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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.
And speaking of 4x4, the '06 Range Rover gets all the latest the hardware (and software) that first appeared on the LR3 last year, including an electronically controlled center differential, four-wheel electronic traction control (4ETC), and multiple mode off-road settings for sand, snow and mud. The height-adjustable suspension can "raise the skirt" enough to let you wade through almost 20 inches of standing water, while the Hill Descent Control (HDC) and All-Terrain Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) make it pretty hard to get into trouble when the pavement ends. Brakes on the Sport model are upgraded to match the potential of the "howler" V-8—four-piston Brembo units up front, riding on 14.2 inch rotors vs. the standard 13.3-inch rotors used on the non-supercharged Range Rover HSE.
There are also visual markers to clue people in to the presence of the 400-hp engine, including prominent (and functional) "power slats" in the front fenders to help dissipate hot underhood air, clear backlights, "adaptive" High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights, metal-color mesh grille, those monster 20-inch rims and special black-on-silver badging.
But what may be the best selling point of the '06 Range
Rover is not its newfound muscularity or even the
I got to test one out on some very narrow and winding up-and-down wine country roads (many with little or no shoulder and a steep drop beyond) in Northern California's wine country and the stability of this vehicle relative to say a Benz G500 is like the difference between a state of the art sport bike and a vintage hardtail Harley. One (the G500) lets you know in very clear and sudden ways it does not appreciate either high-speed or high-load cornering. The other (the Range Rover) hardly requires any special treatment or changes to your driving style. The Rover's electronic load-leveling "multi-mode" air suspension (EAS) simply seems able to keep the vehicle settled and stable under almost any type of driving. The ZF Servotronic steering gear is weighted just right—not too light, not so heavy you need Popeye forearms to make quick inputs.
As in the LR3, all this civilizing was achieved without in any way compromising the off-road capability or toughness of the vehicle. The Range Rover retains its heavy boxed steel, body-on-frame construction, aggressive angles of approach (29-34 degrees) and departure (24.2-26.6 degrees), ground clearance (11.2 inches under the front axle) and will go up hills and through muck with the best of them. But it will also take you down from the mountain on those winding, unevenly paved switchbacks without lurching from side to side like a sailor on leave.
It’s an exceptionally nice, zero-compromises vehicle, on or off-road, and worth every penny of its $90k asking price. To quote Ferris Bueller: "If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up."
Base price: $89,950
Engine: DOHC supercharged 4.2 liter V-8, 400 hp/425 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, full-time four-wheel-drive
Length x width x height: 195.7 x 86.3 x 75 in
Wheelbase: 113.3 in
Curb Weight: 5778 lb
Fuel economy (EPA cty/hwy): 17.5 mpg (combined)
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, side airbags, side curtain airbags, traction and stability control
Major standard features: GPS navigation, sunroof, three-zone climate control, premium audio system
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles, four year/50,000 mile roadside assistance