Vehicles in the $100,000 price range are so far removed from reality for most people that normal logic doesn't apply. Consider the standard 2006 Land Rover Range Rover. At $75,000, this large, luxurious SUV should be more than enough for anyone wanting a capable and prestigious SUV. But there are always those who need more, and for them there's the 2006 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged which lists for 90 big ones and brings 400 horsepower to the table.
Garish? Not for the British
To differentiate it from the "everyday" Range Rover, the SC (as we like to call it) has a number of tasteful exterior tweaks such as mesh grille and side vent inserts, clear taillights and nine-spoke, 20-inch wheels. If you want to quickly tell the SC apart from the standard version, look at the side vents; the standard Range Rover has gills (three for the 2006), while the SC has the mesh insert.
If Bentley built an SUV, we imagine the cabin would resemble a Range Rover's. Fit and finish is exemplary, from the wood trim to the map pockets to the perfectly fitted metal plates around the A/C vents. Metallic accents on the stalk ends and gear selector tie in nicely with the dash and seat side trim, and the various buttons and switches have a certain heft and action that exude quality.
The SC offers a pair of exclusive interior schemes — all black and ivory/black — as well as black lacquer wood trim. Our SC had the all-black treatment, including the lacquer trim. We prefer the more traditional treatment (contrasting seat piping and light-colored wood trim) of the standard Rover that's also available in the SC, but to each their own.
To get into the Range Rover, there's a "kneel down" mode for the air suspension that lowers the vehicle to make climbing in and out easier. It can stay in the lowered position up to around 15 mph or so and it works great for short folks (like this writer). It would be even better if there were grab handles on the inside of the A- and B-pillars.
Park assist is standard, and includes a rear-mounted camera that displays the area behind the Rover when reverse is selected, making parallel parking much more precise and less stressful. Although the park assist automatically switches on when the transmission is placed in reverse, it shuts off once the Rover is rolling forward at around 20 mph.
First-Class Seats for All
We drove the Rover from Napa Valley, just north of San Francisco, to Los Angeles, a 400-plus-mile drive, and the seats were absolutely fantastic. This car jockey has occasional lower back pain, but the seat's combination of proper shaping and firmness along with 16-way power adjustment (including four-way lumbar and two-way upper back) allowed me to make the journey in comfort.
Backseat comfort ranks up there, too, thanks to a high seating position, firm support and adequate legroom. If the optional DVD entertainment system is ordered, a pair of monitors behind the front headrests allows one kid (or adult) to watch a movie while another can play a video game through its auxiliary inputs. Once could also use those aux inputs to play an iPod or similar MP3 player.
One thing we noticed immediately after hitting the highway was the impressively quiet ride, even when making time on an uncharacteristically wide-open L.A. freeway. Land Rover reps stated that the new Jaguar engines boast lower noise, vibration and harshness levels than the outgoing BMW unit (more on that later), and the new laminated front side windows and reshaped A-pillar covers contribute to the hushed cabin.
For those not up on their Land Rover lineage, a brief recap is in order. BMW owned Land Rover from 1994 to 2000 and was largely responsible for the engineering of the new-for-2003 Range Rover. Ford, who also owns Jaguar, took the reins in 2000, and this year Land Rover has turned to its Jaguar cousin for power.
The end result is a pair of Jaguar V8s (a 4.4-liter with 305 hp and 325 pound-feet of torque and our subject's 4.2-liter mill that boasts 400 hp and 420 lb-ft) now assigned Range Rover duty. Before you think this might be a step backward, consider this: the base V8 is more powerful than the previous BMW unit, which had a none-too-shabby rating of 282 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. And the British power plants are charmers, with strong, linear output and a quieter demeanor than the Bimmer V8 they replace.
With that supercharged V8, getting up to those freeway speeds is bloody quick, especially for something that weighs nearly 50-percent more than a Cadillac DeVille. We clocked this Rover at 7.1 seconds in the 0-to-60-mph sprint and 15.7 seconds in the quarter-mile.
A six-speed automatic sends the power to the full-time four-wheel-drive system. For the most part, the automatic is smooth, though it tended to feel lazy while upshifting and took a stiff stab to the gas to downshift. Selecting the sport mode helped as it provides more responsive and crisper gear changes.
Strangely, and out of character with the Range Rover's polished demeanor, the tranny shifted with a slight jolt on more than a few occasions, one time under part throttle while accelerating and another when the gas was quickly jabbed and then released.
Although the latter incident was a worst-case scenario for an automatic gearbox (i.e. sending it mixed signals), we still think this is unacceptable in a $90,000 vehicle. We're willing to cut some slack here considering these were preproduction vehicles and we didn't experience these hiccups in the Jaguar XJR, which has essentially the same engine and transmission as this Range Rover.
Even more impressive than the acceleration was the Rover's phenomenal braking performance. Seemingly defying physics, this near-3-ton SUV required only 115 feet to stop from 60 mph — a performance a sports car would be proud of.
A Ride Fit for the Queen
Let's make one thing clear right away, even with the powerhouse V8 and firmer suspension calibrations that come with the Supercharged, this Range Rover is still essentially a full-on luxury SUV, not a sporting model. And as such, the ride is plush around town, on the interstate and even off-road.
Excellent steering feel and weighting make this bruiser easy, even pleasant to pilot, though the handling is on the soft side, with enough body roll to remind you that blitzing apexes isn't this vehicle's forte. But as the owner of a 2003 Range Rover (Edmunds.com President Jeremy Anwyl) pointed out after driving the two Rovers back-to-back, "the new suspension is ...even smoother, but with less body roll when cornering." This supports Range Rover's claim that the Supercharged benefits from a 15-percent increase in roll resistance.
Those looking for a sportier driving experience will want to check out the upcoming Range Rover Sport, a decidely sportier version of the Rover intended to go heads-up against Porsche's Cayenne and BMW's X5 4.8is.
Although we can't imagine anyone wanting to muddy up their new Range Rover, rest assured that it comes ready to rumble in the dirt. A fully independent and height-adjustable air suspension, a low range for the transfer case, generous (10.8 inches) ground clearance, hill descent control and minimal front/rear overhangs show that Range Rover hasn't forgotten, and indeed strongly reaffirms, its reputation as an incredibly capable all-terrain vehicle.
Practical Concerns for Those Who Care
In addition to its go-anywhere ability, this Range Rover can haul 74.9 cubic feet worth of cargo and pull a trailer weighing up to 7,716 pounds. Somehow, we don't think these attributes will matter much to the typical buyer.
No, we're thinking that power, prestige and comfort are what those folks are seeking, and the 2006 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged provides it all in spades.
System Score: 9.5
Components: This Range Rover's standard Harmon Kardon system features a 710-watt amplifier, a six-disc CD changer (mounted in the glovebox) and no less than 14 speakers to distribute the sound.
Each front door contains separate tweeter, midrange and bass speakers; each rear door houses tweeter and bass speakers; a midrange speaker sits in the middle of the dash while the cargo hold contains a 10-inch subwoofer and a pair of midranges.
State-of-the-art seven-channel sound technology contrasts with the old-school location of the six-disc CD changer. The faceplate is clean and uncluttered, as most audio controls are accessed via the nav screen. Steering wheel controls allow one to change channels/tracks and adjust volume.
Performance: Simply incredible. Tight, punchy bass is complemented by soaring highs and a full but not overpowering midrange. There's a lot of power here, and this system let's you enjoy it all. The "Logic 7" seven-channel sound offers more realism than traditional two-channel systems. Whether it's the delicate arrangement of a Mozart piece or the crunching guitars of Metallica that turn your crank, the HK Logic 7 can handle it all.
Best Feature: Seven-channel technology that contributes to lifelike sound reproduction.
Worst Feature: Old-tech CD changer location/function.
Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:
As much as I enjoyed the SC's increased horsepower, I was greatly disappointed by the herky-jerky nature of its transmission. On several occasions during my 150 miles behind the wheel, the SUV lurched forward as I applied throttle from a dead stop. It also made lazy upshifts at full throttle (during instrumented testing), and once it even "clunked" loudly while upshifting. This happened after an aborted throttle jab when another driver closed a hole in traffic, so admittedly I was sending confusing signals to the tranny.
But at $90,000 the Range Rover SC should be smart enough to deal with any set of circumstances. I never heard a transmission "clunk" in our one-year long-term test of a $35,000 Honda Pilot.
I was highly impressed by the vehicle's braking system. A 115-foot stopping distance would be amazing for a sports car. For a 5,800-pound SUV, it's almost surreal. One thing I had forgotten about the Range Rover is how much of a climb it is to the seats. I don't mind making the journey, but I have trouble believing the typical premium SUV buyer is willing to make this trip every time they stop at the local mall or Starbucks.
Would I buy a Range Rover SC? No, for that kind of money I'd have to go Cayenne Turbo (or maybe GX 470, with enough left over to pick up a certified M3). But its combination of off-road prowess, legendary heritage and (now) straight-line acceleration do make for a unique offering in the marketplace.
Road Test Editor Brian Moody says:
I like this car well enough but that's damning with faint praise when talking about a $90,000 car. I've always loved the redesigned Range Rover so it's no surprise I'd like this one.
That being said, I don't care for the gloss black dash treatment — the wood looks sooo much better and classy. I could also do without the black logos and the "supercharged" badge on the rear that's complete with fake screws. That's a little cheesy for Land Rover.
I was surprised to find the supercharged version of the Range Rover is not so breathtakingly fast. It does have a little more pep but it is certainly not the hot rod I was expecting. However, there is always plenty of power on tap and passing at speed is a breeze.
The modifications to the stereo/nav system work well. It's not perfect and some functions are still too clunky but it is a huge improvement and makes listening to music much more enjoyable. I wish the CD changer was in the dash and not in the glovebox. Plus, the ultraquiet interior provides the perfect place for that L7 stereo to shine.
I like the current normally aspirated Range Rover so much I don't think I could justify the extra money for the supercharged version.