Do you know what's not fair? Life isn't fair. You will probably never get a chance to drive a 2008 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged, let alone own one. I was allowed to drive a Range Rover Supercharged for a week, and the exquisite agony haunts me. The 2008 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged carries a base price of $92,825 ($96,100 as tested) along with a 4 year/50,000 mile warranty and an EPA fuel economy estimate of 12 mpg city/18 mpg highway. Let's drive.
First, a little history to whet your appetite. Land Rover was founded in 1948 and struck gold with its rugged, go-anywhere vehicles. They first produced the Range Rover in 1970 as a more refined coach for the country gentleman and city slicker, eventually building a reputation as the Rolls-Royce of off-road vehicles. A series of ownership changes plagued the Land Rover company, from the dreaded British Leyland years through BMW's stewardship in the 1990s to the current (for now) Ford Motor Company overlords. The first generation Range Rover finally reached US dealerships in 1987, to be succeeded by the second generation RR in 1995. The current (third) generation Range Rover debuted as a 2002 model, and underwent some mechanical and interior freshening for the 2007 model year.
The 2008 Range Rover Supercharged is a gorgeous SUV. The timeless design evokes memories of the earlier generation models, while at the same time bringing a wholly modern, contemporary flair. The Range Rover look is enhanced by some special badging and expensive-looking diamond mesh chrome grille and power vent inserts over 19" wheels. Out back, a chrome exhaust tip and clear lenses over the rear taillight cluster distinguish the Supercharged from the pedestrian Range Rover. The whole package is elegant, classy and reeks of quality. If this is what having a whole lot of money looks like, I gotta get me some more dough.
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In the Driver's Seat
For me, slipping into the Range Rover's driver's seat was like slipping on a perfectly-fitted pair of leather gloves. I felt like the cabin was built around me. So comfortable, so buttery smooth. My tactile senses were rewarded with great material choices everywhere, from the smooth, leather-wrapped dashboard to the brushed aluminum accents and trim to the substantial steering wheel. Range Rover is easy on the eyes, too. The center stack is very cleverly designed. Audio and navigation controls are on top, air conditioning/heat and seat heat/ventilation below with a few miscellaneous controls. The vents wrap around the stack, holding it in place. It's a cool effect. The instrument panel is simple and unfussy under a modest eyebrow, with white numbers over a black background on analog rotary gauges. The tach reminds you that you're driving a "Supercharged" in tasteful lettering.
The rest of the cabin is similarly tasteful and elegant. Sliding louvered doors cover the cup holders up front, hiding them from view until they are needed. The second row gets great leg and head room, and heated seats with conveniently-located rotary controls on the back of the center console. My test vehicle came with an optional ($2,500) rear seat entertainment system with dual headrest monitors and headphones.
Range Rover's luggage area is carpeted in the most sumptuous pile I've ever seen in a production SUV. I just wanted to crawl in and roll around on it, but I was afraid that my neighbors might call the authorities (again).
On the Road
A supercharger is a mechanical pump that sends compressed air into the engine. More air equals more power, it's a simple equation. A supercharger is different than a turbocharger. A turbocharger uses exhaust gasses to drive a turbine; the supercharger is driven by a belt that's attached to the engine. Superchargers are better at delivering low end power on demand -- just what you need to get a big SUV up and moving. And the Range Rover Supercharged moves. The 5842 lb SUV can scoot from 0 -- 60 mpg in 7.1 seconds, according to Land Rover. That's hardly sports car speed, but it is very rapid for a big vehicle. Range Rover's supercharged 4.2 liter V8 is rated to produce 400 hp and 420 lb ft of torque. The "regular" Range Rover engine is a little bigger (4.4 liters), but produces substantially less power (305 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque) and takes an additional 1.2 seconds to arrive at 60 mph.
A paragraph is scarcely enough space to scratch the surface of Range Rover's sophisticated air suspension, which is accessible through a knob on the center console. You can match your suspension settings to road and off-road conditions. Having spent some time off-road in a Range Rover, I can tell you that there are few SUVs with better off-road chops, and none that can combine its luxury with its capabilities.
And Range Rover Supercharged is not too shabby on the road, either. With a smooth, level ride, and big brakes (14.17" discs in front, 13.94" discs in the rear), the S/C goes, stops, turns and rides like a dream.
I would not be a responsible reviewer if I didn't mention Land Rover's poor reputation for reliability. When I have discussed this with Land Rover's representatives, they acknowledge the problems, but claim that they're ancient history. I would make sure that I had a very solid relationship with my Land Rover dealer before plunking down a hundred grand on a Range Rover Supercharged. Find out what your local dealer will do for you if you have problems -- loaner vehicles, advocacy with the manufacturer, troubleshooting and preventive maintenance would be on the list for me with any new SUV, but especially with a very expensive vehicle with Land Rover's reputation.
I would also drive the Range Rover HSE, the conventionally aspirated version of the RR. Prices start at $77,950 -- nearly $15,000 cheaper than the Supercharged. That's a lot of cash for 1.2 seconds and some cosmetic upgrades.
There are several other luxury SUVs to consider as well. The newly redesigned Lexus LX570 carries the reputation for reliability along with its luxury and off-road ability. Lincoln's Navigator and Cadillac's Escalade are solid American takes on the luxury SUV. Mercedes' GL550 brings luxury, power and class to spare. And don't forget the BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q7 while you're at it.
If you settle on a Range Rover Supercharged, good for you. You're rich, and you don't mind flaunting it. You've also got good taste, and a really incredible SUV on your side. I hope you're happy with yourself. Don't mind me. I'm just green with envy.