For an Indian in his 30s, what could blend in boyish pursuits with great family time? A long drive with the clan, of course. That way, I would get my hands on the wheel and everyone else ample time to spend with one another. The old cliché does ring true after all — if you want to get to know someone better, travel with them. And so, I picked the most beautiful time of year any Mumbaiite could, to set off on a drive from the Maximum City to the splendorous vastness of the Rann of Kutch.
Too extreme, for some. But hey, I wasn’t just ferrying my family in any car. My vehicle of choice was the Range Rover Sport. And boy, am I glad it was.
As soon as my elderly parents stepped into the car, they appeared more confident about the ride than they had been before, thanks to the car’s high seating position. That and the incredible level of detail each contour of the interior speaks of: Everything is lavish, with no exaggeration. Each surface offers a sensory tangible delight. Even the buttons and knobs are created with special care. On the dash, the touchscreens and controls spoil you with convenience. Simply pressing the start button illuminates the cockpit as if you are inside a futuristic jet.
I must say, during the first hour of the drive the topic of conversation revolved around the car’s infotainment system. The Touch Pro Duo has not one but two 10-inch HD touchscreens that offer simple controls and navigation to key features of the car and entertainment. The upper one helps control your media, navigation and internet-related apps while the lower one controls the temperature within. Thanks to the digital selection options via the screens, the clutter of buttons and knobs on the dash has been reduced significantly.
As if this didn’t make the interiors swanky enough, they added a third screen to replace the instrument cluster. A cool navigation interface on the steering wheel helps you control the key functions on this screen.
As we set off from Mumbai in the early hours, we were spared the chaotic city traffic. But, as we headed north, towards Gujarat, a never-ending line of trucks and container-carriers crowded the highway. Thanks to the Sport’s ease of handling, I had little to worry about. The driving modes came to my rescue here. Through the rougher patches of the road, I switched to the Comfort Mode. The air suspension miraculously absorbed every bump and rumble the road had in store for us, and the engine was as close to mute as possible. It was a good, relaxed start to the drive, and I couldn’t ask for more. I set dad’s favourite music on the playlist and was glad to hear hum along.
Once we hit the industrial town of Vapi, the heavy traffic slowly started to thin out. I could stretch the car’s legs by stepping on the peddle. I was rather impressed with the stability of the Sport, even at speeds exceeding 100kmph. It simply glided through, leaving even some sporty sedans in its wake — something admirable for a car that weighs 2,360kg.
If there’s one thing the Range Rover Sport promises, it is power and stability. And what better place than the highway to put the 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine to test?
With nearly 258bhp at my disposal and 600 Nm of torque, I could manoeuvre across the unpredictable highway traffic with ease. The one thing I couldn’t test was the 0-100 kmph climb within 7.7 seconds because I had seniors in the car. But that didn’t stop me from hoping to test the endless stretches of desert for it.
While I thoroughly enjoyed overtaking the trucks and cars, I couldn’t wait to reach the Vadodara-Ahmedabad expressway, officially known as NE1 it is the nations first expressway — a 100km-long tar-laden straight road. A driver’s delight, I put the Rover in Sport mode, and boy, did she perk up, the gear shifts were now longer, the suspension a tad stiffer and the engine punchier. The car was now something else, not only was I leaving the Indian sedans as a blur in the rear view mirror, I was also taking on the German sedans. The smoothness of the ride, even at breakneck speeds, didn’t seem to register with my folks and the climb of velocity seemed rather organic.
We took a short break at Ahmedabad to enjoy its famed street-food and quickly got back on the highway. Our trip from Ahmedabad to Bhuj was uneventful, with little towns that gradually turned into villages, which further got scantier as the early signs of the desert began to appear. The wonderful part was the wide highways, sometimes spanning to nearly six lanes. A fantasy for any Mumbaiite.
Once we entered the desert, it was as surreal an experience as any. With the wide roads and endless landscapes, you begin to imagine that you’re the only living soul out there with the beast that rides at your behest. My parents simply loved it and it showed in the way they whipped out their cellphones and began clicking pictures like excited millennials. There was silence and all that we could hear was the quiet hum of the engine. It’s here that the Range Rover Sport’s incredible Terrain Response System kicked in. In fact, I pushed the car into more challenging areas of minor dunes intentionally. Simply popping out a knob caused the car to automatically adjust the transmission, suspension, traction and even the brakes, to adjust to the terrain. I did leave my parents at a nearby refreshment joint before venturing out to discover the Sport’s true potential. I was especially impressed by the Auto Mode that did all the adjustments for me.
For a car of its price, one thing the Range Rover Sport could include was seat cooling. Luckily for us, we decided to take a trip to the desert in winter. But one can only imagine how uncomfortable hours of driving in blazing summer would be. For a car that speaks of its capabilities with its performance, this would be a great addition to the ensemble. My parents would have loved a massage feature in the seats, after the long ride.
On our return journey, going from the expanse of the white desert to the traffic-strewn streets of suburban Mumbai wasn’t doing justice to the car. But the journey simply underlined the versatility of this phenomenal machine. We arrived in the city at around 6:00 pm and the traffic woke us up from our day dream. What I did notice was that the Range Rover Sport isn’t too comfortable when faced with bumper-to-bumper traffic of the city. The ride was jumpy as the engine and gearbox failed to find an equilibrium.
As I said earlier, the Range Rover Sport spoils you. It can make you dream big. Both, in terms of where you can take it, to how far your adventurous spirit can aspire to go. I must say, I was sceptical of the long drive, especially for my father who has a knee ailment.
But during the 2,000km journey, not once did he complain of the slightest discomfort. This is when I understood why Range Rovers have the final say when it comes to luxury SUVs.
No roads: With a simple twist of a knob, the SUV adapts and optimises its performance on a variety of surfaces, like sand, mud, snow
Touch pro duo: In a first, two crisp 10" HD touchscreen provide an easy and intuitive interface to interact with the features of the car
Laser lights: The new Pixel headlights use laser technology to intelligently light up the surface ahead without distracting other vehicles