There is a paradigm shift happening in the automotive sector that is best summarised by the behemoth that you see below. Why we cannot seem to get enough of SUVs and their appeal is because of the fact that the big automobile has grown beyond a simple means of transport.
The lofty driving position, the lure of road trips and the safety of towering above other road users is just too tempting for many. However, there is also a bigger trend taking shape: the rise of petrol-engined SUVs.
Diesel is slowly moving out of the limelight and having gotten a bad reputation, more and more are gravitating towards big petrol cars. Till some time ago, SUVs were the flag bearers of the diesel engine, with its torque and effortless nature coming in handy.
But when a staunch guardian of the old world SUV charm and appeal, such as the Land Rover, makes a petrol iteration of its legendary SUV, the Range Rover Sport, then we surely need to sit up and take notice. The Range Rover Sport is not a crossover, but a full blown SUV capable of going through just about anything that you can throw at it.
So how come such a big SUV is powered by a measly 2.0 petrol engine? Well, that is the sign of the times and a closer look removes the cobwebs of doubt. The Range Rover Sport petrol gets a 2.0 twin turbocharged 4-cylinder unit which makes 300 bhp and 400Nm of torque.
With a 0-100kph time of 7.1 seconds, it is no slouch. For such a big and towering SUV with no pretensions of hugging the ground, the performance is surprisingly quick. Traditional physics dictates that for something so big, this small an engine won't work, but it actually does.
A mild lag aside, the 8-speed automatic responds to mild throttle inputs and the car leaps forward with almost alarming vigour. Shift the gearbox to 'S' mode or use the paddle shifters then you can explore the outer reaches of this motor even more and its feels more than adequate, to say the least. Quick overtaking or sudden downshifts are taken care of as well.
The refinement of this petrol endeared it to us more than the diesel. Also, in the city the power delivery is smooth, though there is a bit of a lag from the automatic to contend with. In terms of mileage, expect single digits when driven hard but you can convert this into double figures with some diligent driving. Still, the petrol is not as efficient as the diesel.
Thus, to answer the question we asked ourselves in the beginning, do big SUVs powered by a petrol engine work?
The short answer is: yes! In a nutshell, while the effortless rush of torque or even the running costs of a diesel are still something which a petrol cannot match, the fact that the Range Rover Sport petrol is vastly cheaper than its diesel version plus its quieter and better value, more than nullifies that.
So, in the end you are getting a better deal and not losing much in the process. Thus the 'big SUV' that was the last frontier of the diesel engine’s dominance is no longer that.