Land Rover Range Rover Review

land rover range rover review

Evolution is a strange thing. You start with a single cell animal, wait a couple billion years and end up with Eminem. By the same token, you start with a rough and ready off-roader, wait thirty-four years, and end up with a luxury car on stilts. Evolution is not a good thing or a bad thing; it's just a thing. But the question remains: is the Range Rover fit enough to survive in an automotive environment teeming with first class competition?

The moment you heave yourself aboard the Range Rover, the British-built SUV asserts its exclusivity. The RR rejects the usual luxury car sports seat posturing in favour of a driver's throne, complete with leather arm rest. The view through the all-but-vertical windscreen reinforces the imperious vibe. You sit up high, master of all you survey – including about an acre of bonnet stretched out beneath you like the playing fields of Eton.

It's hard not to submit to the Rover's class snobbery. There's so damn much of it. From the elegantly restrained dash to the wonderfully tactile switchgear, the interior caters to your every need like a discrete, fastidious butler. Heated seat? Press here sir, in the centre of the climate control button. Satellite navigation? We use the old BMW system. It's so much more intuitive than iDrive. Cup holder? Allow me. I'll just push this little panel and… there you are. You see, it adjusts to any size beverage.

The Range Rover's cabin is ergonomically perfect eye candy. It's no surprise that corporate parent Ford copied the style for its revised F-150 pickup truck. Like Ford's best-selling behemoth, the Rover's interior offers the ultimate luxury: a super-abundance of elbow, leg and shoulder room. The Range Rover can carry a sham of professional wrestlers, and their bulbous belts, without cramping the grapplers' style.

Of course an off-roader this epic requires a gi-normous engine. The Range Rover's 32-valve, 4.4-litre V8 cranks out 282hp. Equally impressive, the powerplant unleashes a torrent of torque: 325ft. lbs. at a leisurely 3600rpms. Feel that? You will when you put your foot down. The engine bellows, the rear end squats and the Range Rover just plumb takes off. This stately home on wheels whooshes from zero to sixty in nine seconds, cruises comfortably at the ton and responds enthusiastically to most throttle inputs without resorting to kickdown.

And here's where we start to run into trouble. Do you really want to cane a vehicle that weighs 2,439kg and stands over 6 feet tall? To their credit, Land Rover has tried every trick in the book to make the beast handle on-road: monocoque construction, adjustable air suspension with terrain sensing software, cornering brake control, dynamic stability control, MacPherson struts with double-pivot lower arms and long-travel variable rate air springs (computer-controlled with cross-link valves) – the works. The result? As the visor says, "Avoid abrupt manoeuvres".

The steering doesn't help. The speed-sensitive rack and pinion set-up is lighter than a wino's wallet. While you can wheel the Rover through the urban jungle with one finger, there's nowhere near enough steering feel to tell you when the 19' wheels (20' optional) are stressing in the twisties. With 3.5 turns lock-to-lock, there's also a lot of slop in the system. It's all too easy to over-heave the helm. High speed driving requires a gentle hand and massive concentration.

If you're thinking, well, that's the price you pay for genuine off-road capability and why don't you just slow the Hell down anyway? I'm cool with that. But the handling issues bring us back to square one, wondering whether it's a good idea to build a luxury car that wants to fall over in every corner. I'm not so sure. I've seen three Range Rovers on flatbeds with the front left pillar squashed down to hip level. That's got to hurt.

Besides, real luxury cars are all about wafting. While the Range Rover is a veritable flying brick, it lacks the reassuring (if limited) driving dynamics of a similarly priced, equally sumptuous, spatially equivalent BMW 745iL or Audi A8L. Carve through a corner in one of those bad boys, and the machine will gently remind you that you're driving something titanic that prefers not to be hustled. Do the same in a Range Rover and the wake-up call is not so gentle. The sudden arrival of tippy-over trouble makes it difficult to drive a Range Rover in that luxury car auto-pilot psycho-bubble kinda way.

So where does this leave the £45k-plus Range Rover? The trend at the top end of the SUV market is towards on-road performance. Given Land Rover's evolving strengths, I reckon the brand will find the fitness it needs to survive. The next generation Range Rover is bound to be a real stormer.

Comments
Join the conversation
2 of 4 comments
  • Playdrv4me Playdrv4me on Feb 19, 2008

    Actually mine fully loaded had a $72,045 sticker when it was new in 2003. Best damn car I've ever owned right after my 2001 BMW 330i. It is no consequence of course that this thing is for all intents and purposes, a BMW through 2005.

  • Michael Ayoub Michael Ayoub on Jan 03, 2009

    "You start with a single cell animal, wait a couple billion years and end up with Eminem." Love it!

  • DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
  • Car65688392 thankyou for the information
  • Car65688392 Thankyou for your valuable information
  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.
Next