SPECIFICATIONS MODEL: Land Rover Range Rover 4.6 SE ENGINE: 4.6-liter V8 HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 222 hp @ 4,750 rpm/300 lb-ft @ 2,600 rpm TRANSMISSION: Four-speed automatic WHEELBASE: 108.1 in. LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 185.5 x 74.4 x 71.6 in. STICKER PRICE: $63,290
I have always been impressed by Range Rovers/Land rovers (the company has redesignated many of its models over the past years and I'm sometimes confused as to what to call them). Our tester this week is a perfect example.
It is known as the Land Rover Range rover 4.6 SE. It has that designation because it is a Range Rover, which was the Land Rover model first sold in the United States when the company was created. It is upgraded from last year's SE model, which had a 4.0-liter V8 engine; this year's 4.6 SE has a 4.6-liter V8, the same engine that was in last year's HSE. This engine is rated at 222 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque and has the ability to get the vehicle's driver into a lot of trouble with radar-carrying policepeople. We successfully avoided having any such problems when we had the vehicle.
Power reaches the wheels through a four-speed automatic gearbox. Land Rovers and Range rovers are noted for their mountain-goat ability to traverse almost any kind of terrain. I remember my first experience in a Range Rover was at the company's headquarters in Lanham, Maryland, and the contact person drove me up a hill to the top, where I couldn't see what was below, and he just drove down this 90-degree hill (or at least it appeared to be that steep). Range Rover has since built a test rack behind the headquarters that demonstrates the ability of the company's vehicles. It has stone pavement, a 30-degree side hill that can scare the willies out of you if you're sitting on the down side of the hill, and assorted slopes and difficult surfaces to experiment with. We have even seen Range Rover sealers with mini versions of the same test track.
Underneath the 4.6 SE is a solid front and rear axle. Normally you'd want independent suspensions in front and rear, but Range Rover goes with the reverse. Each wheel gives eight inches of travel which will get you over any obstacle you might find. You may have difficulty in an obstacle-jumping contest against a Hummer, but almost any other mid-size sport utility will fall to the Range Rover's ability.
Unfortunately, we didn't encounter any of the major difficulties the Range Rover is designed to encounter. We used it in a normal manner for the week it was in our driveway, commuting to work and dealing with traffic. As a normal SUV (the kind that almost never goes off-road) the Range Rover fared quite well. It took the highway as easily as it took to the off-highway, offering a comfortable ride for all the occupants.
Permanent four-wheel drive is offered, using three differentials, a two-speed transfer gearbox, a viscous coupling unit and standard four-wheel Electronic Traction Control. In addition, there's anti-lock brakes (ABS) and every other luxury option.
I did notice, however, that the Range Rover seems to ride higher than the competition, and this is as much a feeling as a dimensional comparison. This is surprising, because I've driven on the 30-degree side slope, and one would expect that a vehicle that rides as high as this one seems to do would never stay on its wheels on that slope.
Despite the solid axles, the ride was comfortable. It was more truck-like than equally-priced SUVs like the Lexus LS470 or even the RX300, but both have different philosophies as well.
The Range Rover is a luxury vehicle, as its price of $63,000 would indicate. For your money you get a GPS navigation system that's good for on-road and off-road travel, leather seating, a 150-function message center with a trip computer, powered and heated front seats, and super audio systems. It has 31 cubic feet of usable luggage capacity with all the seats up and 58 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, so it has the utility of an SUV as well. Towing capacity is 1,650 pounds of trailers without brakes and 7,700 pounds of trailers with brakes, so you can tow virtually anything. But if you're not headed for serious off-roading and you're just looking for an SUV that will handle snow and occasional mud, $63,000 is a lot of money to spend, when you can get a similar-sized vehicle with as much on-highway performance for half the price.