There's a supercharged engine that's ridiculously fast, a new interior awash in leather and metal trimmings, and seats that make you feel like a pampered movie star. And like most Land Rovers, the new Range Rover is beyond capable off-road and in severe weather — so if you're a celebrity, you can escape the paparazzi on almost any terrain. With a special Autobiography Package (for movie stars who can't write their own life story?), our test car's MSRP topped $110,000, including a gas-guzzler tax.
It might be hard to convince the casual observer that the 2010 Range Rover has gotten an update, as its sheet metal remains virtually unchanged. I don't think that will hurt its chances among luxury buyers, though, who will appreciate its decidedly British appearance versus the somewhat clunky looks of a Mercedes GL or the generic Lexus LX.
The Range Rover comes standard with a 5.0-liter V-8 good for 375 horsepower and 375 pounds-feet of torque. That's plenty of power for most people, but if you're going to splurge, why not move up from that $78,425 HSE to the Supercharged model and its 510-hp, supercharged 5.0-liter V-8, which I was lucky enough to pilot for a week? The Supercharged model costs an additional $15,850 — roughly the cost of a Ford Focus — but it might be well worth it.
All the performance gains come in a straight line, but what a straight line it is. Whether it's taking a highway onramp or getting into a passing lane, the Range Rover blows past more pedestrian modes of transportation. It's an odd exhilaration, because while most vehicles with 500-plus hp let you know about their power with snarling exhaust and rip-roaring engines, the Range Rover's engine revs to life properly; that's about the extent of the cabin intrusion. You're basically flying down the road in a gorgeous box on wheels.
Luxury buyers are likely to be impressed with that brute power on the highway, but many might not be aware that this expensive SUV is extremely capable off-road. If you own isolated property with dirt roads, this will get you there. (If you're trying to imagine such a setting, Land Rover's website shows a Range Rover on a muddy dirt road alongside a horse ranch.) Hill descent control is a standard feature, and it's likely the Range Rover will get you many places without roads.
The technology for off-roading crosses over to on-road performance, too, with an adaptive air suspension system that can aid in tackling potholes. While not as road-isolating as the Lexus LX, the Range Rover does a good job providing a smooth ride over the inhospitable terrain that encircles our downtown Chicago offices. Compared with a Porsche Cayenne, it feels like riding among the clouds.
There's also an adjustable setting for various terrain, including a Snow and Ice mode and a Sand mode. This adjusts throttle and traction to prevent slipping. The sand setting is a unique one that's good for drivers who live near beaches or in dry, sandy (read: desert) environs.
The Range Rover is also surprisingly agile when cornering, but there's no escaping its tall, boxy shape. You'll notice the body leaning on highway cloverleafs, as happens in most large SUVs.
With the exception of luxury sedans like the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class, I can't think of a better interior in a modern vehicle than the Range Rover's — but I have to temper that praise by acknowledging the Autobiography edition's additional $14,500 cost.
I'm not sure how much the special edition's added leather on the dashboard and headliner — yes, it's a real leather headliner, complete with stitching — contributed to the overall luxury feel. The seats are also upgraded, but things like metal-tabbed buttons and knobs are standard across the line, and they really make the interior feel luxurious. Metal trimmings are everywhere, from the floormats to the turn-signal stalks.
The steering wheel has been redesigned and is now strewn with buttons, but they're well laid out — all 21 of them. A heated steering wheel is optional and comes as part of the Autobiography Package. It was below freezing during my week of testing, and not to sound too snooty, but I've tested better heated steering wheels. (Audi comes to mind.) The Range Rover simply didn't get hot enough to warm my hands on cold winter mornings.
One thing that will definitely throw all drivers for a loop is the completely digital gauge cluster. The entire expanse is a black void until you unlock the car. In the time between unlocking the doors and starting the engine, a picture of a pink-hued, cloudy sky appears before you, with the date and time at the bottom. Hit the ignition, and the standard tachometer and speedometer appear. Text swipes in and out of the screen's center position, detailing system checks, and is then replaced by information you can select via a button on the end of the turn-signal stalk. The options include mostly trip computer functions.
I personally liked the digital gauges. Both are shaded gray, and when the needles move, a halo follows them, illuminating the surrounding numbers in bright white. It's a neat effect.
You could fill a novel with the high-tech devices in this type of car, so I'll summarize.
The touch-screen navigation system is fairly easy to use, but it does have a steeper learning curve than others. Moving between screens is especially confusing, even for simple functions like selecting radio stations. The graphics are crisp and clear, though, as you'd expect in something of this station.
One interesting feature is a system that utilizes five exterior cameras so drivers can avoid scratching their expensive paint — there's a $14,500 special paint scheme — when parking at Whole Foods. One of these cameras is the standard rear backup camera, but our test vehicle's rear camera kept going out on us, with the computer stating it wasn't available. Land Rover has a long history of electronic glitches, and it's not a good sign that a 2010 model had one so glaring.
Unlike the competition from Lexus and Mercedes, the Range Rover doesn't have a third row of seats, which means the rear cargo area has but one function — to haul. Land Rover's smaller LR4 does have a third row.
There's plenty of space for nearly everything, including golf bags, which fit horizontally with inches left — to spare the woods from getting roughed up. The liftgate is a clamshell design with glass that opens upward and a tailgate that folds down. I like this design — it's perfect for picnics or changing diapers — but I thought the lower gate was too heavy, and when you close the glass it sounds like something might break. The cargo cover is odd: It's hard and folds like an accordion, rather than a soft cover that rolls up. This made it a bit clumsier to adjust and difficult to do so with one hand.
The Range Rover comes with seat-mounted side airbags for front passengers, but only side curtain airbags for rear passengers. A few luxury carmakers, including BMW, are adding rear seat-mounted airbags to new models, so it's worth noting the lack of them here.
The Range Rover also comes with Roll Stability Control in addition to standard electronic stability control. Roll Stability Control helps prevent rollovers.
A forward monitoring system is part of the optional adaptive cruise control system, which monitors traffic ahead and can assist in braking to prevent a collision.
The 2010 Range Rover hasn't been crash-tested by either the federal government or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Range Rover in the Market
In the rarified air of luxury SUVs, the Range Rover Supercharged rules the roost. A new Porsche Cayenne is expected to go on sale later this year boasting a variety of high-powered offerings in the same price range, but even with Porsche exuding performance and Lexus and Mercedes boasting comfort, the Range Rover does an excellent job providing plenty of both.
If buyers can handle some potential electronic gremlins, there's really nothing that stands in the way of this thoroughly British SUV.
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