What's New for 2009
Changes are light for the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover. Softer leather now adorns the dash, and new door seals are said to reduce wind and road noise. There are also new wheel designs throughout the line. A new Autobiography package adds special leather and wood trim as well as additional standard equipment.
At one time, the number of luxury SUVs could be counted with one finger. That one was a vehicle that could literally go anywhere while providing the sort of interior accoutrements that no other off-roader thought to even include. Today, luxury SUVs are everywhere, but the original remains, and it's more capable and luxurious than ever. Officially, this SUV may be called the 2009 Land Rover Range Rover, but nobody says that -- it is simply the one and only Range Rover.
When the current model was being designed, BMW owned Land Rover, and the 2009 Range Rover retains those Bavarian-engineered roots -- even if its also-former Ford owners made significant changes during its run (Land Rover is now owned by Indian manufacturer Tata). This translates into an SUV that handles and rides far better than you'd expect from such a top-heavy vehicle. It's certainly not as sporty and confidence-inspiring as a Porsche Cayenne, but its on-road capabilities are still pretty impressive given its ability to crawl down a flight of stairs or caravan to Outer Mongolia.
For such grand adventures, every Range Rover comes equipped with an air suspension that raises and lowers automatically or via a console-mounted switch. Powertrain, suspension and electronic systems can also be altered through Land Rover's Terrain Response system that features five different settings: general, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, sand and rock crawl.
If you're looking for a premium SUV with unparalleled off-road abilities and a legendary pedigree, buying the 2009 Range Rover is an obvious choice approached only by the Land Cruiser-based Lexus LX 570. But there are some drawbacks. The Range Rover's sophisticated off-roading technology may be a tad superfluous for suburbia, so models like the BMW X5, Cayenne and Mercedes-Benz GL550 may make more sense. Also, if you want to save some money and get a bit more on-road talent with that same legendary pedigree, the Range Rover Sport is a good compromise. Finally, any Land Rover has an albatross slung around its neck in the form of disappointing reliability (especially compared to the LX 570). Buying one has been know to cause headaches (and breakdowns), which is certainly ironic given their status as go-to vehicles for Outer Mongolia.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Land Rover Range Rover is a five-passenger luxury SUV available in two trims: HSE and Supercharged. The HSE is equipped with 19-inch wheels, an adjustable air suspension, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a heated windshield, bi-xenon headlights, a sunroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats with driver memory settings, a power tilt and telescoping steering column, heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel. Also standard are Bluetooth, a navigation system with "bread crumb" off-road tracking, and a surround-sound audio system with 14 speakers, satellite radio, a glovebox-mounted six-CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack.
Aside from its supercharged V8, the Supercharged trim adds 20-inch wheels, an electronically locking rear differential, adaptive headlights, upgraded leather upholstery, additional front seat adjustments and ventilated front seats. These features (minus the engine) are all optional on the HSE. Available on both trims are quad-zone automatic climate control and a rear-seat entertainment system that includes a six-DVD changer and two LCD screens mounted in the front headrests.
Optional on the Range Rover Supercharged, the Autobiography package adds higher-grade leather upholstery, additional leather interior trim, more wood trim, the quad-zone climate control, special climate-controlled glass and the rear entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Range Rover HSE is powered by a 4.4-liter V8 with 305 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. The Supercharged gets a 4.2-liter V8 that's (surprise!) supercharged to produce 400 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control is standard with both engines. A permanent four-wheel-drive system is standard on all Range Rovers, along with low-range gearing and nearly 11 inches of maximum ground clearance. The standard Terrain Response system allows the driver to customize powertrain, suspension and electronic stability and traction systems to best handle five predetermined off-road conditions. Maximum towing capacity when properly equipped is 7,700 pounds. Both the HSE and the Supercharged return an EPA estimated 12 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined.
2009-model Range Rovers come equipped with antilock disc brakes (the Supercharged gets more powerful Brembo stoppers), traction control, stability control, hill descent control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, front-seat whiplash protection and a driver knee airbag. Front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are also standard.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Range Rover is designed to cosset its well-healed owners in an opulent cabin as they ford streams and cross the highlands of the Upper Hebrides. The unique and handsomely rugged furnishings do plenty of cosseting when fording and crossing mall parking lots, too. Most materials are premium grade, and buyers have a wood choice of cherry or walnut and, on the Supercharged, "Grand Black Lacquer." Sounds fancy. Soft leather swathes not only the supportive seats but also the dash and other interior surfaces. The layout is very button-heavy, though, and in fine British tradition, ergonomics can be as confusing as English royal history. The seating position is notably upright, but both front and rear passengers will find the accommodations supportive and roomy. Back benchers get their own power-adjustable headrests, seat heaters and climate controls (rear dual zone is optional, too). The Range Rover boasts 74 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity, which is a bit less than what's offered by some competing vehicles.
Built for the bush but bought for bragging rights, Range Rovers are more likely to be found in Miami Beach than Mozambique. Acknowledging that reality, the 2009 Range Rover employs a unibody design and has a self-adjusting air suspension that monitors vehicle loads and road conditions. When driven on pavement, the Range Rover feels stable and comfortable, with good steering feel -- a tribute to its BMW origins. In terms of off-road ability, it still has few equals, thanks to its generous ground clearance and wheel articulation.