The 2009 Range Rover is yet another big SUV that may not fit into everyone's version of future vehicles, but I sure hope there's some room for it.
Man, is it ever nice.
It's a touch expensive, starting at $78,525; my test model hit $83K. It's safe to assume not everyone is going to buy one. But if they could, it might lose some of its allure and this Rover is definitely alluring.
My white test model may have looked like a British telephone repairman's work truck, and the closest thing to a safari I undertook was hunting for Blue Rhino refills after a long weekend of barbecues and backyard beer brewing.
But if I had to ford a river or tie a 200-pound lion to the hood Hemingway style, I could. The Range Rover feels just as at home cruising the concrete jungle as it might on the Serengeti.
Don't doubt this vehicle's abilities. They are totally incredible. It can cross mountains when no roads exist. Put the air suspension in off-road mode and the Range Rover lifts up and offers 10.8 inches of ground clearance. It can drive through water more than two feet deep without a sputter. The engine can keep running at steep angles and the wheels were designed to provide extra long travel.
But, during my first 100 miles, it gently lugged me to work, around town and across the asphalt plains of southeast Michigan in luxury anyone can appreciate.
The Range Rover feels like old money: The walnut burl trim, the silver center stack with old-school rubber dials and high-tech navigation screen, the smell of leather wafting throughout the cabin. You sit behind the wheel of this big, burly vehicle and the outside world leaves you behind.
There are dual glove boxes that open electronically so your gin and tonic never have to share the same space when you arrive at your Four Seasons campground suite.
The instrument gauges are neatly wrapped in brushed aluminum.
Then there's the ride. It's nearly silent on the highway with little road or engine noise seeping into the cabin. If your drive is interrupted by the outside, just adjust the volume on the 710-watt stereo (a 14-speaker Harman/Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system) that will wash it all away.
Stomp the accelerator and the Range Rover promptly rewards with you a lurch of power and a rumble of the 4.4-liter V-8 pumping 305 horsepower through its veins. It hits scary speeds quickly and cruises well above any posted limit.
There's also a supercharged version of the Range Rover, but I didn't get to test that model and enjoy its 400 horsepower.
Despite stretching nearly 200 inches, the Ranger Rover felt remarkably nimble for its size. The big engine and big brakes help move and stop it quickly. Only on sharp turns did it feel a little unwieldy. And parking lots took some adjusting to: Any tight parking space was better off skipped than actually attempted.
If you use the Terrain Response control, it will guarantee that almost nothing will stop the Range Rover. Just a twist of a dial on the center console and the Range Rover is ready for sand or snow or mud or gravel. While many standard electronic stability controls will limit a vehicle in unusual terrain, the Range Rover begs for it. Land Rover has developed the system to adjust for wheel slippage and throttle responses appropriate for the landscape.
On Detroit's open roads, the Range Rover feels like you're riding on a cushion of air. You kind of are, as this Rover uses a fully independent suspension with air springs to absorb all of the bumps along the way.
While a few features were added for the 2009 model, such as making Terrain Response standard and seven spoke 19-inch wheels, few additions were needed for this vehicle. It came with just about anything you could want or need.
Of course, the Range Rover keeps its iconic angular good looks and clam-shell hood. It may have the heart of an explorer searching through the wilderness, but it has the charms of a prince waiting for his tea.
Rugged sophistication never looked better.
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