2006 Land Rover Range Rover
This 2006 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2012.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Other premium sport-utility vehicles match Land Rover's early 2006 Range Rover in key areas, but the iconic Range Rover remains the most prestigious SUV among the sophisticated, affluent crowd. The latest model is by far the most powerful, refined and luxurious Range Rover ever.
The Range Rover launched the world luxury SUV market in 1970, although it didn't arrive in America until 1987. By then, it had been seen by many in adventure movies set in such places as Africa and had a well-deserved reputation for being rugged and adventuresome—despite spotty quality and a modified Buick V8 from the 1960s.
"Where other 4WD (four-wheel-drive) devices lurch and slither, the Range Rover motors by," Car and Driver magazine said in 1987.
The first Range Rover here came from the Land Rover division of England's state-owned Rover group and was pricey—at about $30,000. It was the most upscale SUV, and its legendary off-road prowess added to its sex appeal.
British as Afternoon Tea
Ford has owned the Land Rover operation since 2000. BMW had bought Land Rover from the British in 1994 and spent $1.3 billion to improve its Range Rover, which had become old, tired and outdone by rivals.
BMW lost a bundle on the Rover auto operation, which led the German automaker to spin off Land Rover to Ford for $2.6 billion (while wisely keeping the MINI car operation). Ford got the new Range Rover as part of the deal, and BMW agreed to supply its 282-horsepower V8s for a while.
Jaguar is one of few automakers not offering an SUV, but PAG says there's no need for Jaguar to offer such a vehicle because Land Rover fills that gap in the group (Land Rover also sells smaller, lower priced SUVs that carry the Land Rover nameplate.)
The Range Rover Jaguar V8s are modified to deliver more torque at lower engine speeds for more responsive U.S. driving. They also have advanced protection from dust, rocks and water to let the Range Rover do rough off-road driving without being adversely affected.
Valuable Off-Road Image
The Range Rover got its first major redesign for 2003, when the third-generation version was introduced. It looked much like its iconic predecessor, but was bigger and more technically advanced, with additional luxury and more power. It was the first Range Rover to have unibody construction, fully independent air suspension and a modern V8.
The base $74,285 Range Rover has a 4.4-liter 305-horsepower V8, while the top-line $89,285 version has a supercharged 4.2-liter 400-horsepower V8 with exceptional torque.
The engines are matched to a new ZF 6-speed automatic transmission. It's responsive and uses a center differential to improve off-road abilities and on-road handling. Low-range is available for extreme off-roading.
I tested both versions of the new Range Rover during a media preview of it on steep, twisting mountain roads outside San Francisco and on that city's freeways.
The Range Rover is very heavy, at 5,474 to 5,637 pounds. However, the V8s—particulalry the supercharged verson—provide strong acceleration (0-60 mph in 8.3 seconds for the regular V8 and 7.1 seconds for the supercharged engine.)
Excellent Ride and Handling
The weight is felt during quick maneuvers, such as sudden lane changes, but much of it is kept low in the high Range Rover to provide a lower center of gravity for better handling.
Also enhancing handling are a sophisticated 4-wheel-drive system, electronic traction control, new anti-roll bars, stability and traction control systems and an improved adjustable-height air suspension. There also is a Hill Descent Control system for off-road driving.
The supercharged version has high-performance Brembo front brakes and a revised suspension for flatter cornering and superior high-speed road performance. It also has more supportive front seats, which really also should be in the nonsupercharged version.
Not a Fuel Miser
Both versions have lots of comfort, convenience and safety equipment, including a 3-zone automatic climate control system, power front seats, a power tilt-telescoping steering wheel, a glass sunroof, a premium sound system with 14 speakers, a rearview camera and eight airbags.
A navigation system, which worked especially well in my test vehicles, provides both on- and off-road guidance. In contrast, some navigation systems in premium vehicles can be misleading even during on-road driving.
Options include heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel rim and a rear twin-screen DVD system.
Noise in the upscale interior is significantly reduced to very quiet levels, but the interior is basically unchanged. The supercharged model, though, is offered with premium leather, black lacquered wood and stainless steel pedals.
The dashboard is nicely designed, although it's difficult to quickly read the mileage-registering odometer when the sun is out.
The decently sized cargo area can be enlarged by easily moving the split-folding rear seat forward.
Most Affluent Customers
"Thanks to Ford Motor's improvements, Land Rover now can run with the best," said David Cole, chairman of Michigan's Center for Automotive Research. "But it's in a highly competitive field and must work hard for every sale."
Sally Eastwood, Land Rover North America vice president of marketing, often referred to Land Rovers as "cars" in an interview at the media preview—not as sport-utility vehicles.
Lots of Repeat Buyers
"Our SUVs are considered luxury vehicles by those people, who use them as a luxury car. Valets park them with luxury autos right up front at restaurants."
Well, of course.