Thursday, August 6, 2015

Things To Look for - Land Rover Range Rover Sport

Original 2006 Range Rover Sport  (C) JE Robison Service
2011 Range Rover Sport HSE (C) JE Robison Service

All in all, the 2006-2013 Sport is probably the most reliable Land Rover product to date.  That said, it is not problem free.  Poor maintenance is always a concern, and a high percentage of these vehicles were leased when new.  In my experience, leased vehicles are less likely to receive proper care than privately owned vehicles.  They tend to get somewhat less than the manufacturer service schedule calls for.  Trucks that are above 50,000 miles with marginal care are much more at risk for major failures or premature demise.

Sports come in two versions - standard (with HSE trim option) and supercharged (higher level trim standard.)  Reliability of the two versions is about the same but maintenance costs for the Supercharged trucks are higher.  Brakes are double the cost of standard.  Tires (20 inch in most cases) are quite a bit more.  And the Supercharged trucks can burn through brakes, tires, and full faster.

That said, if you drive a standard and a supercharged truck identically, they will return about the same fuel economy.  2006-2009 trucks have the original Jaguar/Land Rover DOHC V8; 2010 and newer trucks have the upgraded engine with significantly more power.  The exterior,  dashboards, and interiors were facelifted for 2010 also.

The 2006-2009 trucks are virtually identical, as are the 2010-2012 models.  

Original Range Rover Sport interior (C) JE Robison Service
Facelifted 2011 Range Rover Sport interior (C) JE Robison Service


Most late model Sports will be dealer serviced, and you should always look for a car with service records.  There’s no easy way to check service status otherwise.  Gaining access to a spark plug to evaluate freshness used to be a 2 minute job on the first Range Rover.  Now it’s an hour-plus task. The transmission fluid can’t be checked with a dipstick on these trucks.  To service it, you replace the integral pan/filter and fill with fresh fluid from below. 

If you buy a truck with 50k on the clock, and there is no record of recent undercar fluid services I would advise doing them all right away just to be safe.  Newer Range Rovers require special synthetic oil, and we urge you to follow their recommendation with respect to oil and grade.  The late model trucks have gone to an extended oil change interval and we’re not so comfortable with that.  We recommend a more conservative 7,500 miles as an oil change interval and synthetic oil in all years of Sport.  For older Sports we use Mobil 1 0-40.

We also recommend changing the front and rear differential lubes, and the transfer case lube.  Land Rover fluid is used in all three.  We suggest a change interval of 4 years or 60k miles.

If the vehicle has been driven in the city don’t be surprised if brake pads and rotors are worn out at 25,000 miles.  That is common.  Tires are often worn out at about that mileage too, though some of the replacements (Michelin for example) have proven longer-lived.

All of these trucks have air suspension, which is generally reliable.  Compressors tend to wear out near 100k miles and they make a $1,200 repair more or less (2015 $)  Struts can develop leaks and that will wear the compressors out faster.  Sensors are valves are generally rugged.

Pay attention to any warning lights or messages.

Other things to look at:
  •  We suggest a scan of all computer systems with a factory-level test system.   These vehicles have many computers (like climate control and security) that do not talk to generic OBD scanners, and they may alert you to significant issues.
  •  Have your nearest dealer check the VIN for open recalls and warranty status.  Checking for open recalls is a no-brainer but warranty status is not so obvious.  If a car is flooded it may not have a salvage title, but Land Rover will have been notified if insurance was involved and they will void the warranty.  A voided warranty status and a good title would be a “run-don’t-walk” flag for me in an inspection.
  •  Tire pressure monitor sensors have a service life of about 8 years, so you should expect to be replacing them soon or now on older trucks.
  •  Alternator failure is common, especially when batteries are allowed to age and overstress the system
  •  Check the cooling system for leaks, level, and correct fluid (orange in color.)  Water pumps and expansion tanks are two common leak areas.  Non-original fluid is a red flag.
  •  Front and rear wheel bearings are weaker than you’d hope on these trucks.  Failure before 100,000 miles is fairly common.
  •  The electric parking brake has been problematic on older vehicles.  The mechanism can corrode and jam, making for a $1,000+ repair and possibly tearing up the parking brake and rotors too.
  •  If the vehicle is in an area where they salt the roads chassis corrosion can be a problem.  Brake and fuel pipes tend to rust out before the frame.
  •  Lower control arms usually wear out between 60-90k miles.  The first thing to go is the bushings, but the joints often fail 30,000 miles later.  Some shops do bushings only as a cost savings but the whole arm will be needed when the ball joint wears out.  Most of the time we recommend changing whole arms for that reason.
  • Sway bars are a problem on these vehicles.  The bars wear where they pass through the chassis bushings, and they develop a heavy thumping vibration.  Replacement is a fair bit of labor as the body must be lifted partway off the frame.
The Range Rover Sport quickly became Land Rover's most successful model.  The Full Size Range Rover (the L322) is bigger and plusher, but also significantly more expensive. And the Sport has the advantage of being a newer design, and somewhat more nimble.

We are now seeing Sports coming through our service department with 200,000+ miles on the odometer and no major failures.  It takes good maintenance to get to that point but the Rovers we've cared for right along to that mileage seem to have plenty of life left in them.

The Terrain Response system made its debut in these models and it provides impressive off-road and bad-road traction.  We have not seen any significant service issues with terrain response; indeed most of the gadgets on these trucks have proven trouble free.

The only disappointment is that there is not a thriving off-road community building around these trucks, as developed around the original Range Rover, Discovery, and Defender.  These are fully worthy vehicles.




(c) 2015 John Elder Robison
John Elder Robison is the general manager of J E Robison Service Company, celebrating 30 years of independent Land Rover restoration and repair in Springfield, Massachusetts.  John is a longtime technical consultant to the Land Rover clubs, and he’s owned and restored many fine Rovers.  Find him online at www.robisonservice.com or in the real world at 413-785-1665

Reading this article will make you smarter, especially when it comes to car stuff.  So it's good for you.  But don't take that too far - printing and eating it will probably make you sick.

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