Years of schlepping through waist-high mud, clambering down hills, fording rivers, and generally having a good old off-road time gave Land Rover an enviable reputation in the 4x4 world. Then came the age of the SUV, where comfort trumped off-road performance and the mall parking lot became the most arduous terrain that immaculately waxed 4x4s had to negotiate. Although Land Rover continued to stress the off-road prowess of its marque, the Range Rover dominated this world of luxury SUVs, becoming the ride of choice for movie premieres and executive parking lots.
When we took delivery of a freshly minted 2007 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged this week, we decided to take it back to its family roots, back to basics, back--quite literally--to the clay in which its parents' reputations were fashioned. Sure, we had a couple of reservations before plunging this $100K Giverny Green aristomobile into the muck and rubble of an off-road course. From the inside, the leather-and-cherry-wood-trimmed 2007 Range Rover was about as sophisticated and as far from the trials of arcadia as you can get: touch screen, voice-activated GPS navigation; Bluetooth hands-free phone integration; a 14-speaker surround-sound audio system; rear-seat DVD system; and triple-zone air-conditioning being just a few of the technoluxuries on offer. And while the Supercharged Range Rover did have a potent 400-horsepower V-8, we figured that this was probably designed more for the left-hand lane of the freeway than for California's Carnegie state vehicular recreation area.
But then we took another look at Land Rover's claims: The 2007 Range Rover, they tell us, is the first of Land Rover's flagship models to include Terrain Response, a system designed to "boost off-road prowess" by adapting engine, transmission, suspension, and traction controls for different off-road conditions. We just had to see how it worked in practice. Including $2,500 for the rear-seat entertainment system and a $715 delivery charge, our 2007 Range Rover Supercharged tester weighed in at $95,350, making for a seriously high-end romp in the rough.
When we got the 2006 Range Rover Sport Supercharged for review a few months ago, we panned it for its interior look and feel. Black plastic met us wherever we turned in the cabin, the seats were too hard, and the dislocated nature of the phone, navigation, and stereo interfaces added to the disappointment. Thankfully, Range Rover raises the stakes considerably when it comes to its flagship model, and with the 2007 Range Rover Supercharged, the interior is more like what you'd expect from a car pushing a six-figure price tag.
As with all modern Range Rover interiors, the 2007 Supercharged cabin is reminiscent of a plane cockpit, with an enormous wood-trimmed central console supporting the shifter and two cup holders. Apart from the fact that the gear shifter has been moved slightly nearer to the driver, the only significant difference between the central column in the 2007 Range Rover and that of its 2006 predecessor is the inclusion of the Terrain Response dial. As we saw in our reviews of the 2006 Land Rover LR3 and 2006 Range Rover Sport, Terrain Response's rotary control enables the driver to optimize vehicle settings for different kinds of driving surfaces: see the Performance section for details on how we put the system thoroughly through its paces.
Other cabin tech in the Range Rover Supercharged includes standard Bluetooth hands-free calling with voice activation, an as-standard 14-speaker surround-sound audio system, standard voice-activated navigation, and an optional rear-seat DVD entertainment system. Pairing our Samsung SGH-ZX20 to the Bluetooth interface was an intuitive procedure, with all configuration done using the phone buttons. Once a phone is connected to the system, calls can be made using the Range Rover's in-dash touch-screen keypad or using the voice-recognition system, which managed to understand phone numbers and dial commands after multiple attempts. Call quality is a little muffled, as with any speaker phone system, but we had no trouble understanding our phonee or--apparently--being understood ourselves.
The Range Rover's Bluetooth interface is easy to connect to and operate.
Navigation on the '07 Range Rover is a combination of a good touch-screen interface with a less-than-impressive voice-command system. Maps can be configured in either 2D or 3D, with the option to split the screen between two levels of zoom: a feature that we particularly liked was the ability to have a 2D (plan) view in one half of the screen, and a 3D (bird's-eye) view in the other half. Although the navigation system has voice-recognition capabilities, commands are limited to an arcane list of preset phrases (more than 50 general commands, with more than 50 additional subcommands), which, even when uttered to the letter, often fail to register. Mercifully, destinations can be entered only using the touch-screen keypad, which enables locations to be registered by address, by point of interest, or by manually scrolling and touching a point on the navigation map. One peeve that we have with the POI database is the lack of big-box retail stores in the directory: we thought that the system must have the nearest Target store in its memory bank, but if it did, we couldn't find it despite extensive searching.
Maps on the DVD navigation screen can be configured in single or split-screen mode and in plan or bird's-eye view.
Another thing that we had to search for was the Range Rover's CD slot. We knew from the spec sheet that it comes equipped with a six-disc changer as standard, but from the cabin, there is no sign of where the discs go. The answer is in a magazine located in the upper of two electronically released glove compartments in front of the passenger. This makes it effectively impossible for a driver to change CDs when on the move, especially as the door to the magazine slot closes automatically, requiring two hands to get the loaded magazine back in.
With the CDs finally loaded, the Range Rover's stereo plays back regular store-bought CDs as well as MP3-encoded discs, although WMA discs were not recognized. For MP3 files, ID3-tag information is given only for filename and the track title. Our tester was also equipped with Sirius satellite radio.
The Range Rover's glove box-mounted six-disc CD magazine is a hassle to load.
The only optional cabin extra on the Supercharged Range Rover is its rear-seat DVD entertainment system, which takes the form of two headrest-mounted LCD screens controlled either thorough the touch screen up front or via a remote control. Included in the rear-seat system's $2,500 price tag are two sets of wireless headphones that come with their own cases and reside in a pocket in the rear doors. Just as with the CD slot, there is no DVD slot in evidence. It sits, inconveniently, hidden away behind a panel in the cargo area of the car, making it very difficult to change movies while on the go. This placement is mitigated only by the fact that it's a six-DVD changer, so enough movies can be loaded to offer adequate selection between stops.
Other tech features in the cabin include trizone climate control, an electronic parking brake (new for the 2007 model), heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a neat analog clock. The Range Rover's onboard computer, accessible via the in-dash touch screen, also provides information on fuel consumption, range to empty, and other performance-related data.
The 2007 Range Rover Supercharged is equipped with some serious performance credentials. While the naturally aspirated HSE base-level model squeezes a robust 305 horsepower out of its 4.2-liter V-8 aluminum mill, its supercharged brother conjures up a walloping 400 horspower and 420 pound-feet of torque, most of which can be enjoyed to the fullest only when at higher revs. From a standstill, the Supercharged Range Rover is as sluggish as its two-and-a-half-tonne mobile-drawing-room profile suggests, and throttle response at low revs is dilatory.
Once up to speed and above 2,000rpm, however, the glory of the supercharger quickly becomes apparent. Push the gas pedal down hard enough to engage kick down, and the turbo comes to life with a turbinelike whine, catapulting the tachometer from mid 2,000s up to around the 5,000rpm mark and the bulky Rover into the territory of the sport sedan. Highway driving in the '07 Range Rover is comfy pleasure: when not thrashed like a racing car, the ZF six-speed gearbox delivers smooth up- and downshifts, and, with the electronic air suspension set to Highway mode, the Rover damps out bumps and expansion joints with ease. Those wishing to push the Range Rover beyond 100mph will be heartened to know that the electronic air suspension lowers the car by an additional 20mm to improve ride stability. The suspension also features manual settings for access (40mm lower than Highway mode), and for off-road driving (50mm higher).
According to Range Rover, the major performance upgrade for the 2007 model is the inclusion of Terrain Response, a system that configures engine, transmission, suspension, and traction settings to ensure the maximum performance in a range of conditions. But we figured: what is the use of a sophisticated system such as Terrain Response if all you ever use it for is negotiating the speed humps on the golf club's driveway?
Terrain Response is one of the few major upgrades to Range Rover's flagship model for 2007.
To test whether the system was worth its stripes, we took the Range Rover to a public off-road vehicle recreation track specially designed to put 4x4s through their paces. We felt a tiny twinge of consternation pulling $100K worth of luxury automobile off the asphalt and onto the rocks, gravel, and muck that constituted the 4x4 Play Area: kind of like we were about to go mud wrestling in a tuxedo. But our reservations subsided pretty quickly, and we dived headlong into the various terrains.
Over rough, rocky area, we set the Terrain Response dial to the Grass/Gravel/Snow setting, which made for a surprisingly comfortable ride over the rubble. The Range Rover's dynamic stability control ensured that the wheels retained traction even when we tried to accelerate quickly and that the car stopped smoothly even under sharp braking. We were also struck by the comfort and support provided by the seats, which struck the balance between being sufficiently padded for everyday comfort and providing the requisite firmness when jouncing over steep ridges. The car was equally comfortable traversing the sand pit: with the Terrain Response set to Sand mode, the Range Rover floated over the sand without once losing traction.
Last and most challenging was the mud pit, which is where the Range Rover met its match. Full of confidence from our consummate negotiation of the previous terrains, we set the dial to Mud and Ruts and plowed headlong into the oomskah of the pit without a second thought for our personal safety or one moment's doubt of the ability of our aristomobile to pull through. Unfortunately, it turns out that our confidence--like the mud--was a little too high, and before we knew it, we were stuck fast and sinking deeper with every tweak of the wheel-spinning gas pedal.
The Range Rover Supercharged finally met its match in the mud pit.
If ever there was a time for the electronic gadgetry to work in concert to get us out, this was it. (We figured that if we had to call out a AAA tow truck, we would at least have the rear-seat DVD system to entertain us while we waited for them to arrive.) Without any forward or reverse traction at all, we set the electronic suspension to High mode, which had the effect of raising the body, and turned control the dial to Rock Crawl, which had the effect of further raising the chassis. With all the systems configured to give us maximum traction and clearance and the noticeable assistance of the four-wheel electronic traction control, we freed ourselves from the mud, which we found out when we got out had been considerably deeper than the height of the wheels. Kudos to Terrain Response for saving our Gucci loafers from the mud.
But thanks to its bevy of technology, we got out alive.
The EPA's gas-mileage rating for the 2007 Range Rover is 13mpg in the city and 18 on the highway (there is no rating for the mud pit). Throughout our 200 miles of on- and off-road driving, we averaged exactly 14mpg.
One of our favorite active safety features on the 2007 Range Rover Supercharged was its front and rear park-distance control (PDC), which works through a series of beeps. Although Land Rover doesn't provide the same pictogram as in high-end BMWs, it does have an intuitive feature that ensures that the PDC beeps come from the speakers nearest the obstacle in question: rear speakers for obstacles behind the car, front speaker for those ahead. A handy button in the dash also enables the PDC to be turned on or off on demand. Other advanced safety features on the 2007 Range Rover include an as-standard backup camera; a tire-pressure monitoring system; and bi-xenon headlights with power washers.
A backup camera comes as standard on the 2007 Range Rover Supercharged.
Power-assisted four-way disc brakes with huge ventilated Brembo calipers on the front wheels are backed up with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), electronic brake assist, and dynamic stability control to rein in the Range Rover's 400 horses when needed. In addition to its electronic center differential, the 2007 Supercharged sports an additional rear electronic differential to improve on- and off-road handling. If all else fails, the car comes with eight SRS airbags, including front-, side-, and head bags for driver and front passenger, and head and outboard airbags for rear passengers.
Like all new Land Rovers, the 2007 Range Rover Supercharged comes with a transferable four-year/50,000-mile warranty. It is also covered by a six-year/unlimited-mileage corrosion perforation warranty.