by Michelle Krebs
"That thing costs more than a house!" was the remark I frequently heard during my week-long test drive of the British-made 1996 Range Rover 4.0 SE from Land Rover North America.
Indeed, the Range Rover 4.0 SE's $55,625 base price roughly matched the price I paid 12 years ago for my first home, a tiny two-bedroom, one-bath bungalow that needed a lot of work. Two years later, a couple who saw more value in the trendy address than I did gave me $10,000 above what I had paid for it, about the same price as the 4.0 SE's fancier sibling, the 4.6 HSE outfitted with a bigger engine and tires.
As with my house, the worth of the Range Rover is in the eye of the buyer.
Indeed, the Range Rover boasts a rich tradition unrivaled by most other sport-utilities. Range Rover has served as the modern-day carriage for the British royal family. Its off-road prowess is routinely demonstrated in treks across the Sahara desert and the Central American rain forest in competitions. Permanent four-wheel drive has been standard fare since 1948, and other technological features, such as its adjustable air suspension, set the Range Rover apart from other sport-utilities. Likewise, its price puts it into a class unto itself and into the driveways of classy neighborhoods.
Same rugged grille, new softer lines,
Its looks, however, have moved more mainstream. After 25 years wearing the same boxy shape, the Range Rover recently received a complete makeover. Introduced in the United States a year ago, the new design retains traditional Range Rover styling cues, such as its rugged grille, but its lines are softer than its straight-edged predecessor.
Inside, the Range Rover is outfitted in leather seats and tasteful touches of burled walnut on the doors, dash and center console. It comes with more standard amenities than many luxury cars, including individual climate controls for the driver and passenger, heated eight-way adjustable power seats and a six-disc CD changer with the 11-speaker audio system. Drivers, using two memory settings, can position seats and mirrors and light the instrument panel to their liking remotely. Dual front airbags and door beams to protect occupants in side-impact crashes were included with its latest makeover.