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Range Rover V8 Supercharged - 8th April 2008


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Phone call from the Brother-in-Law, "I’ve gone and done it now, I’ve bought a Rangie". "Which one?" (hoping he would say the diesel). "The bloody big V8 with the Supercharger!" Silence on my part. "What do you think?" "OH-MY-GAWD" is what I thought - I said, "That’s another Polar Bear who’s going paddling".

I make no bones about it, I don’t like these huge great Sports SUV’s (Severely Useless Vehicle just in case you lot though I had one too many ’sports’ in there). I think they are the distillation of all things that are bad about society, thundering down the road like some huge dinosaur consuming vast quantities of everything. I am worried that they give succour to the anti-car brigade. They have become the "bête noire" of the politicians who can wave their green flag, and their cause is not helped by the fact they seem to be driven by the "I’m all right, Jack" crowd and over-paid footballers. Now that Ian’s gone and bought one I’ve got to reassess my views as I think he is one of the world’s top blokes - the purchase has gone and put me in a tight corner; Sports SUV drivers = self abuser, Ian drives a Sports SUV but he’s a Top Bloke - it’s not easy holding strong opinions. When he asks "do you want a go?" I bite the bullet for the sake of DA and say yes.

I want to get some facts out in to the open - this shed, no sorry, small industrial unit, weighs 3.1 tonnes, is 5m long, has 400bhp and 420lbs torque. That’s enough to hurl it down the road at 130mph and hit 62 in 7.1 seconds. To put that in perspective, it weighs more than my Audi A6 and my wife’s Suzuki Swift combined but it’s as quick to 60 as a Mini Cooper S! This leviathan certainly doesn’t lack confidence and the fact that this example is finished in silver with privacy glass (that’s heavily tinted to you and me) does little to hide it’s presence - it has more than a little whiff of "Gangster Rapper" about it.

As with most SUVs you have to climb up into it but it’s worth the effort - what an interior! A real techno-fest wrapped in yards of super soft leather and a Steinway Grand's worth of piano wood. The seats are stunning with full electric movement in every conceivable plane and I would defy anyone not to get comfortable in them. Your eyes are drawn to the centre console and the brilliant command centre touch screen which houses the Sat Nav, TV, DVD & Harmon Kardon HI-FI controls. It’s all very clear and much better than the BMW i-drive but it would take you weeks to read the instruction books and months to get used to it - probably easier just to take a kid along to show you how to use it.

This juggernaut has every conceivable comfort and accessory you thought you needed and some you didn’t even know you wanted. In no particular order; heated seats, 4-way climate control, heated and power adjustable steering wheel, mood lighting, two DVD slots, two TV screens in the back to watch the two different DVDs, 6 CD Auto Changer, MP3 connection, voice commands for all functions, bluetooth phone, rear facing parking camera (you can start to see where all the weight is coming from), front and rear parking sensors, and my favourite of all, the remote control, wireless camera - this is a gem; the idea is you put it in your horse box so you can watch your equine friends on the TV during the dash to the Polo match.

The driving position is imperious and with a little switch fiddling you have the seat just the way you want it - you are now at the helm of this battleship ready to set sail. The engine may be a V8 but it starts quietly and only a good poke of the huge organ style throttle pedal brings the classic V8 woofle in to play. Select ’D’ and off you waft into the traffic and nearly over the little Honda Civic scrabbling to get out of you way. Everything else looks tiny as you bowl up behind it, barely troubling the engine.

As the traffic clears I give the throttle a shove and the exhaust note hardens, big V8 rumble overlaid with the whine of the Supercharger heralding the charge forward at a very remarkable rate. "Try it in sport and full kick-down" comes the advice from Ian (you mean that wasn’t?). So I knock the gear lever over to the left and boot it - a small lag and then, bang, it’s off! ’KIN ’ELL, it’s like a sports car! You get a real shove in the back (that’s 420lb of torque for you) and what a noise accompanies this burst of speed. As it’s flying down the road it sounds like an old WW II fighter plane and you’re sitting up so high it’s a pretty good analogy.

Of course, the other advantage of sitting up this high is I can see the road ahead is clear up to the island. I keep my foot down and the speed just builds, but you feel strangely detached from it all as the steering is a little vague.

Well the island I mentioned is arriving fast and Ian’s looking a tad anxious. Off the power, on to the brakes and I am very pleased to say the Brembo’s have a very firm grip and haul the speed down with no fuss and loads of feel through the pedal. Onto the island it rolls, well 3 tonnes this high up is going to, but it grips and as the exit approaches I floor it again and this time I am using the lever to change gear. Well I thought I was, I pull back the shifter and nothing happens, try again, same response. "Push it forward to go up" comes the advice from the passenger seat just as the limiter comes in - no racing sequential box this, it works the other way round. Once I’ve got this sorted it just flies down to the next island, small lag as the next gear is selected and the wave of torque carries us relentlessly forward.

The next few minutes followed the same pattern as each roundabout was reached. Scrub the speed, haul it into the corner, hit the apex, nail the throttle and, bang, we’re off again accompanied by the mighty bellow of the engine.

As we catch the next batch of slower moving peasants, sorry traffic, I can’t help but think as I bear down on them "I have you now my soft bellied friends" as this thing brushes aside all before it. Long sweeping bends taken at a good lick induce a strange pitching feeling not unlike a large boat in a strong swell. I would have thought the air suspension and trick electronics would have taken care of that but I suppose the laws of physics apply even at this end of the market.

Which takes me on to my next point, at 2m tall and just over 2m wide it presents quite a full face to the air it pushes up against. Along with its weight this takes a toll on the fuel consumption - the best I saw was 22mpg. "Not bad" you’re thinking, but that was coasting up to the roundabout, foot off the gas. Worst? Flat out exiting the corner - 3.1mpg. Ian’s seen 2.5mpg, yes 2.5, I’m sorry but that’s not acceptable.

The only thing that drops faster than the petrol gauge is the value. List price for this car is £74,800, chuck in the extras on this one and 12 months ago someone wrote a cheque out for £78,500. Ian picked it up for under £40k, I’ll type that slowly so you can take it in, it lost 51% of its value in 12 months - ouch!

I have to say it’s a truly remarkable vehicle; it goes like a Hot Hatch, it seats 5 in the comfort only normally afforded by a luxury saloon, has the ability to ford rivers and climb mountains like its brother the Defender but, and it’s a very big but, I can’t help but think it doesn’t do any of them better than the three vehicles it’s trying to be. OK, you could argue it is three cars rolled into one but it’s simply too big, too thirsty and too expensive, not only in initial cost and deprecation, but also running costs to be taken seriously. It’s undoubtedly the best in its class and certainly makes a big statement but I’ve got a nagging feeling, like the dinosaurs, the biggest and baddest of them all came just before the extinction of the species.

Nick.

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