Lighter Range Rover no light­weight

New Su­per­charged SUV boasts power and lux­ury

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - AUTOS - By Graeme Fletcher

WAY back, when the earth was cool­ing, 1970 to be ex­act, Land Rover in­tro­duced an up­scale de­riv­a­tive of the mud-bog­ging 4x4 it had been build­ing since 1948. And so the Range Rover was born.

Since then, each edi­tion has been around for what seems like an eter­nity in this busi­ness. The orig­i­nal sol­diered on with vir­tu­ally no change for 26 years.

Now comes the lat­est Su­per­charged ver­sion. In­spired by the light­weight thrust of the aero­space in­dus­try, the Range Rover fea­tures an all-alu­minum chas­sis that’s 39 per cent lighter than the same thing con­structed of steel.

Ob­vi­ously this re­duces the curb weight, which in turn does some very good things for the man­ner in which the big Range Rover han­dles, and this holds true re­gard­less of whether it is cruis­ing sub­ur­bia or bash­ing the boonies.

It also gives the ad­vanced air-spring adap­tive sus­pen­sion a rock-solid base of op­er­a­tions, which it needs, given the torquing the body takes when inch­ing over rocks.

As such, the Range Rover’s ride and han­dling is very ac­com­plished, and it all boils down to that sus­pen­sion. The air sus­penders give the driver ac­cess to sev­eral dif­fer­ent ride heights, which means it is equally at home on the high­way as it is when jacked up and romp­ing through the back­woods. The SUV’s sus­pen­sion sys­tem mon­i­tors the Range Rover’s body and wheel move­ments 500 times ev­ery sec­ond and then adapts the damp­ing to suit. In the end, what could have felt like a road-go­ing ver­sion of the Ti­tanic ac­tu­ally felt much lighter and alive, even when be­ing driven with pur­pose.

A 5.0-litre su­per­charged V8 en­gine pow­ers the Range Rover. It puts out 510 horse­power and a stout 461 pound-feet of torque at a low 2,500 rpm. This gives the Range Rover some un­ex­pected scoot. Nail the gas pedal and 100 kilo­me­tres per hour ap­pears on the clock in 5.4 sec­onds, which is very good, es­pe­cially for a 2,300-kilo­gram sled.

The down­side is the fuel con­sump­tion. Even with the Eco mode and its idle/stop func­tion en­gaged, the Range Rover av­er­aged 15.7 litres per 100 km dur­ing the test. Not a dis­as­ter, but far from great.

The en­gine is teamed with an ad­vanced eight-speed manu­matic trans­mis­sion that ac­com­plishes its shifts in just 200 mil­lisec­onds. Smooth and silky de­fines the man­ner in which the box slips through its gears.

It is equally will­ing and speedy to down­shift when the need arises. From here, the power is fired to all four wheels and the over­sized P275/45R21 tires through a very good in­tel­li­gent all-wheel-drive sys­tem.

The elec­tronic cen­tre dif­fer­en­tial and its multi-plate clutch dis­trib­utes the torque to all four wheels as the con­di­tions dic­tate — it main­tains a 50/50 split most of the time. It is com­pletely seam­less in the man­ner in which it op­er­ates, which is the hall­mark of an ad­vanced de­sign.

More im­pres­sive is the abil­ity to switch be­tween high and low ranges at speeds of up to 60 km/h, which means there is no need to stop the ve­hi­cle to switch the drive mode. Fac­tor in all the other elec­tronic gizmos such as hill de­scent con­trol and the Range Rover is all but un­stop­pable.

A big part of its abil­ity boils down to some­thing called Ter­rain Re­sponse. It can be set in au­to­matic or one of five spe­cial­ized set­tings — ev­ery­thing from a gen­eral driv­ing mode through to its rock-crawl­ing set­ting. The ob­ject is to op­ti­mize the driv­e­train and sus­pen­sion for a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent driv­ing sit­u­a­tions.

In each case, the en­gine, trans­mis­sion, cen­tre dif­fer­en­tial, sus­pen­sion and trac­tion con­trol are adapted to en­sure the lot is giv­ing its very best, re­gard­less. Yes, it is overkill in this ap­pli­ca­tion, but when needed it does pro­vide the Range Rover with an in­cred­i­ble all-ter­rain abil­ity when the go­ing gets truly tough.

IN­SIDE, the Range Rover looks and feels like it was de­signed by aero­space engi­neers. The shifter pops up out of the cen­tre con­sole when the en­gine is started. The in­te­rior is lav­ishly at­tired, fea­tur­ing ev­ery­thing from supremely com­fort­able seat­ing, com­pre­hen­sive in­stru­men­ta­tion, rear seat en­ter­tain­ment and an op­tional up­graded Merid­ian sound sys­tem.

The SUV even fea­tures power fold­ing rear seats (how dé­classé, hav­ing to fold the rear seats man­u­ally when cargo needs to be loaded in through the split, pow­ered tail­gate). It all comes to­gether to de­liver a very up­scale feel. Per­haps the only thing miss­ing is a cof­fee maker that brews Land Rover’s own brand of java.

The down­fall sits right at the tip of the driver’s fin­gers — the pad­dle shifters are made of such a flimsy plas­tic they are so ob­vi­ously out of keep­ing with the rest of the car. Pity.

The Range Rover has be­come some­what of an in­sti­tu­tion. It is a full-on lux­ury con­veyance and it is a stal­wart off-road ve­hi­cle with ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­ity be­cause of the elec­tronic wiz­ardry that op­er­ates in the back­ground.

The only ques­tion I had left af­ter the test was a sim­ple one: Who in their right mind is go­ing to go boonie-bash­ing in a $125,000 SUV? Not me, that’s for sure.


The lat­est Su­per­charged Range Rover fea­tures an all-al­iminum chas­sis

that’s 39 per cent lighter than the same thing con­structed of steel.


In­side, the Range Rover looks and feels like it was de­signed

by aero­space engi­neers.

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