Strengths and weaknesses:
- fuel economy
Super capable luxury SUV
If ever there were a great handle for an automotive superhero, the Range Rover would be it. And unlike the Avenger or the Outlander, the Range Rover has the super powers to strike fear into the hearts of those who prey on the less adventurous.
There is nowhere the Range Rover can’t go. It has been tackling some of the toughest terrains for over 40 years, climbing the steepest mountains, fording the deepest streams and traversing the roughest trails.
Originally conceived as an off-roader (built on a ladder frame and housing durable vinyl interiors that could just be hosed down), it was a popular getaway vehicle for the upper crust. However, it soon became apparent that it was far better suited for the luxury (almost limousine) market.
True to that direction, our test Autobiography model is about as far removed from the adventure intentions of the Land Rover marque as it can get, with its monocoque construction and aluminum panels from the front doors forward (albeit weighted down with three steel subframes), plush leather interior with heated seating all around, individual entertainment displays for rear seat passengers, plush carpeting and more shiny metal trim than a modern home audio system.
The interior presentation is quite impressive, with enough buttons and switches to rival even the most high-tech passenger jet. The steering wheel is a busy place with buttons for audio, phone and information display. Yet it all becomes really easy to use, really quickly. Of interest is the LCD instrument display that calls up faux analog speedo and tach that are more lifelike than some makers’ real analog displays.
Yet through all the gadgetry, the Range Rover still has those utilitarian touches that hint at its workhorse roots – the sheltered cargo area is accessible through a two-stage flip up window/drop-down tailgate for an easy way to load up smaller items or larger ones; a hard cover is hinged halfway so it can be tented up when dropping things in through the window; the cargo cover is firm enough to hold light items and features a sturdy cargo net to keep them from flying into the passenger space under heavy braking.
It also has push button selection for whatever kind of four-wheel drive suits the need, including an easy dial-up selector for different terrain types (and the vehicle then recommends how the transfer box should be set). The vehicle height can also be set over a range of about 100 mm (four inches) from “kneeling” to allow easy entry for passengers to nearly a foot of ground clearance for rutted off-road trails; and, it can wade into 700mm deep water (over 27 inches).
And then there’s the stump-hauling 5.0-litre V8 engine – supercharged, no less – that makes 510 horsepower and 461 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s enough to drag a 3,500 kg trailer (when properly equipped) or streak from a dead-stop to 100 km/h in about six seconds (did I mention that it weighs 2,672 kg or just 109 lb. shy of three tons?).
It’s quite impressive feeling this behemoth outdrag little Johnny’s souped up Civic coming onto the highway, when he won’t budge from your blind spot (hope his parents make enough to pay for his upgrades … or his therapy).
A rumbling exhaust note drowns out the whine of the supercharger, and manually working the six gears of the automatic transmission only adds to the thrill of the chase, as you serenely listen to your favourite tunes on the digital sound system.
You can almost hear the Batman theme wafting in the wind as it goes rushing by …