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A DOG'S LIFE

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Jan 24, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

A DOG'S LIFE

By JOHN GRAFMAN

The legend comes smack dab face-to-face with reality. Well-regarded as one of the best off-road vehicles, the Range Rover is both made for the occasion yet overdressed.

Let me explain. We in Southern California are in a record-breaking rainstorm. Hills, homes and our precious cars are no match for the sky's wrath. They wash away like they are no more sizable than toys. The muck and destruction left in the wake of the rising waters is what the Rover is all about.

While the Rover is more than capable to handle the worst, it also has an alter ego. This is not your run of the mill SUV. This is so well appointed it can easily pass as a luxury automobile. And there in lies the crux. Can I see myself forging rivers and streams, crossing muddy fields and climbing boulders or traversing the desert in this exceptionally exquisite motor vehicle? No way, heaven forbid if I get water or mud flung about on the taught sheet metal skin or nicks on the wheels or scratches and sand pitting. This vehicle can handle anything, but an equally important question is can I live with the damage?

As far as assaulting the urban jungle, the Rover is able to absorb the intrusion of the deepest of potholes as if they were no more than a footprint in the snow. Speed bumps have never been this easy to scale. The bump is barely an inconvenience. The Range Rover makes easy work of all of life's little annoyances.

The size of the Brit is both an asset as well as a deficit. I can't recall the last time I had so much available room in a ride. But just try and look cool in a tight parking lot and slither into a ninety degree slot without doing an up and back - try-and-try again maneuver. Well, this might be a small price to pay for the additional room - and it does handle far better than some others that are of comparable size.

The steering is one of the best parts of the driving fun. The correlation between turning the steering wheel and the response of the tires seems rather intuitive. And while all cars have a reaction once the steering wheel is pulled in one direction or another, the Rover behaves in very precise manner. The rack-and-pinion with Servotronic speed sensitive assist offers the right amount of feedback and isolation.

The steering is one half of the experience that surprises me. The suspension is a marvel. The height adjustable Enhanced Electronic Air Suspension affords a commanding penthouse view while able to keep its poise in normal driving situations. This is the way it should be; the Range Rover's driving characteristics makes most other SUVs look bad in comparison. No drama whatsoever. Of course, where is the fun in that? No tippy uncertain feel. The automatic load leveling independent front and rear suspension is one of the finest in the land of SUVs. The engineering expense is where part of the hefty purchase price goes, and thankfully so. While there are a few massive SUVs that compete with this in size, most waddle like an overstuffed hippo. The Range Rover is a benchmark in drivability in the plus size category.

The 282 horsepower engine has enough oomph to get on the freeways, even when the speeds get over fifty. The lack of drama during day-in, day-out activities are rather impressive. While this might seem like no big deal, spend a week in this and then another SUV. The Land Rover product will prove plenty capable if not outright defeat the competition. It does seem odd that a vehicle that has a go anywhere reputation is so exceptional at conquering the most mundane of drives.

This interior speaks to me. It says pampered and spoiled, and please wipe your feet before they touch my pedals. For us city folk, this is one big Jaguar. The leather hides provided in the optional luxury interior package are like butter, they're to die for! The contrasting piping only accentuates the seats. The adjustability on the front seats has a unique aspect. They articulate by bending not just at the base where the bottom meets the seat back, but also mid back. This is superior to just a simple lumbar support (which is also included) in contouring the back to that perfect angle. The seat warmers are extra efficient in rapid response to activation.

The interior feels overall like a modern living area. The colors and trim all say upscale and fashionable. The vertical wood trim is both different and pleasing. The GPS and info center on top the center stack is easy to read but a bit hard to reach. The auto is so big, the touch screen seems to be borderline inconvenient. The function controls are not easy on first blush to operate, but over time it becomes more understandable. The whole touch screen thing seems out of step with a play in the dirt machine. However, the new model eliminates the flip screen hidden cassette player, a welcome sign of the times. The folks at Rover seem to think the CD is here to stay. The 710-watt Harmaon/Kardon 14-speaker surround sound reminds the occupants that this Rover is the top dog. The audio function controls integrate well in function and style in the steering wheel.

One item that catches my eye is the huge expanse of glass in the windshield that is defrosted in short order by an embedded, ultra fine wire, electric element. On the rare occasion that frost is a problem, the heated windshield takes care of it effectively. However, far too often the fine wires catch sunlight and create a slight reflection in the glass or a minor annoyance. I like having my glass as clear as possible, call it passive safety. The few times I could use the heated windshield for defrosting are simply outweighed by my desire to see unobstructed the rest of the time.

The roominess allows for an exceptionally large center console and storage under the armrest. It amazes me that I can fit in a bulky sunglass case, a camera and a hat and still have room to spare. This in part makes up for the questionable size of the glove box. Speaking of size, the center ashtray can be popped out to allow for super-sized drink cups to fit inside the receptacle. In executing this simple maneuver not only did the ashtray pop out but also so does the center console section, oops! That simply pushes back down in place. I would have thought that this was screwed together better so those kinds of unintentional things don't happen. While this one incident is just that, some of the history of the Land Rover products left me a bit uneasy. I am happy to say that no other abnormal situations occurred on my watch.

Given the size and comfort of the Rover, I'm thinking of taking up residence in one. As pricey as this is, this is still more affordable than any condo around here. Besides with the view from up high and the noted interior plushness, I only wish I could take out a 30-year mortgage on this just to keep the payments down low.

The commanding presence is an awesome feeling. Sadly, as this becomes more commonplace on the streets the novelty wears off somewhat. Out in the dirt this would definitely be a sight. As the winter drags on, the conditions are getting more treacherous by the day. While the odds are I wouldn't consider going out of my way to rugged terrain, I won't be surprised if the relentless pounding of rain and such turns our once enviable roads into an off-road test bed for the permanent four-wheel drive attributes of the Range Rover. Just my luck, my turn at the helm will be over and where will I be then? No Rover and up a creek without a paddle.

For more information please go to www.landrover.com

SPECIFICATIONS

Price:Base $73,085, as tested $78,750

Engine type: 282 @ 5,400 rpm

Torque:325 lb.-ft @ 3,600 rpm

Drive configuration:Front engine / Permanent four-wheel drive

Transmission type:Five-speed electronically controlled automatic with locking torque converter. Normal, Sport, and Manual CommandShiftâ„¢ and fully automatic shift modes

Suspension:Front: Independent; electronic air suspension with MacPherson air struts Rear: Independent; cross-linked electronic air suspension with double wishbones

Electronic Air Suspension (EAS) with multi-mode operation. Both automatic and manual adjustments. Automatic load-leveling.

Wheels and tires:

Front: Standard - 19 x 8-inch aluminum alloy wheels; 255/55HR19 mud & snow radial tires, Optional - 20 x 8-inch aluminum alloy wheels; 255/50VR20 all-terrain radial tires (optional)

Rear: Front: Standard - 19 x 8-inch aluminum alloy wheels; 255/55HR19 mud & snow radial tires, Optional - 20 x 8-inch aluminum alloy wheels; 255/50VR20 all-terrain radial tires (optional)

Brakes: Front: Vented discs 13.5 in. x 1.2 in. diameter, power assisted Rear: Solid discs 13.9 in. x 0.47 in. diameter, power assisted Four-channel, all-terrain Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)

Overall length:195.0 in.

Overall width:75.7 in.

Overall height:73.3 in.

Curb weight (lbs.):5,379

EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway:12/16

Top Speed, mph:122 (Limited)

0-60 mph:9.0

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