Source: Land Rover via Bloomberg
Car Reviews

The $121,000 Range Rover Supercharged LWB Is a Gentleman’s Tank

Big, brawny, supremely confident—but let's not be ostentatious about it

I drove the 2015 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged LWB last week around New York, and I have nothing to report. 

No arguments with garage attendants over whether or not they “have room” to keep the big rig for the weekend. No inter-car gestures with highway rowdies about who cut off whom on a blind spot along the FDR Drive. No sweat involving the long-shot parallel park. 

It’s a real problem when you’re trying to write a car review. It’s also admirable, considering that this Rover is an expensive tank.

Source: Land Rover via Bloomberg

Length, Heft

The LWB on this Range Rover stands for “long wheel base,” 123 inches long to be exact—10 inches longer than a Porsche Cayenne. It’s very nearly as heavy as the 5,800-pound Cadillac Escalade, which is the largest in the class. And it’s coated in the unmistakable veneer of wealth, with such upgrades as a $2,150 Premium Audio sound system, $3,200 cooler box and massage seat packages, and a $1,300 towing system, pushing the $107,000 base price to $121,000.

But rather than experiencing the anxiety typical of driving large utility vehicles in tight city spaces, or the funny looks they evoke from neighborhood busybodies in the more genteel parts of town, this Supercharged Rover gives a solid, straightforward, stress-free ride. 

In fact, its rectangular body lines are about as low-key as you’ll get in a six-figure SUV, depending on the color combinations you choose (mine was “Causeway Grey” outside, with an ebony interior and trim).

Source: Land Rover via Bloomberg

Its well-tightened chassis and instantaneous steering response make driving it less about elbowing a bull around a china shop than about smoking those truck drivers eyeballing you from across the stoplight. (And yes, the ride height in this thing feels about even with the standard U-Haul or UPS truck; I’m 5-feet, 10 inches and had to step up in order to get inside)

Class Considerations

Consider the Supercharged LWB against the $115,000 Mercedes-Benz G-Class, the $99,000 BMW X5 M, and the $115,000 Porsche Cayenne Turbo. If you’re looking for something that can hold its own around a racetrack but won’t embarrass you on a muddy overland expedition, this’ll do.

Sure, those others will do, too—and well. The difference is that this Rover will clean up as elegantly as the most proper British gent; the styling pulls from decades of British design cues and therefore is more traditional than the rounded back and sides of the Cayenne or the squat robotic charm of the X5M. If you pay attention as you drive, you can still sense echoes from the military trucks that were its forefathers—Tata Motors ownership notwithstanding.

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Big Brawn

One surprise for its size: The engine is “only” a V8, but supercharging gets it to 510 horsepower and 461 foot-pounds of torque, which was more than enough to make me feel I could pretty much dominate anyone I wanted along the West Side Highway. It’ll hit 60 miles per hour in 5.5 seconds, about the same as its competitors from Mercedes and BMW. 

Pumping through its eight-speed paddle-shifters feels like commanding a heavy souped-up speedboat. You hear the power initiate in the center of the machine then feel it propel everything forward. If there’s one thing you can say about the Range Rover Supercharged, it’s that it instills supreme confidence among its drivers.  

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Such superiority does come at a cost: 14 miles per gallon in the city and 19mpg on the highway fall to the poor side of the spectrum when you consider that standard SUVs range from 13 to 28 combined mpg on average. The engine has an automatic start/stop function that kills power when you press the brake at a standstill—this saves gas you’d burn just waiting at lights—but the efficiency results lack conviction.  

Civilized Security

One of the things I like most about the Rover Supercharged is that from behind the wheel I felt incredibly protected. The car comes standard with front, side, and head curtain airbags, side-door impact beams, power-operated child locks on all doors and windows, front and rear park distance control, rear view cameras, and an anti-trip feature on the windows and sunroof. Failing all that, the 24-hour Land Rover road recovery service comes included. 

Source: Land Rover via Bloomberg

It has permanent four-wheel drive and hill-descent control, which I found particularly useful on some of the steeper inclines in the East Village's more hidden parking garages. You probably won’t much notice the enhanced air suspension system with multiple modes (access, standard, off-road, and extended height) in city driving, but it’s a bonus that places this SUV in off-road-capable territory, despite its luxury pedigree. 

There’re plenty of other fun things to get, too. Why not? You might as well go all-in.

For an additional $1,760, you get a Vision Assist package with blind-spot monitoring and rear traffic alerts, among other things; for a further $1,560, you get a Driver Assist package that includes a lane departure warning system that can identify street signs, along with a system specifically developed for flawless parallel parking. These run just slightly more expensive than the options you’d find in some of the aforementioned competitors, but I recommend getting them because otherwise, the interior of the Rover can seem a bit stark. Plus it completes the idea that when you drive this thing, you’re untouchable. 

Everything behind the front two seats feels cavernous—conversations between the front and rear seats require the diaphragm boom of a Southern preacher to be heard—though in terms of actual creature comforts such as climate control, heated power seating, and the extended panoramic sunroof, it’s really no different from the $63,000 Range Rover Sport. You spend the extra dough on this version for the extra space, not for anything particularly exclusive behind the wheel. 

That said, it has the well-made feel of maximum, premium utility. It’s the perfect buy for tall millionaires (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, I’m looking at you), although I almost wish that for that much room and price, it could hold more than five people max (four with an optional center-back console). Solid leather seats are heated front and rear; fine strips of mood lighting along the sides and auto dim bulbs refine what could otherwise come off as almost Soviet starkness. All doors are calibrated to a perfect soft thud when they close; the rear tailgate unfolds like origami with the touch of a button. 

Source: Land Rover via Bloomberg

I loved using those tailgates. They open up to an enormous trunk space adequate for weeks' worth of jet set caliber luggage, but they also allow for civilized living (nothing so crass as slamming the trunk here). Plus, they’re beautiful to watch operate. I loaded a massive cow-hide into mine. It’s a long story.

Those doors say a lot about the nature of this bull, come to think of it. The Range Rover Supercharged is big and bulky, yes, but it has an innate grace. It remembers its manners.

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