2009 Range Rover SuperchargedPosted on March 27th, 2009
High luxury for off-road enthusiasts
By Nina Russin
I’m sure there are people with the financial means to take a hundred-thousand dollar car through quicksand and not think twice about it. I don’t happen to be one of them. As I drive the supercharged Range Rover on a crowded Phoenix highway, I try not to imagine a rock jumping off a dirt hauler.
This isn’t to say that the Range Rover can’t take on the most extreme off-road terrain. Its standard terrain-response system, automatically locking center and rear differentials plus permanent four-wheel drive give it the ability to climb up the side of a Mayan ruin.
The engine bay is completely sealed to prevent water intrusion, in case the driver wants to take his Rover through a stream, though I wouldn’t recommend anything deeper than several feet. At 5,842 pounds, I doubt it floats.
But it seems a terrible shame to risk scratching the car’s Santorini black paint: a metal flake that’s especially lovely in the bright Phoenix sun. Ditto for the standard 20-inch alloy wheels.
Fortunately the Range Rover is as much fun to drive on paved roads as it is off-road. The supercharged V8 engine on the test car produces 400 horsepower and 420 foot-pounds of torque. Despite its hefty curb weight, the Range Rover accelerates from zero-to-sixty in 7.1 seconds and has a top speed of 130 miles-per-hour.
Engineered for off-road adventure
Drivers who do want to venture off the beaten path will find the Range Rover well-suited, thanks to the terrain response system. Land Rover debuted this system on the first LR3, which I had the chance to drive at the company’s off-road facility outside Montreal Canada. It’s an amazing piece of technology.
A rotary knob on the center console has five settings: normal pavement, snow, mud, sand and extreme rock crawling. The system automatically adjusts the car’s throttle response, transmission, electronic differentials, antilock brakes, the air suspension traction control and hill descent control for the given conditions.
A permanently-engaged transfer case with two speeds give the driver extreme low gears, necessary to maintain control when one or more of the wheels is off the ground. The engine is designed to circulate oil, even when the vehicle is climbing extremely steep grades.
The standard air suspension can automatically raise the car up to clear obstacles in the road, or lower it to improve aerodynamics on the highway. It has a self-leveling function for towing, and gives passengers the sensation of riding on air, no matter how rough the road surface may be.
While many off-road vehicles have a solid rear axle to improve off-road handling and towing, the Range Rover has a four-wheel independent suspension. The rear axle has 11.5 inches of wheel travel. That, in combination with gas-filled shocks give the back axle enough traction and durability to do the job.
An electronic parking brake on the center console is easier to engage and release than a mechanical one. Though this is rarely an issue on paved roads, it can make a big difference when driving on extremely uneven or steep trails.
Equally refined on the road.
Although Range Rover is known for off-road performance, it’s no slouch on the highway. The supercharged V-8 engine gives it the acceleration of a sport sedan. Brembo ventilated disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking will stop the Range Rover on a dime, despite its size and weight.
Speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering provides more assist at low speeds while maintaining good on-center response on the highway. Considering that the Range Rover is over 16 feet long, its turning radius of just under 40 feet is pretty good.
A front stabilizer bar keeps the chassis flat under most driving conditions. I did notice a tendency to lean hard when a took a decreasing radius turn aggressively: something I’d attribute to the car’s height (just over six feet) and curb weight.
The car’s weight and its four-wheel drive system also rob it of gas mileage. Average is 14 miles-per-gallon for city and highway driving. The manufacturer recommends premium fuel for the supercharged engine.
Standard bi-xenon headlamps produce a beam of light that’s close to daylight in color and intensity for better visibility at night. The standard rear back-up camera displays a wide angle view, making it easier to back in and out of parking places. There is also an audible warning system for obstacles around the car. Both are great safety features for parents with small children.
Luxury for every passenger
The Range Rover’s interior is what one would expect from a car in this price range. Engineers revised the front door seals to eliminate wind noise. A triple-laminated windshield minimizes noise from the front of the car.
Land Rover offers a new option package called autobiography that upgrades the standard seating interior trim and instrument panel. The option costs $10,000. I’m relieved that this car didn’t have it, or I’d be afraid to drive it home from the trailhead after a hard run.
The standard leather seats are luxury enough, with seat heaters for both rows of passengers. Land Rover’s seat heaters are the best I’ve found. After about twenty minutes, my lower lumbar muscles are completely rejuvenated.
The driver and front passenger seats also have a cooling function. Although I didn’t have the test car in extreme hot weather, its black interior and exterior would have put those to the test in the summer.
Because the Range Rover is a wide car, three adults can sit comfortably in the second-row seats. The middle passenger has less legroom because of the center console, but it’s adequate for the average trip across town
Four-zone air conditioning keeps the temperature to everybody’s liking. All four passengers get overhead reading lamps, and access to 12-volt power points.
A dual glovebox provides concealed storage up front. Redundant audio, cruise and Bluetooth controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. A dead pedal reduces fatigue on long drives. All seating positions have excellent lower lumbar support.
Images for the standard navigation system and rear camera appear in a center-stack screen. The display also serves as an information center with touch-screen operation. Land Rover’s navigation system works both on and off-road. Anyone who likes to find remote trailheads will appreciate seeing maps instead of a sea of green driving through the wilderness.
The windows and sunroof all open and close with one-touch operation. Pinch protection keeps kids from getting hurt in the process.
The test car comes with a rear seat entertainment system, that includes a six-disc DVD and remote control. Displays are in the backs of the front headrests. Plug-in jacks are in the back of the center console.
Clamshell liftgate design
The rear glass and liftgate open in a clamshell pattern, making it easier for smaller adults to load in cargo. Lift-over height is fairly high. Rear seatbacks fold down in a 60/40 pattern, but don’t go flat with the seat cushions in place. While there is certainly enough room in the cargo area for a bike with the seats folded down, I’ve seen vehicles that do the job better. There are no roof rails or crossbars on the test car.
A standard tonneau cover conceals items stored in back from prying eyes.
The Range Rover comes with seven airbags: front, side and side curtain airbags for all passengers, plus a driver’s knee airbag. Other standard safety features include four-channel antilock braking that works on and off-road, all-terrain stability control, hill descent control and emergency brake assist.
Base price on the supercharged Range Rover is $93,325. The rear seat entertainment, four-zone climate control, California emissions and delivery fee bring the price as tested to $97,775. Land Rover builds the Range Rover at its assembly plant in Solihull, United Kingdom.
Likes: The Range Rover combines all the high luxury features a buyer could want with extreme off-road capability.
Dislikes: Poor fuel economy. The supercharged V-8 engine requires premium fuel.
Make: Land Rover
Model: Range Rover Supercharged
Base price: $93,325
As tested: $97,775
Horsepower: 400 Hp @ 5750 rpm
Torque: 420 lbs.-ft. @ 3500 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 7.1 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 12/18 mpg city/highway
Comments: Towing capacity is 7716 pounds. Maximum roof rack load is 220 pounds.
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