The Range Rover would be just as comfortable pulling up to an exclusive event at the Bushnell as it is slogging its way through the mud on a back woods trail.
Having gone through the Land Rover off-road driving school in Asheville, N.C., I can attest to this vehicle’s back woods competence. The route is challenging, but the vehicle is magnificent, going where logic says no vehicle should be able to go.
On the road, a high seating position gives a commanding view, and other drivers seem to keep a respectful distance from something so imposing.
For 2011, Land Rover has made few changes to its flagship sport utility vehicle. Two models are offered: the HSE and Supercharged. Both use a 5.0-liter engine that can trace its origins to Jaguar.
The HSE uses a 375-horsepower version, which proved to be ample, hustling the review Range Rover to 60 miles per hour in just 7.5 seconds. The Supercharged model produces 510 horsepower.
Both engines work nicely with the standard six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
Off-road enthusiasts will note that this all-wheel drive setup features a two-speed transfer case for rugged trails and a Terrain Response System that allows the driver to switch among settings designed to maximize suspension and throttle responses for normal driving, slippery surfaces, mud, sand or rock-strewn trails.
"The HSE is more popular," says Adrienne Leader, general sales manager at Land Rover Farmington Valley in Canton. "It has enough horsepower to be quick off the line. The Supercharged is not ‘needs' based and appeals to driving enthusiasts."
Regardless of the model, the interior is gorgeous. The leather seats are handsome, supportive and comfortable. The wooden accents throughout are beautifully crafted and feature a handsome grain pattern.
"People love these," says Leader. "It is Land Rover's flagship and it encompasses everything people want. It has all the accoutrements; the leather, the wood finishes. People come back again and again."
The ride is composed and the handling is quite good, considering the vehicle's substantial dimensions. While Land Rover has improved the off-road performance over the years, the real upgrades have taken place in this vehicle's on-road capabilities. It's nearly car-like in its responses to the driver.
"We tend to see a more mature buyer. It's not so much a family; buyers tend to be male and more established," says Leader.
Nobody needs this combination of luxury and performance. Still, you can bet that many more people want it than can afford it.
Land Rover Range Rover: $78,835 plus $850 for destination charges.
Engines: 5.0 V-8 5.0 V-8 Supercharged
HP 375 510
Torque 375 460
EPA 12/18 12/18
Next week: Mercedes-Benz CL550