The Range Rover's combination of high-dollar luxury and off-road capability puts it in an elite class. It may seem incongruous that such an expensive luxury vehicle can tackle the outback as adeptly as a mule and as comfortably as a limousine, but that is the Range Rover's mission.
Land Rovers, built since 1948, have a pedigree born of decades of off-road supremacy, and the Range Rover reflects that tradition. On the road, however, this sultan of slog masks its ruggedness by being as plush, composed and confident as any high-end sedan.
There are two Range Rover models. The HSE has a base price of $78,425 while the supercharged model begins at $94,275. I drove a supercharged model equipped with the Autobiography package, and its sticker price was a whopping $111,425. Although I can't imagine an owner driving through hub-deep water or crawling over boulders with such an expensive vehicle, it certainly is capable of doing so, and therein lies its appeal.
New for 2010 is a 5.0-liter V-8, designed in conjunction with Jaguar. Land Rover and Jaguar are owned by Tata Motors, an Indian company.
The new V-8 has variable camshaft timing that enables the engine to be responsive at both low and high speeds. Various other features, including reverse-flow cooling, help this engine produce 375 horsepower in standard form and 510 horsepower when supercharged. The transmission is a six-speed automatic.
The supercharged engine is docile when trundling about the city, but when you tromp the throttle it erupts with power and scoots to 60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds. That's seriously quick for a vehicle of this size and weight. Fuel economy, as expected, is 12 miles per gallon in the city and 18 on the highway.
The Terrain Response System, controlled by a dial on the console, optimizes a host of chassis and powertrain settings to suit driving in snow, mud and sand and for extreme rock crawling. It also controls speed on steep descents.
The adaptive suspension monitors each wheel 500 times each second and continually makes adjustments depending on road conditions and speed. The ride is soft for comfort, but it gets firms when more control is needed at high speeds. Air suspension allows the vehicle to be raised for rough going and lowered to normal height for highway use.
The vehicle's stability control system will automatically slow the vehicle if the driver is taking a corner too fast.
The Range Rover is fashioned as carefully as a fine luxury car. The instrument cluster is a 12-inch Thin Film Transistor screen. The gauges are digital representations that look and respond like analog gauges. The numbers on either side of the tachometer and speedometer needles grow slightly brighter as the needles sweep around each virtual dial.
While the Range Rover may be defined in large part by its performance, the quality, and feel, of interior materials are also important. Wood and brushed aluminum are a counterpoint to the soft leather seats and textured instrument panel. The heated steering wheel was particularly nice on cold mornings.
An optional surround camera system uses two cameras in front, one in the back and one in each side mirror to give a view around the vehicle as if you were standing on the roof.
The 113.3-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 base price of the supercharged test vehicle was $94,275. Options included the surround camera system, black lacquer wood trim, four-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, rear-seat entertainment system and the Autobiography package of special leather on the dash, console, headliner and door panels. The sticker price was $111,425.
Four years or 50,000 miles.
2010 Range Rover Supercharged
Engine: 5.0-liter, 510-hp V-8
Wheelbase: 113.3 inches
Curb weight: 5,891 lbs.
Base price: $94,275
As driven: $111,425
Mpg rating: 12 city, 18 hwy.
Tom Strongman's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.