The supercharged Range Rover is a bit like a tuxedo worn with hiking boots. Shiny, polished hiking boots, that is, that give the ensemble it dexterity without detracting from its plush personality.
It may seem incongruous that an expensive luxury vehicle is as much at home in the rough as it is on the road, but the Land Rover is designed to be just that.
There are two Range Rover models. The HSE starts at $76,535, while the supercharged model, with 20-inch wheels and air suspension, begins at a whopping $92,035.
The Range Rover has a pedigree borne of decades of off-road supremacy. The fact that it is so comfortable, so composed and so confident on the road is evidence of just how much SUVs have evolved.
For 2007, the Range Rover benefits from Land Rover's Terrain Response System, a console-mounted dial that optimizes a host of chassis and powertrain settings to suit driving in snow, mud, sand and extreme rock crawling. An electronically controlled rear differential is standard on the supercharged model and optional on the HSE.
Land Rover says this "infinitely variable" locking unit enhances traction, which was already quite good. The center differential that divides power between the front and rear wheels is also electronically controlled.
While SUVs may look like mud pluggers, most have become the vehicle of choice for countless people whose only off-road driving consists of gravel roads or mud lanes. And let's face it: Although Range Rovers are extremely capable off-road, few owners are going to risk marring a $92,000 vehicle by bashing it into tree ruts or rocks.
The Range Rover is fashioned as carefully as a fine luxury car. Panel gaps are tiny, and the body has an elegant simplicity highlighted by details such as the jewel-like lamps.
One of the first things I noticed was the lack of road noise and a ride as smooth as a cushion of air.
While the Range Rover may be defined in large part by its performance, the quality, and feel, of interior materials are also important. Lovely, satin-finished wood and brushed aluminum pieces are a wonderful counterpoint to the soft leather seats and textured instrument panel. The ignition key is located on the console.
Ford bought Land Rover from BMW in 2000. The Range Rover was initially powered by a BMW V-8, but the current V-8 is based on a Jaguar unit. Ford also owns Jaguar. The HSE has a 4.4-liter that cranks 305 horsepower. The supercharged Range Rover has a 4.2-liter V-8 rated at 400 horsepower.
The supercharged Range Rover competes squarely with performance SUVs such as the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5. The engine accelerates with steady thrust rather than an explosive lunge. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and the driver can shift manually any time.
The 113.4-inch wheelbase is similar in size to the Ford Explorer's.
There is no third seat, and the vehicle has 62 cubic feet of cargo room.
The long-travel air suspension is mounted on subframes that are attached to the body. Ground clearance is 11.1 inches. Air suspension allows the vehicle to be raised for rough going and lowered to normal height for highway use.
A host of electronic aids, including dynamic stability control, hill descent control, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake force distribution, play a huge part in the Range Rover's performance both on road and off. Despite its considerable weight and tall profile, the Range Rover feels nimble in almost any situation.
The base price of the supercharged test vehicle was $92,035. Options included cherry wood and a rear-seat entertainment system. The sticker price was $95,350.
Four years or 50,000 miles.