Even when off roading with Range Rover, enjoy HD Radio!
Monday, March 8th, 2010
Read this article at The Florida Times-Union website.
The Range Rover Supercharged crawled around the earthen berm at walking speed, suspension raised to off-road height to keep the four-wheel-drive mechanicals from gouging the mud as it leaned over at an almost 45-degree angle. Stomachs lurched at the lean, but the Rover stuck to its guns and headed up the next weed-wracked obstacle unfazed at Matheny Imports' off-road course.
The 62-year-old Land Rover company's highest expression of off-road luxury, its supercharged 5-liter V-8, five off-road drive settings and active suspension were the stuff for going off- and on-road.
- Rover regal:
Rover's first off-roader came in 1948, the famous Land Rover. In 1970, a larger, more comfortable 4x4 called Range Rover came out. Now comes a fully refreshed version of the third-generation 2003 model with design genes of the original - boxy shape, blunt nose and long tail.
Slimmer headlights with LED light rings flank a bigger three- vs. two-bar grille. The front bumper is smoother, with relocated fog lights in the alloy bar lower intake. The squared-off hood is still there, but smoother.
The slab sides get an intricate mesh grille with marker lights and three-section vents, while fender flares are minimal, framing 20-inch Michelin rubber on sturdy-looking six-spoke alloy wheels. In back, twin-ring LED light clusters with a two-piece tailgate. Subtle changes, and no one noticed them, but it still looks the treat.
- Rover all over:
Inside, a roomy throne room starting with gray stitched leather on seats, doors, center console, even headliner. Black lacquered wood accents doors, center dash and console, brightened by satin alloy elsewhere.
Get past the queenly luxury and there's usable tech here, like the 12-inch-wide virtual gauge package framed by the leather- and alloy-clad power tilt/telescope heated steering wheel with stereo, voice command, trip computer and cruise controls.
Looking like a flat-screen TV, the speedometer, tach, trip computer, off-road settings, wheel articulation, center and rear differential status, cruise control, low-range status, even the steering angle are displayed in crisp images under a stitched leather cowl.
The center LCD touch screen shows navigation, and one or all five exterior video cameras are good for parking next to a high curb or watching where that rock is off-road. Home menu, navigation, phone and audio/video buttons plus the touch screen and voice command handle everything easily, including a superb 720-watt harman-kardon surround-sound system with iPod input. While a software hiccup caused the rear-view camera to blink, our pre-production Range Rover was Churchill-solid.
The front seats were comfortable if a bit flat with great heating and cooling, plus three memory pre-sets each. The climate control system kicked out great heat on cold mornings.
We had lots of interior storage in the lower glove box, center armrest and door map pockets. Back seat room was cavernous, with twin LCD screens to show DVDs played by an old-fashioned, six-disc, cartridge-fed CD/DVD player in the upper glove box. The seats split and fold to expand the huge rear cargo area, with a split top hatch/lower tailgate. And height-adjustable suspension "kneels" low to ease access.
- Ranging in the woods:
With a base 375-horsepower V-8 or our twin-vortex supercharged 510-hp V-8 and full-time four-wheel-drive, our 4,600-mile-old RR leaped with all wheels hooking up to 60 mph in a quick 5.6 seconds, with precise shifts.
Despite mostly highway driving, the vehicle got only an average 10 mpg on premium gas. On road, the RR was smooth with active suspension that ranges from soft to firm as needed. Potholes, chuckholes, mud holes - all were absorbed without mussing one's hair. Four-wheel-drive allowed each wheel to work as needed in turns, and there wasn't much lean, although our RR's 6.1-foot height is felt from the driver's seat.
Power steering was light and direct, maybe a tad too light. All-wheel-disc Brembo disc brakes stopped the 5,697-pound SUV quickly, with no fade. Off-road, the RR excels. With up to 11.1 inches of off-road ground clearance when the suspension is punched up, plus five settings for the center and rear differentials, stability/traction control and throttle, it just went.
In rain at Matheny's course, it climbed up and over high pointed hills without slowing down, then sideways along muddy berms with great traction. Terrain Response can be switched to highway, mud, sand, rock or gravel/snow on the run, or low range in neutral in seconds.
In the cakewalk - alternating left- and right-side holes - the RR continued easily even when up to two wheels were off the ground. Hill Descent automatically brakes, walking slowly down a hill.
Side radar sensors detect cars in blind spots, aided by five Surround Cameras that let us look down and around from inside. Headlights switch on high beam automatically, while radar cruise control kept a preset distance from the car ahead.
- RR price:
$94,275 base, and $110,000 with a $14,500 Autobiography custom-option package with leather-clad dash, doors and headliner, four-zone climate control, rear TV/HD radio and adaptive cruise; and $800 Surround Camera system. Only a Mercedes-Benz G-55 AMG (500-hp/$122,000) compares in luxury and off-road ability.
- Bottom line:
The Range Rover Supercharged is a Rolls-Royce for off-road, although many will make it a roomy, luxurious highway rider. It coddles people inside, and tackles the world outside very well, indeed, if you have the Euros to buy it.