Range Rover Sport (L494) | PH Used Buying Guide

The long-running Range Rover Sport was hugely influential – and big selling for good reason

By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, December 12, 2021 / Loading comments

Key considerations

  • Available for £22,000
  • 3.0-litre V6 petrol or turbodiesel, all-wheel drive
  • Less gangsterish than the preceding L320
  • Madly good mix of luxury and go-anywhere ability
  • Has had quite a few problems in its life
  • Diesels aren’t that cheap to run

Search for a used Range Rover Sport here

OVERVIEW

If you want to ensure sales success for your new large-engined SUV, pray that Greenpeace will stage a protest at the launch. That was the key PR lesson learnt from the launch of the first L320 Range Rover Sport in 2005. Any strong-minded types who had been swithering about whether to get one were instantly galvanised into buying action by the Greenpeace thing. It’s a familiar story to those of us who are old enough to remember Mary Whitehouse and the unexpectedly (to her, anyway) opposite effect her well-meaning pronouncements had on the British media and those who consumed it.

This ‘up yours’ element of the Range Rover Sport demographic meant that it didn’t take long for it to become characterised as a footballer’s/drug dealer’s car. Land Rover didn’t mind that because it was a big sales success. The buyers didn’t mind either because it was a brilliant tool that packed the best drivetrains and the most cutting-edge semi-monocoque chassis tech from Land Rover’s catalogue at the time into a compact, wieldy, luxurious and desirable body.

The first RRS suffered from some of the expected quality-related LR issues. As the faults, bling-ups and negativities grew, so the prices for used L320 Sports shrank. When they were new in 2005 you woud be paying around £50,000 for a twin-turbo 2.7 diesel TDV6 or £70,000 for a supercharged 500hp 5.0 V8. Today, an L320 2.7 TDV6 can be yours for under £4,000, a 272hp 3.6 TDV8 diesel will be only £300 or so more than that, and 385hp supercharged 4.2 V8 petrols come in for as little as £4,500.

That price depression was sped up in spring 2013 when Land Rover unveiled the gen-two Range Rover Sport L494 that is the subject of this buying guide. Unlike the L320, which had a hybridised-Discovery 3 body-on-chassis setup, the L494 had a riveted and bonded monocoque based on the fourth-generation aluminium-bodied L405 Range Rover that had landed one year earlier. Ditching the traditional chassis contributed to a huge overall weight saving of up to 420kg on the gen-one Sport despite the gen-two’s extra length and width and longer wheelbase. The adoption of a modern monocoque also brought a new and more dynamic driving experience.

Although the new Sport’s styling was softer and less boxy than the old one, the ‘command’ driver and passenger positions were left intact. Even more crucially for families who wanted a cheaper, lighter and more city-friendly option to a full-on Range Rover, the extra 18cm in the new Sport’s wheelbase gave it the option of seven seats.

The world reveal of the L494 was in Manhattan. There was no Greenpeace protest this time around, but LR did manage to get a few streets closed down and Daniel Craig pitched up too. The main press launch was in the UK and took in a range of on- and off-road driving tasks in Wales and the Cotswolds. The routes were narrow, especially the one that took you through the inside of a decommissioned Boeing 747 jumbo. The idea was to show that the RRS could do pretty much everything an RR could do, but in smaller spaces.

The numbers on the invoice weren’t that small though. An entry-level TDV6 L494 cost £51,550 in 2013, with the SDV6 starting at £60,000. In return for that, you got a lovely machine that was somewhat nicer to drive than the old L320, with enhanced handling, ride and drivetrain sophistication, and rich cabin luxury. Four trim levels were initially available. HSE, which came with 20in alloys, xenon lights, keyless entry, a reversing camera, heated and perforated leather seats all round, lane departure warning and the InControl infotainment system with satnav; HSE Dynamic, which added All Terrain Mode, gloss black exterior trim pieces and bigger 21in wheels; and Autobiography Dynamic, which added torque vectoring control, a pano roof, ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise, blind spot monitoring, 360-degree camera with T-junction view and a 19-speaker Meridian audio. The fourth level was SVR, which we’ve covered elsewhere.

The L494’s more rounded styling split opinions but there were few quibbles about the excellence of the powertrains. Petrol fans who didn’t want one of the V8s could have a supercharged 340hp 3.0 AJ-V6. On the turbodiesels you had the 3.0 AJD-V6 in 258hp (TDV6) or 288hp and 306hp SDV6 flavours, or a 340hp SDV6 hybrid. An engine range update in 2019 replaced the supercharged V6 petrol with a new P400 turbocharged straight six producing 400hp and also introduced new D250, D300, and D350 diesels.

The SDV6 (and supercharged V8) variants of the 2013 L494 had a permanent all-wheel drive system with a two-speed transfer case, low-range gearing and an electronically controlled clutch in the centre differential providing a default 50/50 front rear torque split, with the facility for all of the torque to be put through to either axle. TDV6 and supercharged V6 petrol Sports were different. They had a permanent all-wheel drive system with a single-speed transfer case and a Torsen-type differential providing a default 42/58 front rear torque split with the potential to deliver up to 62 percent to the front or 78 to the rear. This system saved about 18kg in weight on the two-speed transfer case setup.

Today, at the end of 2021, the two L494 questions we need to know the answers to are, one, have they depreciated to affordable levels, and two, do they struggle on the reliability front? The answer to that second question won’t become clear until we’ve zipped through the various headings of this guide. As regards the first one, we’ll be checking out some specific cars for sale at the end of this piece, but to whet your appetite we can tell you that the current entry price for a used L494 is £22,000. You can get cheaper cars than that, mind. In the course of putting this guide together we found a 2013 SDV6 for under £19,000, but it had done 156,000 miles. £22k will easily get you into a 100-110k mile car.

SPECIFICATION | RANGE ROVER SPORT (2013-19)

Engine: 2,993cc V6 diesel
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],500-1,750rpm
0-62mph (secs): 7.1
Top speed (mph): 130
Weight (kg): 2,115
MPG (official combined): 37.7
CO2 (g/km): 199
Wheels (in): 20
On sale: from 2013
Price new: from £59,995
Price now: from £22,000
(specs for 288hp SDV6 model)

Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.


ENGINE & GEARBOX

As mentioned in the overview, we’re focusing on the pre-Ingenium (ie pre-2019) six-cylinder RRSs here in the hopes of giving you a reasonably comprehensive insight into those models, rather than a skimpier runthrough on the much bigger and more complex whole range.

In 2017 it was reported that seven out of every ten new Jaguar Land Rover cars sold in China had to be recalled for repairs. Obviously that’s JLR as a whole we’re talking about, not just the L494, but a UK consumer mag survey found that six in ten diesel L494s had had major issues and the RRS warranty was a less than reassuring two years, which might give you pause for thought. There have been quite a few recalls too, so make sure that any work has been carried out on any car you’re thinking of buying.

On the drivetrain side, problems can include engine power reductions that could be traced back to a variety of sources, anything from a vacuum leak to a blown airflow sensor or a dodgy cat. Some 3.0 TDV6 engines suffered from the same broken crankshaft issues that had affected the earlier 2.7 units, attributed variously to a design that incorporated weak spots in the area between the rod bearing journals and the counterweights, to the incorrect location of main bearing shells during assembly (or rotation of the shells during normal use), or to oil starvation which seemed to remain an issue even after the oil pump, timing belt tensioner and surrounding oil galleries had all been improved on the 3.0. At least one owner was facing a bill of £22,500 for engine replacement, with an offer from Land Rover to cover 60 percent of the cost, leaving him to pick up the tab for £9,000.

Historically we associate diesels with economy but that association only goes so far with big, weighty machines like the RRS. The 3.0 V6 diesels did a fine job for most owners but in spite of the official combined fuel consumption figure of 37mpg they often returned between 25 and 35mpg in real-world use. Jumping into one of the V8 diesels might make you wonder if you’d made the right choice with the V6, but all of the engines in the RRS range were doughty performers with a 3,500kg towing capability and the ZF 8HP70 8-speed gearbox used in all L494 models was wonderfully unobtrusive.

The L494 is a very safe family vehicle not just because of its comprehensive suite of passive measures but also because of the active safety systems that help it to avoid accidents in the first place. The number and complexity of the electronic systems on these cars (we counted nineteen but there may be more) means that battery condition is of paramount importance. It’s unfortunate, then, that battery drain has been identified as a common problem. A battery cable chafing against a DRS (Dynamic Response System) suspension pipe was identified as a potential fire risk on very early SDV6s and was made the subject of a recall at the end of 2013. Diagnosing issues wasn’t a simple matter of plugging your OBD in and reading out the faults. Messages received depended on which diagnostic tool is being used.

On diesel models the particulate filter can block up. The front diff fluid is supposed to be changed every 40,000 miles. If the level gets low that can lead to wear, signalled by whining at a steady speed. A 288hp SDV6 HSE will cost you £315 a year in Vehicle Excise Duty. Servicing an SDV6 at an LR dealer will cost £380 for an interim and £540 for a major. Replacing the cambelt costs £575.

CHASSIS

The L494 was the first SUV in its class (a class which included cars like the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5) to make extensive use of aluminium not just for the main platform but also for the double wishbone and multi-link suspension components. If Land Rover hadn’t used this en-lightening opportunity to add more spec, the new Sport would have recorded a much bigger overall weight saving over the old L320 and thereby potentially created an even more noticeable improvement in handling – but then again we wouldn’t have ended up with such a well equipped car, and in all fairness there was very little wrong with the L494’s on-road handling, especially when you took its weight into account. Despite the aluminium the new Sport was a surprisingly hefty lump at over 2.1 tonnes in 288hp form.

Air springing was cross-linked for maximum axle articulation and gave the height adjustability expected in this class of vehicle, with an Access mode to further ease entry and exit. Dynamic mode firmed up the drive and sent more shocks through to the passengers. Many found Comfort mode to be best.

Adaptive Dynamics suspension on SDV6s and supercharged V8s used continuously variable dampers to suit conditions and driving styles. HSE Dynamic and Autobiography Dynamic also had Dynamic Response, an active lean control system working independently on the two axles to boost agility at low speeds or stability at high speeds. These models also had an active rear locking diff and LR’s Terrain Response 2 system which selected the best driving mode for the prevailing conditions if you put it into Auto mode. There were five other manually selectable modes for different underfoot conditions. Terrain Response 2 could advise the driver on the best moment to engage low range or alter the ride height. Wading depth increased from 700mm in the L320 to 850mm in the L494 and there were sensors in the door mirrors to warn you of water levels.

If a car you’re looking at appears to have a wonky stance and there’s an appropriate warning light on the dash then it almost certainly has an air suspension fault. As you might expect, faults in this area are not cheap to sort out. Low-speed knocking noises from the front end generally indicate an issue with the lower suspension arm bushes.

The parking brake has a reputation for not disengaging, caused by a fault in the actuator. Leaving that unfixed will wreck the discs, which normally should last for around 32,000 miles. Incorrectly routed brake vacuum hoses on petrol 3.0s (and supercharged 5.0 V8s) could chafe against the aux drive pulley. If that wasn’t fixed it could rupture the hose and you would lose all brake servo assistance, which would certainly get your attention in a 2.1 tonne machine. There was a recall for that in February 2015.

You couldn’t take your RRS to any old garage for the brake pads to be replaced because the calipers are ECU-controlled and the correct diagnostic equipment had to be used to retract the pistons. Having a pair of discs, pads and sensor wires fitted should cost around £390 (front) and £330 (rear). Without the discs it’s around £170 per axle. These prices are for non-performance (ie not Brembo) items. Replacement Brembo calipers are over £700 each. There was a recall in October 2018 for problems with the autonomous emergency braking system which could absent itself from the proceedings without having necessarily informed the driver.

BODYWORK

Seems odd to be saying it in this day and age, especially in regards to a vehicle that was designed to perform well in grotty environments, but some L494s weren’t all that great at keeping water out. The weak areas were the tailgate and sunroof and were usually down to poor gap sealing, something you really shouldn’t be expecting to find in any 21st century vehicle, let alone an expensive one like this. Water pooling issues should have been put right under warranty so look for the paper trail on that. The parking sensors didn’t like water either, which again seems peculiar given the need for good component weatherproofing in such an exposed location.

It might get your knees cracking but you should try to get under the car to check the state of the floors and the spare wheel holder as these are vulnerable to bashes on rough ground.

Keyless entry and soft-close doors were standard but one or more of the doors could remain unlocked even when you’d activated the central locking. Thanks to the brave new world of sealed-unit parts design you had to buy the complete latch assembly at around £285 a go. There was an August 2015 recall for non-latching doors on L494s built between March 2012 and May 2015.

In October 2014, HSE Dynamic and Autobiography Dynamic models could be optioned with a Stealth Pack which included satin black 21in nine-spoke or 22in five-spoke alloy wheels, grille and grille surround, fog lamp bezels, bonnet and fender vents, upper mirror caps and tailgate finisher all in satin black. Also at this time the standard SE equipment list was extended to include 14-way power adjustable front seats, xenon headlights and front parking sensors with a visual display, while the standard HSE and HSE Dynamic feature lists were extended to take in 18-way power adjustable front seats, a 12.3-inch TFT instrument panel, auto-dimming mirrors, mood lighting, premium floor mats and a better volumetric alarm.

INTERIOR

If ever there was an SUV that you’d pick purely on the general loveliness of its cabin ambience then the L494 Range Rover Sport would probably be it. The materials used (principally leather and aluminium) were beautiful, the ‘sports command’ driving position was high but also sportily laid back, and although the new-to-the-L494 third row of seating didn’t really do for grown-ups, the second row would keep the vast majority of passengers happy with near-best in class head and legroom along with discrete climate control zones.

Seat comfort is excellent with lots of adjustabilty. Cars with the 5+2 seating had two electrically operated occasional seats in the boot that, like the second row, could be folded flat. The boot itself was big at 780 litres or nearly 1,700 with only the front seats in use but there was a high lip to get over. There was an electric tailgate too, and a power tow bar.

If ever there was a car on which you needed to spend serious time checking the many and various electrical gadgets before you buy it was also the L494. When it was operating as per the manufacturer’s hopes and expectations the RRS’s crisp digital instrumentation was clear and the touchscreens worked well enough, though the satnav could look old and behave accordingly. There was a recall in January 2018 to sort out 2017MY cars suffering from intermittent blankness in the virtual display and there have also been faults with the windows, remote locking, door mirror adjustment, touchscreen sensitivity (lack of), indicators (lack of) and the colour head-up display that was a Land Rover first on the L494.

Four recalls were carried out in the first half of 2017 to rectify problems with non-functioning front passenger airbags and front seatbelt pre-tensioners.

PH VERDICT

Wrapping up, let’s remember just how good the first L320 Range Rover Sport was. The gen-two L494 we’ve looked at in this guide took all the good stuff from its predecessor and grafted on new layers of comfort and sophistication. As a result the drive quality, long-distance comfort and standards of luxury are really good and the handling both on and off road is little short of remarkable for such a big beast.

There are downsides. These cars are not cheap to run, and unfortunately you still have to go into any JLR purchase with your eyes open. The oddly wide gap between JLR’s ability to design vehicles and its ability to also make them reliable is put in a harsh light when the design is as good as the Sport’s. Still, it’s often said that LR owners with good experiences don’t shout about it, whereas those with bad ones do, so don’t be too put off by what you’re read here. You might be lucky with your L494 and have an entirely trouble-free experience, in which case you will also have an extremely enjoyable experience as the core design attributes are all top notch.

One big point in a Sport buyer’s favour is the size of the parc that you can choose from. With getting on for a thousand L494s for sale on PH Classifieds alone you can set a very tight budget and practically be able to pick your colour and spec. Taking all the V8s out of the equation, diesel-engined L494s outnumber the petrols in the UK by a factor of about five to one, and the 288hp model is by far the most popular choice in that group.

The most affordable L494 on sale on PH Classifieds at the time of writing was this eight-year old 288hp SDV6 HSE with 109,000 miles and a full service history at £21,985. The rarity of the supercharged petrol V6s is reflected in slightly higher entry-level asking prices starting at nearer £25-£26,000.


Search for a used Range Rover Sport here

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