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Sport kicks up a design storm

Land Rover has a problem. Reaction to the radical, rakish Range Stormer concept car, unveiled at the Detroit Show in January as a 'teaser' for the forthcoming Range Rover Sport, has been so strong, some Solihull insiders are worried the production version, due later this year, may not be sporty enough.

Land Rover has been actively working on an SUV with sportier on-road handling and performance, particularly for the lucrative US market, following the launch of Porsche's 155mph Cayenne, and Volkswagen's 10- and 12-cylinder Touareg models. From the outset there has been much internal debate over whether the car would be badged Land Rover or Range Rover: the latter was finally chosen because of Range Rover's better profile in the US, where it has in the past enjoyed one of the highest ownership demographics on any car sold there.

Although badged Range Rover, the Sport actually has a lot more in common with the new Land Rover Discovery to be revealed next month at the New York Auto Show. Unlike the complex BMW-engineered Range Rover, the Sport is built on Land Rover's all-new separate chassis developed for the Discovery. The car shares much of the new Discovery's mechanical hardware, too, including suspension and powertrain elements. The main difference is under the bonnet, where the Sport will get a more powerful V8 engine than will be available in the Discovery.

Unlike the Range Stormer concept the production Sport will be a five-door model only. The sheet metal will echo some of the Stormer's design cues, such as the flared wheelarches, lower roofline and raked glasshouse, but in a much more subdued form. The original product plan called for just one bodystyle, but following the Stormer's show-stealing Detroit debut, insiders say a three-door version is being talked about.

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