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2007 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged

Making 400 Horsepower Feel Slow

    When the current generation of Range Rover debuted back in 2002 it was embraced by wealthy suburbanites and praised by the media as the greatest luxury vehicle since the S-Class. Ok, maybe nobody stood in front of a banner declaring such, but that seemed like the general tone to us. Its distinctive retroish body shared the same unimaginative upright greenhouse and short wheelbase that Range Rovers have always shared. But the only real important part of the exterior was the large Range Rover lettering just above the grille that let everyone know this was an expensive SUV far above the realm of mere Escalades and Navigators. In our opinion the contemporary interior was the crowning achievement, although BMW power and plenty of luxury features didn’t hurt the vehicle’s prospects for success. But all that can be gleaned from the glossy brochure photos and slick television commercials. We recently spent a week with a nearly six figure fully loaded Range Rover Supercharged model, and we have to admit we were disappointed.
     Oh sure, the Range Rover drives very nice with a supple ride for a vehicle that weighs almost three tons and a glued to the road confidence when cruising that reminds us of large German luxury cars. You don’t get so much as a hint of feedback through the stylish steering wheel. Frost heaves, potholes, road kill it doesn’t matter because all of it is filtered out before reaching passengers. The advanced air suspension with automatic load leveling works wonders on the ride side of the equation, not so much on the handling side. The soft suspension lets the Rover keel over in turns much more than we would prefer and dive under braking like a nuclear sub. You wouldn’t know this is the performance supercharged model from the driver’s seat. Although I guess enthusiasts who care more about handling should consider Land Rover’s Range Rover Sport. When we get behind the wheel of that model, we’ll let you know if it lives up to its name.
     Our Range Rover was shod in 20” aluminum alloy wheels with low-profile 255/50 tires. These tires, as most experts will tell you, are not ideal for off-roading. In fact, they looked ready to deflate at the mere sight of dirt. Land Rover assures us they are sturdier than they look and our brief excursions off-road seemed to back up those assurances. Of course, Land Rover piles on some serious hardware (and software) to compensate for the tire situation. The main weapon in the Rover’s arsenal is the sophisticated Terrain Response System, which sounds so cool it just has to work. Basically, a knob on the center console allows the driver to switch between general off-roading, snow, mud, sand and serious rock crawling. Depending upon the selection the Rover’s various traction control systems, locking differentials and 2-speed transfer case adjust for optimal unstopability. We’ll take Land Rover’s word that it all works in the really challenging stuff.
     So let’s recap. We’re pleading with Land Rover to bring the top dog Rover into the 21st century by dropping the retroish body language, and we appreciate the serious off-roading hardware that next to no one will ever use, but we’ve got to be head over heels for that gorgeous interior that caused such a big stir five years ago, right. Wrong. That interior that looks like perfection in the glossy brochure photos turns out to be showing far more gray than a $100k vehicle should be allowed to. We know Land Rover ergonomics have never kept Toyota engineers awake at night, but the nav system controls are aggravating to put it mildly. We do, however, really like the useful off-road info screen. Climate controls have been improved and are easy to operate, but we didn’t find the interior trimmings particularly plush. Yes, the leather wrapped dash is classy, but the door panels and center console just don’t measure up to other luxury vehicles in this price range. That impression is even more solid after looking for a CD changer and realizing the 6-disc magazine is in the glovebox, circa 1994. Things get even funnier when you want to watch a movie on the two headrest mounted second row screens. You’ll have to stop the vehicle and lift the rear hatch for that task then remove a carpeted side panel to gain access to the dvd player and navigation system drive. Of course, Land Rover doesn’t integrate it for a nicely finished look, no, you’re stuck with the exposed cables C3PO-style. Almost everyone said the seats were too stiff and the fold down armrests on the front seats are too narrow and hard. The 710-watt 14-speaker harman/kardon sound system is one of the few standout luxuries on the vehicle. It’s fair to say we were most disappointed with the interior. It simply needs improved.
     In our estimation the vehicle’s strongest assets is its mechanicals and the Jaguar sourced 4.2-liter 400-hp supercharged V8 is a smooth engine that simply gets loaded with too much weight (nearly 6,000-pounds) to move the Range Rover quickly. The 6-speed automatic was impressive with buttery smooth shifts at any spot on the tach. The brake pedal was setup too soft for our liking; probably another concession to off-road potential, but the Supercharged model wears beefy Brembo front brake calipers so at least you can haul down all that weight in a controlled manner.
     The Range Rover’s main problem is it hasn’t improved much since its debut in 2002 and the competition has gotten much stronger. Besides the all-around impressive Escalade there’s the far sportier and faster Porsche Cayenne, and the equally luxurious and competent in its own right Mercedes GL to contend with. All of which can be had for less money than the $95,250 sum our tester commanded. The Range Rover has its charms; we’re just hoping the next one has a lot more of them.

The Good:
Go anywhere, great stereo, cool off-road nav capability, comfortable and confident on the road.
The Bad:
Slower than 400 hp should be, handles like you’d imagine 6,000 pounds does, hard seats and some crazy British ergonomics.
The Verdict:
Offers too little and costs too much, the long-in-the-tooth Range Rover deserves a makeover.

Photos by Jason Muxlow and Brandon Dye

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