March 26, 2007

Photo Gallery: 2007 Range Rover Supercharged

Specifications: 2007 Range Rover Supercharged

The Guide: 2007 Range Rover Supercharged

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At the 1970 Earls Court Motor Show in London, British Leyland pulled the wraps of the first Range Rover. With an eye on the American market, Land Rover had been kicking around the idea of a luxurious and tarmac-friendly off-roader for years. After much brainstorming and several prototypes, the resulting 1970 Range Rover proved a hit on both sides of the pond.

It was originally a three-door, carrying a sticker of £1998. Powered by a Buick-sourced aluminum V8 and featuring permanent all-wheel-drive, the ritzy Rangie offered something the Jeep Wagoneer and Ford Bronco of the time couldn’t – cachet.

And that folks, is where all this premium SUV nuttiness began.

The second generation Range Rover hit the street in 1995, and eight years following that, the current edition came along. At that time, Land Rover was under the brief stewardship of BMW, so this Range Rover had a Bimmer V8 under the hood. Land Rover is now owned by Ford, and the premium utes are powered by torquey Jaguar V8s.

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Through all this, the Range Rover has stayed remarkably true to the original. No matter how much luxury and technology has been ladled on, it still possesses its purity of line and undeniable off-road prowess.

So here we are, 37 years down the road, and a 2007 Range Rover Supercharged sits in my driveway – all $125,945, 400 hp and 2550 kg of it.

Penned by Geoff Upex, this third-gen Range Rover is a masterful blend of traditional and modern. Design details specific to the Supercharged include a diamond mesh grill and mesh side power vents, chrome exhaust tips, clear taillight clusters, and adaptive bi-xenon headlights. The Range Rover Supercharged, with its 20-inch wheels, is so well proportioned, you don’t realize how big it is until you’re standing beside it.

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Getting up into the comfy seats is a bit of hike, but once positioned, you’re ensconced in one of the finest interiors in the business – car or truck. It’s here where the Range Rover distinguishes itself from rest of the herd. Thanks to the tall greenhouse, the cabin is incredibly airy and the view out commanding. Marge Simpson could sit in here with barely a kink in her blue ‘do.

Despite the interior’s opulence, there’s an obvious functionality to the whole thing. The finely crafted controls are large, legible and glove friendly, and the steering wheel is big – just what is needed for dialling in exact degrees of lock while negotiating nasty terrain. The touch-screen information/navigation centre is refreshingly user-friendly when compared with some of the more complex German systems.

My tester’s all black treatment, although lovely, tends to mask the design somewhat. Call me a traditionalist, but this cabin in cream leather and natural wood is stunning, and is, in my humble opinion, the only way it should be ordered.

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And maybe I was out getting a burger when this went down, but how long has glossy painted black wood (piano finish) been chi-chi? Looks a little too close to plastic for my liking.

The 710-watt, 14-speaker Harmon/Kardon LOGIC7 5.1 surround audio system sounds suitably sensational, but the lack of a CD slot in the dash is a pain. One has to fuss with a 6-disc cartridge that lives behind a door above the glove box.

Similarly, the optional $3450 rear seat entertainment system, which features LCD screens on the back of the front headrests, has a 12-disc changer in the truck. Although with that many movies on tap, it should keep the kids quiet at least until Thunder Bay.

One other complaint concerns the buttons on the all-black key fob. Unlike those inside the car, they are small and barely discernable. How’s that for nit picking?

While one could argue that the majority of people who buy Range Rovers are poseurs, the vehicle itself most certainly is not. This ute has some serious off-road cred.

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I got to experience this first hand last summer in the mucky, rocky and dark jungles of Belize. Here, under the expert tutelage of some fine instructors, I joined a few select journalists in mercilessly beating on a handful of Land Rovers like a brace of rented mules.

Fun? Oh yeah. Eye-opening? You bet. After learning a few basic techniques, the Range Rover I was driving scrambled up seemingly impassable steep muddy inclines and through knee-deep muck. Yanking another vehicle out of the jungle meter by meter with a “snatch strap” was an incredibly violent affair. It made a believer out of me.

New to the 2007 Range Rover is a redesigned centre console and Terrain Response. The large rotating knob behind the shifter calls up five terrain presets (General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, Rock Crawl), each varying the parameters of hill-descent, throttle response, electronic air suspension ride height, rear locking differential, the two-speed transfer gearbox, traction control, etc for optimum traction.

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I did get to try out the snow setting. The relaxed throttle tip-in with second-gear starts worked great in the deep stuff.

Of course, the Range Rover Supercharged will be spending most, if not all of its time on the roads. In this capacity, it is also pretty impressive.

The 400-hp supercharged 4.2-litre aluminum V8 generates 420 lb.-ft. of torque at 3500 r.p.m., which seems just plenty, thank you. There’s a nice mechanical overtone of supercharger-whine when giving it the spurs, and the six-speed ZF transmission shifts smoothly.

Below decks, the Supercharged has been beefed up with stiffer anti-roll bars and Brembo front brakes. It handles surprisingly well.

For a vehicle with the aerodynamics of a garden shed, the Range Rover is remarkably free of wind noise. Highway motoring is a relaxing affair, with the SUV tracking true and serving up a largely comfortable ride. Some harsh impacts make their way into the cabin, but mostly you’re experiencing the isolation of a luxury car– albeit one that towers above just about everything else on the road.

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Gas mileage? For those who buy these things, it’s not an issue. For those of us with more proletariat pecuniary concerns, an official rating of 17.7 L/100 km city and 11.4 hwy is somewhat sobering (and optimistic). I saw 19.3 L/100 km on my watch. And of course, premium fuel.

Our parting was tinged with sadness. Not so much because I liked the Range Rover Supercharged (which I did), but more because this specimen, once finished its press duties, will likely live out its days in an upscale driveway in some tony ‘hood.

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The owners, like me, will play with the air suspension, call up the cool display that shows wheel articulation, and twirl the Terrain Response knob to see the cute little icons light up. But will this Range Rover ever turn a wheel in boonie-bashie anger? Probably not.

Its kinda like caging a beautiful wild animal, or sentencing Eric Clapton to play Mary Had a Little Lamb for the rest of his days.

A shame, really.

Pricing: 2007 Range Rover Supercharged

Base price $121,400

Options: $ 3,450 (DVD-based Rear Seat Entertainment system)

A/C tax: $ 100

Freight: $ 995

Price as tested: $125,945


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