Traditional looks, luxury appointments, earth-shattering performance
by: Christopher Onstott, The 2010 Range Rover Sport.

What a difference a supercharger makes.

The 2010 Range Rover Sport is already one of the best compact luxury SUVs in the world. The base 5.0-liter V8 pumps out plenty of power and the full-time all-wheel-drive system can be adjusted for virtually every terrain, from dry rounds to sand, mud, snow and even rock crawling.

But the supercharger turns the Range Rover Sport into a rocket. With the belt-driven turbine, the 5.0-liter V8 produces a whopping 510 horsepower and 461 foot pounds of torque. Throttle response is instant and breathtaking. Commuting and routine errands become a joy. Freeway passing is a breeze. Embarrassing sports cars at green lights will become your new passion.

But such additional power raises a serious issue. The supercharged engine and related upgrades adds thousands of dollars to the Super Sport's base price. And despite the increased entertainment value, the additional power does not necessarily improve the vehicles biggest asset, its all-terrain abilities. In fact, when driving on slippery or steep surfaces, sudden acceleration is more of a liability than a benefit. When maintaining traction is the top priority, steady beats abrupt.

But either way you go, there's much to like about the rest of the Range Rover Sport. The relatively boxy styling evokes the Range and Land Rovers of old, when form followed function, not fashion trends. The large air dam, 20-inch alloy wheels and low-profile tires were about the only contemporary touches - and they are so well-integrated into the overall design that don't the traditional appearance.

And the inside, which was heavily ramped this year, is even better. The extensive use of fine leather and polished wood evokes the British history of all Rovers, even though they are now manufactured by Tata Motors of India. The fully adjustable front seats in our test model were both comfortable and supportive enough for fast cornering. The gauges were big and easy to use. The climate and audio system controls were large enough to find in the dark. And the visibility through the large windows was outstanding.

The ride was also a pleasure - taut and supple, with little body roll in corners. Dry weather traction was exceptional and, although we did not have a chance to test the all-wheel-drive system in the wet, previous Rovers have felt remarkably secure in rain and snow.

There's a price to pay for all this mix of practicality and fun, of course. Non-supercharged Range Rover Sports start at more than $60,000 and our heavily-option test model cost more than $82,000. The supercharged engine also used gas at a ferocious rate, in part because driving aggressively was so much fun. But shouldn't that be the point of any car with the word 'sport' in its name? If economy is your top priority, there are a lot of slower ones out there - almost all of them, in fact.

Facts and figures

• Model: 2010 Range Rover Sport Supercharged

• Manufacturer: Tata Motors

• Class: Compact luxury SUV

• Layout: Front engine, all-wheel-drive with multiple terrain settings.

• Style: Five door hatchback.

• Engines: 5.0-liter V8 (375 hp, 375 ft lbs torque); supercharged 5.0-liter (510 hp, 461 ft lbs torque).

• Transmissions: 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters (as tested).

• EPA estimated city/highway mileage: 12/17.

• Price: Beginning at approximately $60,495 ($81,395 as tested).

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