In the Autoblog Garage: 2007 Range Rover Supercharged

"You took a $95,000 vehicle off-road?" asked a fellow Autoblogger as we shared some of our latest exploits with media vehicles. His question made it sound like I'd done something impressive with the Range Rover Supercharged, but it wasn't much more than gingerly tiptoeing this big British beast into a field. My little romp was equivalent to testing the water in a wading pool, but I discovered that the Range Rover's ride, no hard-tail chopper on the street, is even better off road.

The Range Rover Supercharged is a dichotomy of brilliant and idiotic, swathed in sumptuousness. The luxury might likely be enough to convince you to forget about some of the less pleasurable aspects of the Range Rover. For us, not blessed with the faculties to swing the monthly payment on such a terrible investment as a $100,000 vehicle, all of the luxury, equipment, and capabilities were largely gimcrackery ladled into a vehicle that will essentially pull station wagon duty.

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The styling pays homage to the original Range Rover from the 1970s. It wasn't a bad look then, and it's all there in updated form in the modern RR. Even though the classic cues are present on the flanks of the new model, it doesn't come off as some kind of neo-retro nonsense. The proportions are right, and the crisply folded lines are handsome and stately. The front end projects power and composure, like this vehicle would be equally adept in situations requiring a double breasted suit as it is when muddy boots are the order of the day.

The squared-off bodywork is perfect to the mission of the Rover. You wouldn't want any concessions to styling cutting in on that cargo space, after all. Besides, the Range Rover Sport model offers a fastback profile if putting big boxes in your effete SUV isn't so much your thing. The deep blue paint on the example we drove was smooth and lustrous, with only a hint of orange peel. The brightwork comprised the mesh-style grille, faux-extractors on the front quarter panels, badging, and door handles. The attractively blocky alloy dubs were a matching shade of brushed nickel. The grille sits between the jewel-like lamp housings that provide a roost for the bi-xenon lighting.

We loved the look. The styling is at once refined and axe-hewn. While every Rover is born with off-road chops, the RR Supercharged looked equally suited to hunkering down on its air suspension and clicking off miles at a rate of two per minute. We never pushed the needle that hard, but we can attest to the distance devouring prowess of Solihull's Zenith of luxury SUVs.

Swinging an access hatch open reveals a cabin trimmed in fine perforated leather with contrasting piping, tasteful brushed metal hardware and cherry wood that makes my living room feel far inferior. While capable of puffing up the air bladders to loom above terra firma, stepping into the Range Rover is a trifle with the suspension locked at access height. Upon first settling your derriere in the throne-like seat, the initial impression can be overwhelming – this thing is just bristling with switches, controls, dials, levers, knobs.

23 switches confront you on the center stack alone, not counting the controls for the transmission or the Terrain Response System, which are located on the console near the shifter. There's also five knobs for the HVAC system, and even a button for the glovebox, which took us forever to find. While it may seem daunting for your first drive with the Rover, the ancillaries become second nature pretty quickly, and the layout of all the controls isn't cluttered, which helps your index finger find the right button to mash.

A $92,035 list price ensures that nobody can carp about inferior materials inside a Range Rover. Everything we touched oozed luxury, the metal accents around the AC vents even got chilly to the touch after a while, indicating that they're actual metal, not just silvered up plastic. Nice. Bumping that list price up to $95,250 on our tester was the $2,500 package that added a rear seat entertainment system with a six disc DVD player, remote control and dual LCDs in the headrests.

The smell inside is the heady bouquet of rich, soft leather, and everything you lay your hands on conveys the expense of the vehicle you're sitting in. Should the fiduciary responsibilities cause you to sweat, the seats will come to your rescue with the ability to blow cool air on your undercarriage. If "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is playing on the 710-watt Harman Kardon LOGIC 7 audio system, you can also blow hot air up your tush to aid your comfort.

There we sat, DVD in hand, looking all around the dashboard for some way to load a DVD. Nope, maybe it's in the center console, like some of the other DVD-equipped media vehicles we've had? Nope. It took a trip to the Owner's Manual to reveal that you had to remove a trim panel in the cargo area before you could get at the quaint DVD changer. It's okay, we had a good time in the '90s, so we don't mind loading discs into a fiddly and delicate magazine, just like we did back when MC Hammer was on the charts.

The location of the DVD hardware behind a panel in the interior is one of those aforementioned touches of idiocy. They could have at least made it poke through the front of the panel and dressed it up with a bezel. It feels rather low-rent to start disassembling your car to load discs. Not to mention how inconvenient it is to change out discs when you're underway. It'd be unacceptable in the $40,000 LR2, let alone the RR Supercharged at more than double the price. Upon discovering the Rover's Nav/Com nerve center, it made us consider just how expensive a tap in the left rear quarter would be, too. DVD player discovered and loaded, we couldn't get both headrest screens to work – video appeared in one, but the other remained dark. Maybe we didn't play with the system enough.

The dash screen also displayed a wealth of other information, as well as being the interface for the navigation system and displaying the back-up camera's view when reversing. One amusing touch we found was that you could switch the display language between American English and "Proper" English, so "manuvering" became "manoevering." The reversing camera was backed up by a sonar system, and yet someone had managed to put a crease in the rear bumper, indicating that technology is not always a replacement for skill.

Families with wherewithal will be purchasing these trucks, which explains the full complement of LATCH anchors and the presence of the DVD system. We did have an issue with getting at the seatbelt latches for outboard passengers when our child seat was in the middle of the rear bench, secured with LATCH. It happens from time to time on a variety of vehicles, but the Rover is plenty wide, so it was frustrating when buckling a passenger took four hands.

The Rangie sports a version of Jaguar's rorty AJ V8 underhood, and the Supercharged version delivers 400 throaty horsepower with attendant blower whine. A little more than seven clicks of the second hand will go by before you hit 60 mph, quite fleet for such a massive vehicle. Speed is secondary to the experience, anyway. With the muscular sounds of the de-bored 4.2 liter V8 (down from the un-blown engine's 4.4 liter displacement) thumping from the dual exhausts, it wouldn't matter if the RRS took a minute and a half to get to walking speed. The ZF automatic snaps up and down through its six ratios with skillful alacrity. Unlike the trannies in some of Ford's other PAG rides, the ZF isn't plagued with indecision about what gear to pick or when to kick down.

6,000 pounds rarely move with the sort of urgency the Range Rover Supercharged can muster. There's a wellspring of torque, and the suspension is buttoned down well enough that you don't feel like you're about to die if you've got to merge quickly or take evasive action. The mass is ever present, but the steering is weighted well allowing you to wring a surprising amount of agility out of a vehicle that has no right going or turning so skillfully. Brembo calipers peek out from behind those chunky wheel spokes and have plenty of capacity to convert kinetic energy to heat, hauling the big luxo-ute down from speed without drama.

The Range Rover Supercharged drives like a hundred thousand bucks, absolutely. The looks are at once handsome and sinister, the best combination there is. Quality is high, though there's occasionally an air of handbuilt versus handcrafted that wafts through, it's nothing we could really put our finger on. The outfitting is top notch, as is the material selection. Jaguar XKs would do well to get this interior in trade for their ambrosia-like V8. Sure, there's vehicles that can do the same stuff for a lot less, but as in the rest of these upper-echelon vehicles, it's not just about nuts and bolts and numbers. The Range Rover Supercharged has the comfort, practicality, and performance to almost justify the obscene price.

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