It's not the most powerful luxury SUV on the market, but the 2012 Range Rover feels supremely in command, on the road or off the pavement.
The base Range Rover is powered by a 5.0-liter V-8, rated at 375 horsepower. Coupled to a six-speed ZF automatic transmission and Land Rover's four-wheel-drive system, it's capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds.
Adding on a supercharger boosts output to 510 horsepower, and drops 0-60 mph times to a scant 5.9 seconds. Both versions also are also capable of towing 7,700 pounds when properly equipped, and both have good drivetrain performance, with rapid and smooth shifts playing well with the V-8's meaty powerband. To our tastes, nothing says "British car" like the supercharger's whine, too. Considering the Range Rover's available speeds, its fuel economy of 12/18 mpg is still too low for our tastes.
On the road, the Range Rover performs well with either available drivetrain. The 6000-pound vehicle dials up speed quickly, and it's a stable, solid-handling machine. The steering can feel a bit slow but it weights up progressively, and has pronounced on-center feel, which helps it stay on track on interstates. Curves don't throw it, either, as its adjustable suspension lowers itself a fraction of an inch for more stability at higher speeds. Big wheels and tires and large brakes add to the aura of semi-invincibility. This isn't one of those vehicles that drives smaller than it is--but it's still athletic in its own way.
The Range Rover comes into its own when the pavement ends. Its sophisticated Terrain Response System has remarkable capability no matter what the surface--snow, mud, sand or gravel. All in concert, the air suspension raises the body for even better ground clearance, and the traction systems modulate wheelspin to let the Range Rover clamber up some daunting hills and trundle some steep descents with very little drama. Despite its high style, the Range Rover acquits itself like a billy goat when it needs to.