The all-new Range Rover Sport revealed by Daniel Craig (w/VIDEO)

It seems ironic that we’re applauding a new ‘lightweight’ Range Rover Sport – a whopping 420kg lighter than its predecessor – which still weighs 2,115kg in the entry-level SDV6 version. The lightest Range Rover Sport used to be a portly 2535kg,so in relative terms this one’s a featherweight.

That’s on a par – if not slightly heavier – than the equivalent Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5, but at least puts the Sport on a level playing field from which it can show its own unique strengths.

Strengths which include class-leading wheel travel (now 260mm front and 272mm rear), exceptional wheel articulation of 546mm, and a maximum ground clearance of 278mm – up 51mm thanks to the upgraded air suspension system.

For the first time in a Range Rover (and in any other SUV for that matter), Land Rover will offer a choice of two all-wheel drive systems; with a two-speed transfer case and low-range option for maximum off-road prowess, or an alternative with a single-speed transfer case and a Torsen differential for on-road ‘performance’ driving.

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The off-road system offers a front-rear 50/50 percent default torque split, and 100 percent locking capability, while the performance driving choice is 18kg lighter, with a 42:58 front/rear torque bias and predominantly rear-driven dynamics.

That’s good news for driving enthusiasts, as is the Sport’s Adaptive Dynamics system featuring continuously variable dampers (CVD). On more powerful models, a dedicated Dynamic mode in the Terrain Response® 2 system provides twin-channel Dynamic Response active lean control, a Dynamic Active Rear Locking Differential, and Torque Vectoring by Braking, which transfers torque to the outside wheels during cornering, hence reducing understeer.

This is similar to the torque-vectoring differential used on BMW’s X6, but whereas BMW uses a multi-plate clutch to vary torque between the left and right rear wheels, Land Rover brakes the power on the opposite wheel to achieve the necessary torque differential – and thereby cause the car to turn more acutely.

The disadvantage of Land Rover’s approach is its inherent throttling of power, whereas BMW’s approach (as with Nissan’s GT-R) is to channel 100% of the torque, but vary which wheel gets to deploy it.

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There will be two engines available at launch – a 503bhp 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol engine and a new 288bhp 3.0-litre SDV6 diesel engine (up from 251bhp). In early 2014, these will be joined by a 254bhp 3.0-litre TDV6 and high performance 334bhp 4.4-litre SDV8 diesel engine, while later in the year a diesel Hybrid will be available to order.

Land Rover are even considering a four-cylinder version, which is likely to tip the scales at less than 2,000kg. All petrol and diesel engines are paired with a ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox, with CO2 emissions starting from 194g/km.

Performance is suitably brisk for the range-topping supercharged model, which completes the 0-60mph dash in 5.0 seconds, but Land Rover has yet to confirm any figures for the 3.0-litre SDV6 version, which will likely be the mainstay in the range.

The Delivery by Daniel Craig

Actor Daniel Craig was entrusted to deliver the new Range Rover Sport to last night’s event, driving across Manhattan Bridge and through a closed off tunnel in a bid to reach the launch venue on time. Meanwhile Police closed down nearby streets – making them Range Rover only – and enabling Craig to successfully complete his mission.

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A short-film (above) entitled ‘The Delivery’, tells the story of a driver tasked with delivering a top secret package. It was directed by Jonathan P B Taylor, known for his work on Fast & Furious, Spiderman, Captain America and more recently Die Hard.

Range Rover Sport – Design & Interior

The new Sport now offers customers an occasional 5+2 seating configuration, with the powered rear seats leaving a flat floor with no loss of boot space.

Despite the extra versatility, the new Sport is just 62mm longer than its predecessor, at 4850mm, which in turn is shorter than most other 7-seater SUVs and most E-segment saloons. Land Rover claim this aids manoeuvrability and ease of parking, despite its significantly longer wheelbase (increased by 178mm) which provides greater room and improved access for rear passengers.

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Shorter overhangs front and rear, plus additional width (increased by 55mm) give the new Sport a more confident stance, while offering a more sporty seating position similar to the Evoque. In fact it’s a hybrid of the Range Rover and Evoque, featuring the strong, architectural forms of its larger sibling at the front, with the lighter, more youthful appearance of the Evoque at the rear. Whether that thrills you or not, only time will tell.

The all-new Range Rover Sport will go on sale in the third quarter of 2013 and be available in three equipment levels from launch (HSE, HSE Dynamic and Autobiography Dynamic), with an SE derivative available on TDV6 models from early 2014. Prices have yet to be confirmed, but expect a starting price of around £55,000 for the 288bhp 3.0-litre SDV6.