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With 300 horsepower, leather seats and DVD players now almost commonplace features in $40,000 SUVs, one that costs more than twice that needs a bit more to make it special, let alone extraordinary. Land Rover hopes the addition of a supercharged, 400-hp engine, 20-inch wheels and features such as a standard rear-seat DVD entertainment system with twin 6.5-inch display monitors will set the '06 Range Rover at least a little bit apart from the crowd and make its $89,950 base price a bit easier to swallow.
Everything's built around the bodacious 4.2-liter, supercharged engine, affectionately known inside Land Rover as "the howler" because of the distinctive wailing sound the Roots-type supercharger makes as it force-feeds compressed air to each cylinder. The blower boosts the little aluminum V-8's 256 cubic inches to big-block muscle car numbers, pushing power output upwards by nearly 100 hp over the non-supercharged engine (305 hp) used in the $74,950 Range Rover HSE.
The massive power jump cuts down the supercharged Range Rover's 0-60 time from 8.3 seconds to 7.1 seconds. It's more than quick enough off the line to keep up with most of today's mid-size sport sedans and many sporty coupes, which makes it fun to mess with drivers of RX-7s, Maximas and Mustangs. Like watching Shaquille O'Neill, it's just amazing to watch something this big move out with such blazing speed.
Interestingly, the final-drive ratio in the supercharged Range Rover is actually less aggressive than in the standard HSE model, at 3.73 vs. 3.54. This was probably done to prop up the supercharged engine's EPA numbers, which are actually better than last year's non-supercharged engine at 17.5 mpg in combined city/highway driving vs. about 14-16 or so last year. (The non-supercharged '06 Range Rover HSE manages 18.3 mpg).
The supercharged '06 Range Rover is a pretty impressive piece of work. Just a tap of your right foot seems to negate all laws of physics as the 6000-lb machine pulls forward with effortless thrust of a 747's four Rolls-Royce turbines spooling up for a take-off roll. The new six-speed automatic (used on both versions of the '06 Range Rover) clicks through the gears and before you can say "SR-22 insurance policy" you're toodling along at 90-plus, with the big Rover hungry for more. It will crest 130 mph on the top and would go faster if Land Rover hadn't installed an electric cut-out to pre-empt the nags (and lawyers) who might squeal too much about a 150-mph 4x4.