Putting the ‘sport’ in sport-utility with a drive in the new 510-horsepower supercharged Range Rover and Range Rover Sport in Vermont.
In any other $110,000 luxury car, having muddy water splish-splashing across the top of your highly-waxed hood would necessitate a frantic phone call to a towing company, quickly following by a text to your insurance broker.
But not so in a Range Rover. Right now, this British bulldog is powering through the fast-flowing stream, pushing ahead a bow-wave worthy of the Queen Elizabeth II
And when we reach the rock-strew river bank with its near-vertical edge, the Range Rover’s polished 20-inch alloys seemingly Velcro themselves to the bank and majestically, and rather incredulously, haul us out of the soup.
Two words keep coming to mind time and time again; Utterly. Amazing.
We’ve come to picturesque Manchester, Vermont and to the historic Equinox Resort & Spa. This luxurious, AAA Four Diamond inn dates back to 1769 – Theodore Roosevelt was a regular visitor – and is currently home to the Land Rover Experience Driving School.
Here, anyone can book a course, get behind the wheel of the latest Land Rover or Range Rover, and perfect their off-road driving skills on the school’s 80 acres of rugged backwoods.
Our mission is a little more specific. We’ve come to test out Range Rover’s new supercharged ‘twins’ – the fabulous 2010 Range Rover Autobiography, and the high-performance 2010 Range Rover Sport.
What they both have in common is a brand new 5.0-liter supercharged V8 under the hood producing a whopping 510 horsepower. This is akin to having a Saturn rocket attached to your rear bumper.
Coupled with a massive 461 lb-ft of torque – an engine’s true measure of muscle – you get zero to 60 mph acceleration in a mere 5.9 seconds. That’s fast. Very fast.
Since its introduction way back in 1970, the Range Rover has always been the world’s most complete, most capable luxury all-terrain vehicle. And for 2010, this automotive King of the Road comes with a host of major chances to re-confirm its title.
Changes to its iconic design are aimed at giving the legendary 4x4 an even more elegant, more sophisticated look. They include a new, deeper front grille, a slimmer front bumper and slimmer, more ‘jewel-like’ headlamps.
Land Rover Design Director, Gerry McGovern and his team has given the exterior a more ‘horizontal’ emphasis – from the three-stripe LED turn signals to the three bars in the side vents. The aim? To enhance the car with an even stronger visual stance and more road-hugging look.
Climb aboard and you’ll notice the cabin is even more luxurious than before, with twin needle stitching, upgraded materials and a real focus on quality. The Autobiography version we’re driving – it’s a $14,500 package for the $95,125 Range Rover Supercharged – gives the cabin a true Bentley-esque look and feel.
Included in the package is the highest-quality Semi-Analine leather for the seats, rich leather for the center and lower dashboard, and even a leather headliner. There’s also a lot more wood trim; 14 more pieces to be precise.
But there’s also a real technology story here. Press the ‘start’ button and watch in amazement as the instrument panel is transformed. Instead of traditional analog dials, there’s a new 12-inch Thin-Film Transistor screen which projects the instruments in crystal-clear virtual reality.
It’s on the road – and off – where the changes really shine. The new supercharged engine is just sensational in the way it delivers its seamless, reactor-like power. There’s almost 30 percent more power than with the previous supercharged 4.4-liter V8, which becomes immediately evident the moment you pull out to pass and squeeze the accelerator.
But despite its size, this new Range Rover is still an accomplished handler. And for 2010, its dynamic feel on the road is heightened by a new Adaptive Dynamics suspension.
Using sensors that monitor wheel movement 500 times a second, the system continuously adjusts the new dampers to optimize body control, sharpening the handling while delivering a magic carpet-like ride. Even over a rutted field.
After a morning spent effortlessly cruising the Vermont countryside, mud-plugging through the Equinox’s estate, and wading through that gushing torrent, we switch gears and slide behind the wheel of the new 2010 Range Rover Sport Supercharged.
The ‘Sport’ badge on the rear says it all. Here is the most exciting, most dynamic, most exhilarating
member of the Land Rover line-up, and a true performance machine.
Its extensive makeover for 2010 includes over 3,000 component upgrades, a new focus on interior quality, a heavily-revised chassis and major styling changes. Plus some truly stunning new color choices.
The new look includes a complete new front end design featuring a narrower two-bar grille and larger air intake, new headlamps and a slimmer, re-shaped bumper.
At the rear, Range Rover-inspired light clusters create a fresh new look along with a re-sculpted bumper. Completing the new look for the $74,195 Supercharged is a set of stunning, new-design 20-inch wheels.
Inside, the cabin retains its sporty, cockpit-like feel, but incorporates higher quality materials, sumptuous soft-touch finishes and superb detailing. And to enhance the clean look of the interior, the fascia now has 50 per cent fewer switches.
But look behind the Sport’s leather-trimmed steering wheel and you’ll see two paddle shifters allowing the driver, for the first time, to shift gears manually.
Fire-up the new 510bhp supercharged 5.0-liter V8, select ‘Drive’ for the revised six-speed ZF automatic transmission and this new Range Rover Sport is ready for action.
To allow drivers to really exploit the capabilities of the new Sport, Land Rover engineers have placed even greater emphasis on tuning the chassis for high-performance on-road driving.
Like the flagship Range Rover, the Sport features continuously variable Adaptive Dynamics suspension along with a new body-roll-resisting Roll Stability Control system and upgraded steering and brakes.
Also key; its highly-advanced Terrain Response feature – designed to optimize the engine, transmission, and suspension settings to suit differing off-road conditions – now includes a new Dynamic Program designed purely for sporting, on-road driving.
And on-road, powering through some of Vermont’s twisting, snaking back roads, the Sport Supercharged feels sensational. It’s fast, agile, athletic, thrilling the driver with its awesome power and response.
Come the end of the day, we’re faced with a real challenge. Which supercharged Range Rover would we want to drive home in? The luxurious Autobiography, or the ultimate performance Sport. An impossible choice.
But one thing became crystal clear from our day in Vermont; these are the best four-by-fours. By far.
For more information on the 2010 Range Rovers, please visit www.LandRoverUSA.com
. For information on the Land Rover Experience Driving School at The Equinox Resort & Spa, please visit www.equinoxresort.com/thingstodo/driving.