Everything came boxed for installation at the NY International Auto Show
Lovely models enhance lovely models
Global Launch of the Range Rover Sport [Courtesy Rovers Magazine, Spring 2013]
By Jeffrey Aronson
The New York metropolitan region has become the largest market worldwide for the Range Rover Sport, so it’s no surprise that Land Rover chose to introduce the new model at this year’s New York International Auto Show. The global launch demonstrated that Land Rover attracts and employs the automotive world’s cleverest and most inventive people.
The New York Auto Show held press preview days on March 26-27, prior to the public opening. Late morning on the 26th I wandered into the cavernous Jacob Javits Center the first day to find the world’s largest collection of wooden boxes, gaffer tape and extension cords, along with several hundred workers. The shared Jaguar and Land Rover display looked barren. I wandered into a hospitality suite (provided and provisioned by Derse) to update the Rovers North Blog and ponder that Land Rover had only 12 hours before show time.
Outside at the entrance Jeep had set up its “Camp Jeep,” a giant outdoor slot track with one ascent, one descent, a side slope and some bumps, to establish its off-road credibility. Joe Kauper, Weehawken, NJ, a Jeep owner (and secret Land Rover enthusiast), shook his head and said dismissively, “We’ve got parking garages in New York with steeper grades than that!” I left Joe to find my “cocktail attire” and dress up for the Land Rover “Reveal Party.”
The automotive press had already circulated teaser photos of the new Sport (Stuart Schorr of Land Rover North America called the leak “an accident by a very remorseful window tinter”) but it didn’t lessen the excitement. Despite rush hour traffic that surely increased mood-altering drug sales LRNA secured the assistance of the NYPD in blocking off roads to assure the on-time arrival of the show car at their midtown Manhattan party site. As befits a world-wide launch Land Rover engaged actor Daniel Craig to drive the Sport into the “Skylight at Moynihan Center” and speak briefly to the international media. Given the presence of Land Rovers in “Skyfall,” and their joint patronage of the non-profit, S.A.F.E., Craig’s participation made sense – however brief. Also greeting the Range Rover were equestrian Zara Phillips, designer Jade Jagger, football/television celebrity Michael Strahan and Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon.
As the cocktails and champagne flowed and canapés disappeared, we watched the video of the Range Rover Sports’ arrival into Manhattan; so, too, did over 65,000 people from 150 countries through an online feed. This was not a home video: an LRNA press person noted how Land Rover had closed off a tunnel under 5th Avenue to use as a movie set, flooded it and filmed the Range Rover Sport fording water. The thundering music and flashy graphics gave some strong hints of what the new Sport might accomplish on road and off road.
Since the Range Rover Sport appeared in 2006, the company reported that over 80% of its buyers were new to Land Rover. Many of the 200-plus people in attendance owned Sports but from their comments, they had certainly become Land Rover enthusiasts. Brad Seiler, Montclair, NJ, who owns a’09 Range Rover Sport, agreed with Will Gock, W. Babylon, NY, that he “would love to have this new one.” Will also noted that he really liked the styling touches from the Evoque. “It’s a very positive design. No matter what the model year, you always know it’s a Land Rover.” Eric Morse, Edgewater, NJ, had been looking for a Sport but still owns a 2012 Range Rover HSE. He and his fiancée, Dr. Annemarie Santilli, eyeballed the new Range Rover Sport. “I think it’s beautiful,” Eric said. “When our vehicle leases come up in a couple of years, we’ll look at a Sport to go with a Range Rover.” A couple from Huntington, Long Island, had taken an off road day through a Florida Land Rover dealer two years ago and never forgot the experience. “We’ve had Mercedes, Lexus, BMW’s, but after this Sport, we could never go back!” Greg Fitzpatrick, Warren, NJ, and Edward Tatton stared at the new Sport; Greg declared “that’s not MY Classic” but admitted he really admired the Sport.
The next morning Land Rover held its formal press conference, but before and after, I spoke with Land Rover executives from the UK and North America. Nick Rogers, the Director of Range Rover Programmes, works out of Gaydon and attended with his wife Kelly. Not surprisingly he spoke proudly of the Sport’s 800-pound weight loss from its new aluminum body shell, approach and departure angles of 31 and 33 degrees respectively, the 33 inch wading depth and increased wheel articulation, electronic differential control, 8-speed transmission and dynamic aluminum suspension. The same weight reduction allows a 510 hp supercharged V8 to return 20 mpg highway, or a supercharged 340 hp V6 at 22 mpg highway. Most pleasantly, when Nick heard I drove a Series II-A, he whipped out his phone to show me photos of his two Series I’s and two 1970’s Range Rovers waiting for his return to the UK.
John Edwards, Land Rover’s Global Brand Manager, noted proudly the new Sport “will be built in Britain and was designed with Land Rover’s DNA in its heart. It’s the fastest, most agile Land Rover ever.” Designer Gerry McGovern proudly spoke of the Sport’s evolution into this new model. Remarkably, while it’s shorter than the previous model, a stretched wheelbase permits an optional third row seat, a power-folding “occasional seat” for two [important in the North American market –ed]. As with many contemporary Land Rover vehicles, it looks much more substantial in person than in print or video. While the Sport on display and in the early press releases came in Chile Red, you can choose from over 19 colors, multiple wood veneers and even different roof shades. Happily, some of this information came from the lovely “product specialists,” such as Renee Hermiz, Mary Jo and Natascha, whose presence enhances any automotive event. (Maybe they’d join me if I cleaned up the II-A?)
Simon Turner, LRNA’s Range Rover Brand Manager, reminded me that this is the third new Land Rover in three years, a considerable commitment for any automobile company. “The Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Evoque are individual characters with a common theme,” he suggested, and he’s right. Land Rover goes about achieving its extraordinary off road and on road capabilities using the most contemporary engineering and design. Major degrees of “field-repairability” have been sacrificed to 21rst-century regulations and consumer expectations - Land Rover is in the business of selling vehicles, after all - but they’re more capable off road than the first Land Rovers of 1948. We can’t wait to test a Range Rover Sport; here’s a prediction that we’ll start to see them at future off road events.
Copyright 2013 by Jeffrey Aronson and Rovers North
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."