New York: Range Rover Sport makes a Bond-like entrance image

Land Rover undoubtedly pulled off the PR stunt of the New York show – and probably the year – by getting Daniel Craig to drive the new Range Rover Sport through closed Manhattan streets to an eve-of-show party.

While the company had to be careful to avoid any James Bond references for fear of upsetting Eon Productions, owners of the Bond franchise, the cast and drama of the Sport’s entrance gave headline writers a field day.

Beyond the 007-like action man stuff there was a solid business case for launching the car in New York in dramatic style, however. America is, not surprisingly, the biggest market for the Sport and New York its No 1 metropolitan sales area.

The Sport recorded peak sales of 18,500 in America in 2006, which means it outsold the Range Rover two to one, and even last December – with a new car in the wings – it achieved its second best monthly US sales figure of 2,002.

“It remained in demand even in the recession and the residuals have stayed sharp,” says Finbar McFall, Land Rover’s marketing director. “In the US it is seen as perfect for the city because of where the driver sits and the view out, and it’s ideal in New York because the roads aren’t exactly in perfect condition after the winter.”

Land Rover has sold 415,000 versions of the Sport since its introduction in 2005, with China now emerging as an increasingly important market for the car. Sales there last year were a best-ever total of 11,000.

The Aluminium-bodied new model – larger but 39 per cent lighter than the previous car, and with standard air suspension and the option for the first time of seven seats – will start to be progressively rolled out later this year, though Land Rover is not saying which regions get it first.

In the US and China it will be available with a 3.0-litre supercharged petrol V6 for the first time as well as a 5.0-litre supercharged V8. The UK will get the V8 plus two V6 diesels and, a short while later, a V8 diesel. Prices will start at £51,550 – just £455 more than the outgoing car.

Despite the Sport’s strong metropolitan following, McFall says there was never any temptation to tone down its off-road abilities.

“It’s a Land Rover, so it has to be seen to have best-in-class off-road capability,” he said. “The new one is even better than the previous car. These things do matter. One of the reasons people buy it is the confidence it gives them.”