combined mpg’ figure – meaning a blend of motorways, fast A-roads, country roads, a couple of long greenlanes and a rush-hour city crawl. And, we find out more along the way!
Our test route
Bloody Oaks services, Stamford > A1 north Knaresborough > Arncliffe > Kettlewell > Middleham > Bainbridge > Stalling Busk (byway) > Hubberholme > Cam High Road (byway) > Wensleydale Creamery, Hawes > Settle > Silsden > Bradford > M62 east > Ferrybridge > A1 south > Bloody Oaks services, Stamford