July 3, 2007

Photo Gallery: 2007 Range Rover HSE

Specifications: 2007 Range Rover HSE

The Guide: 2007 Range Rover HSE

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“Off road driving through rugged terrain should be done in an elegant way” explained Catherine Lemieux, the Lead Instructor at Land Rover Canada. “If the vehicle is bouncing up and down the tires are loosing contact with the ground.”

Aptly put, since we were driving an ultra-chic Range Rover by Land Rover and probably the most capable off-road SUV on the market. Land Rover has made some interesting changes to the ’07 Range Rover, so more on that off-road driving session a little later.

Range Rover competes in the upper-echelon of the SUV market with a limited number of true competitors. It caters to a select group of affluent buyers who want premium luxury appointments in a wagon-style vehicle with outstanding off-road capability.

A complete interior redesign for 2007 includes new seats and new safety features, and a new Terrain Response system makes off-road driving easier. This comes on the heels of a complete exterior redesign last year plus two new engines and a six-speed automatic transmission.

The 2007 Range Rover comes in two trim levels, the HSE ($100,900) and Supercharged ($121,400). The HSE has a 305-horsepower, 4.4-litre V8 engine under the hood and the Supercharged version has a 400-hp, 4.2-litre V8. Both are mated to the six-speed automatic transmission.

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That would generally cover my drive-train description on other vehicles, but the Range Rover also has full-time four-wheel drive with a Torsen centre differential, a two-speed transfer case, all-terrain traction and stability control, Hill Descent Control and now – Terrain Response technology.

My test Range Rover was a HSE trim level with a Luxury Package. The top-line Supercharged edition adds 20-inch bright-finish aluminum wheels, a locking rear differential, an upgraded Brembo braking system and additional trim features.

The overall shape of a Range Rover hasn’t really changed a heck of a lot since its introduction back in 1970. Instantly recognizable for its tall profile, big glass and that floating roof effect, caused by the blacked-out support pillars. The current generation Range Rover also has the trademark clamshell hood and a dual-door tailgate.

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While the trend these days is to longer wheelbase designs, Land Rover refuses to compromise the Range Rover’s off-road capability and tight turn radius. And its air suspension can adjust the vehicle height to achieve good break-over and departure angles.

Bi-xenon headlamps with power washers are housed in the big wrap-around front headlight assemblies. Adaptive headlamps that turn in the same direction as the front wheels are an option, and standard on the Supercharged version.

Cabin revisions offer enhanced luxury and addition storage space. There’s a new twin glove-box, new cup-holders and a new centre console. The test vehicle came with (cool air) ventilated front seats, which is a new option. All seats are heated seats and it comes with an electronic parking brake.

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The rear seats are split 60/40 and fold to expend the cargo area. I found the seatbacks were unusually heavy to manoeuvre and a third row seat is not offered. A full-size spare wheel is stored under the cargo floor.

Nine airbags are now standard. In addition to front, side and side-curtain airbags, a knee-bolster airbag, to protect the driver, has been added. Electronic stability control is included in the numerous active safety features. Also included are both front and rear park distance control and a rearview camera that’s activated by selecting reverse.

A sturdy pull up cargo net which fastens to the roofline protects rear passengers from flying cargo and there’s a rigid cargo area security cover.

Although it came with lower child seat (UAS) anchorages, I found the inboard anchors very difficult to use. Tilting the seatback forward helped gain access to anchorages obstructed by leather upholstery.

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The elevated driver seating position surrounded by what seems like a panoramic expanse of glass is part of the Range Rover driving experience. The opulent dash and a wide centre console with a multitude of controls make you feel like you’re in command of something big and special, yet it’s a surprisingly easy vehicle to manoeuvre.

A new addition to the console controls is the Terrain Response system, which was first introduced in the Land Rover LR3. Unique to Land Rover, a rotary dial allows the driver to select any of five road or ground conditions.

Each selection makes subtle changes to throttle control, braking, the pre-load on the differential, the stability control system, shift patterns in the transmission and suspension height. The choices are general driving on pavement, grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, sand and rock crawling; so you can go off-roading like an expert, the easy way.

“What if you get stuck on the peek of that small hill just ahead?” I asked Lemieux. “If you get high-centered (off-road lingo), the TR system will recognize that all four wheels are spinning and it will extend the air suspension to maximum lift – hopefully enough to get you going again,” she said.

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An off-road display on the centre dash screen will also let you know if any of the road wheels have lost contact with the ground, explained Lemieux. This screen also shows which differentials are open and the position of the front wheels. The latter may sound redundant, but when the steering wheel is going full lock to opposite lock in an off-road situation it’s easy to loose track of the straight ahead position.

Range Rover also has another feature invented by Land Rover called Hill Descent Control plus an off-road Traction Control system. “The key is to let the vehicle do the work for you,” said Lemieux. “A lot of people’s reaction when they hear the traction control kick-in is to let off the gas pedal, when in fact you want to keep working with the throttle.”

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To its credit, Land Rover gives every buyer two hours of in-vehicle driving lessons plus two hours of on-trail driving lessons with each vehicle, with an instructor like Lemieux. The driving school is based in Quebec and travel and accommodations are not included.

A study done by Land Rover a few years ago discovered that only about 10% of its buyers actually do any serious off-road driving. Still that’s probably higher than other brands of SUV buyers, assuming you don’t include graded gravel road trips to that off-the-beaten-path cabin.

The Range Rover’s outstanding air suspension allows softer on-road ride comfort and an adjustable ride height for rougher terrain. It also has a ‘kneel’ or access feature that lowers the vehicle as it comes to a stop, to make it easier for passengers to get in or out.

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Although the 4.4-litre V8 in the HSE lags behind the Supercharged version by 95-horsepower, it can still accelerate from 0 to 100 km/hour in under 9 seconds. Both V8s are mated to six-speed automatic transmissions with a manual override and a permanent 4×4 system with a two speed transfer case.

Shift on the fly is possible from four-wheel high to four-wheel low, a unique feature. And the Range Rover’s trailer towing capability is 3500 kg (7,716 lb).

All in all, the luxurious Range Rover by Land Rover has an off-road pedigree that’s beyond reproach and it’s a pleasure to drive on any surface.

Pricing 2007 Land Rover Range Rover HSE

Base price $100,900

Options 6,500 (Luxury Package: 14-Way Heated/Cooled Power adjustable Driver and Front Passenger Seats, Premium Windsor Leather Seating Surfaces, Premium Cambridge Leather on Upper Dashboard, Centre Console Wood Trim, Adaptive Front Lighting, Auto-Dimming Exterior Mirrors)

Freight $ 995

A/C tax $ 100

Price as tested $108,495


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