The Range Rover Sport HST packs a silky smooth punch with its new mild hybrid inline six powerplant
Photos: Ben Chia & Leow Ju-Len
Once upon a time, inline six cylinder engines were pretty much the default choice for any medium to large-sized car. Tightening emissions and fuel efficiency standards in recent years have curtailed their appeal though in favour of turbocharged four-pots and V6s, but if Land Rover has their way however, inline sixes could be set for a comeback, starting with this, the Range Rover Sport HST.
Inline sixes are favoured because their balanced nature results in fewer engine vibrations, translating into a much smoother driving experience, a trait that is highly desired for executive and luxury cars. When combined with modern technologies such as mild hybrid systems and forced induction, as seen on the HST here, inline sixes could come right back into relevance, offering much improved efficiency and performance over its predecessors.
The HST’s 3.0-litre inline six engine, which replaces the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 in the lineup, is paired with a 48V mild hybrid system which improves efficiency by harvesting energy produced through deceleration, storing them in a battery, and redeploying the energy in situations where it is required, such as upon acceleration, thereby reducing the overall load of the engine.
The unit also features a twin-scroll turbocharger for improved performance, and in this form, produces a very handy 400hp and 550Nm of torque. There is also an electric supercharger that helps eliminate lag, ensuring that power delivery is instant and immediate.
The straight-six HST is certainly not wanting for pace, but the overwhelming sense you get is how smooth and linear the car is, with power sweeping you along in a creamy, unrelenting wave, never sudden or abrupt.
While there are many elements working together under the bonnet (mild hybrid system, turbocharger and supercharger), they all operate together in an extremely seamless fashion, like a well-coordinated orchestra.
The Rangie Sport also features adjustable air suspension that allows you raise or lower the car by up to 50mm, and the car’s ride quality is generally excellent, and rather befitting the refinement of the engine. Despite the ‘Sport’ name, the HST is really quite a comfortable car to drive around town, with only the very harshest of bumps being able to break through and disturb the peace.
And for a car of its size, the Range Rover Sport feels pretty handy to chuck around, with body roll being kept nicely in check as you take on the twisties. It is still a big car of course, but it never comes across as clumsy or cumbersome, unlike other similarly large-sized sport utility vehicles (SUVs). It feels more akin to a well-sorted mid-sized executive sedan with a nice engine.
It is only really the car’s raised ride height that gives away the car’s stature, and you’re made very aware of the car’s dimensions when parking or manoeuvring around tight spots. Otherwise, the HST does come across like a much more civilised car than its looks and performance numbers suggests. It’s probably the automotive equivalent of a shy, soft-spoken wrestler: he’ll rather not pummel you, but he could if he wanted to.
It’s an unexpected surprise really, not least given the way it looks. It comes across a bit like a sportier version of a regular Range Rover Sport (which would make it a Range Rover Sport Sport), with plenty of carbon fibre bits featuring in various places, including on the grille and on the side vents. There’s also the car’s bright red brake callipers that peek out from behind the 21-inch gloss black alloy rims, offering a small hint as to what this car is really about.
On the inside, the material of choice appears to be suede, as it is featured liberally on the steering wheel rim, the gear lever selector, and the headlining. There’s also a very robust looking pair of paddle shifters crafted from chrome, which is a nice touch, and gives off a somewhat industrial tough guy vibe to the cabin.
All of that does don’t come cheap though, with the Range Rover Sport HST retailing at $407,999 inclusive of Certificate of Entitlement (COE). For comparison, the Mercedes-Benz GLE450 4Matic uses a similar powertrain setup of mild-hybrid straight six with electric supercharging and conventional turbocharging, and throws in the bonus of seven seats to boot, all for about 30 grand less.
But the Range Rover Sport HST offers an intoxicating blend of sporty performance matched with an utterly sweet and smooth powerplant that feels like its been given a new lease of life thanks to modern technology. The joy of Six has never been this invigorating.
Range Rover Sport HST
Engine 2,996cc, inline 6, turbocharged
Power 400hp at 5500-6500rpm
Torque 550Nm at 2000-5000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 5.9 seconds
Top Speed 225km/h
Fuel Efficiency 9.2L/100km
VES Band / CO2 C2 / 213g/km
Agent Wearnes Automotive
Price S$407,999 with COE
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