Lighter Range Rover no lightweight
New Supercharged SUV boasts power and luxury
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.