The Range Rover is a hard vehicle for me to place sometimes. It has the trappings and the appeal of a luxury car, but can tackle off-road trails like nobody’s business. This year, Land Rover did a ground-up redesign of the old girl and at Pebble Beach, I took a chance on this big black beast after taking a Rolls-Royce out for a spin. Now, I drove an older one on a short off-road course last year and it was a rather eye-opening experience, where I learned just how capable the old one was. This time, though, there was no rock-crawling or dune-smashing. It was just me, a representative, and the 17-Mile Drive. After I shut the door, I had some interesting things to ponder.
I liked the old Rangie’s styling. Its upright shape was a bit predictable, but it looked quite stately and had a serious air of aristocratic class. The new one may not have an aristocrat’s stiff upper lip, but I like it just the same. I feel like the stylists said “Let’s let our hair down” while they were at the drawing board. The new postmodern look brings the old-school Range Rover into this decade gracefully. It’s unmistakably a Range Rover but it’s no longer a throwback SUV. The lines are very crisp, but my favorite design feature is the taillight styling, which looks ice-cold. When combined with the silver trim out back under the lenses, there’s an air of avant-garde going on back there.
The interior is similar in theory to the old model but it’s been brought up to the moment as well. The new look is one of straight simplicity, with a few dials and knobs for the HVAC controls and a volume knob. The rest of the controls are via the touch-screen in the center stack My example was as slick as they come, with black leather and piano black wood finishing. I would have preferred a lighter leather but this being a black Range Rover on the outside, the black-on-black finish added a dose of sinister to this upper-class British bulldog.
By the Numbers
Range Rovers are not supposed to be made to a low standard. Land Rover has made sure to put this car on the map in terms of quality. The black paint finish looks professionally deep with a pearlcoat finish. Interior quality is all there too. The leather is fiished to a high standard and the fitment of the piano wood paneling is great. The layout is good, with the Terrain Response Control, rotary gear selector, and HVAC controls within very easy reach.
The interior materials are selected well. My example was shod in black leather with piano wood adorning the dashboard and console. Everything was as I expected for a six-figure SUV. I felt comfortable up front, and a peering into the rear seat revealed just enough room for three people out back, and enough room for a good tailgate (quite literally–the tailgate still drops down on the Rangie after all these years, something I will always love). Visibility is excellent, with the glass positioned well and blind spots kept to a minimum.
At The Helm
The big Range Rover drives pretty well, considering its girth. Under the bonnet is a thumping 5.0L supercharged V8, the same engine I’m accustomed to in various sport-spec Jaguars. In this guise, this powerplant is packing 510hp in its stat sheet, coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission. With this being the best engine one can get in the Range Rover lineup, my expectation was high. This engine does indeed haul the mail (though I doubt a Range Rover will ever haul mail), and has oodles of torque off the line. It’s noticeably quiet, though–the Range Rover Supercharged does a great job of moving swiftly without jarring its occupants and acting all undignified–that’s what I want in a vehicle of this pedigree.
When it comes to ride and handling, the Rangie is a mixed bag in some ways. The ride is exceedingly quiet and comfortable–high profile tires and air suspension lend themselves to a good amount of cushioning and the ride becomes very controlled, but it’s never in any way jarring. I felt like I was sitting on a cloud, impressive for a “traditional” SUV. The brakes are one of the best parts of this heavy SUV, stopping the motion with authority and little fuss–the pedal action is stable and the travel is short. When pushed, the Range Rover I had, despite being the standard model and not the Sport, could still boogie if asked. The steering doesn’t feel numb, the suspension reacts very well, and I never felt like I was about to lose control of the truck. While it does indeed tip a bit in corners, it’s not at all horrible–this is an SUV that can handle sudden inputs without biting back or making you feel like you’ve made a mistake in your movements.
The Bottom Line
Does the Range Rover Supercharged have any real faults? Well, there’s the usual stuff. It’s horrible on gas, as one might expect. Due to the drop-down tailgate, loading can be a little bit awkward with heavy bags that might need to be rested on the tailgate or pushed in, instead of simply being placed in the cargo bay. The touch-screen was a bit fiddly, and the pricetag is scary-high. I wasn’t expecting this to be a cheap mode of transport. And, of course, it’s not. The one I drove stickered for over $110,000. It’s not cheap for an SUV that might be used as a family car during the week and for sporting events on the weekend (I know it sounds crazy, but people do it), but if you can afford it and you must have an SUV, I can’t see why not. Of course, be aware that Range Rovers have never been on the reliable side of the coin–expect to pay plenty for repairs given this SUV’s reputation for “reliability” (whatever that means).
In its market, the Range Rover is fighting for market share with cars like the BMW X5, Audi Q7, Mercedes GL-Class, and Porsche Cayenne. The unfortunate thing is that the Range Rover is a bit one-sided in the segment. Whereas the BMW, Audi, and Merc can all boast the option of a diesel engine here in America, that can’t be said for the Range Rover–even Porsche has them beat in this regard. Same goes for a hybrid powertrain–at present, the British brute can’t say it offers one. It’s definitely, and defiantly, a traditionalist sort of SUV, but doesn’t drive like one. It’s the classic choice in the segment, even if it’s not going to win any favors with Greenpeace. But if you’re the one who’s out buying one, are you really going to care that much about Greenpeace? I’ll leave that up to the buyers–but I’m sure that I would not care.
Final Score: 4.0+4.0+3.0+3.0 = 14/16