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2008 Range Rover Road Test
Ideal for when you REALLY need to go off-road

By Bill Roebuck
2008 Range Rover.
Land Rover’s prestigious Range Rover has been recognized as the world's most capable SUV. That's just as well, since you really can't tell the current model from last year's from the outside. (The 2007 model underwent a significant interior redesign. Even so, several interior cabin improvements have been implemented for the 2008 model year.)

Despite the changes, Land Rover designers continue to place controls in awkward places. One example is the window control buttons, positioned flat on top of the window sill. It's way better than the totally illogical arrangement on the centre console on some previous generations of Range Rovers, but the fact remains there are many better ideas the designers could have adapted from other automakers for these controls alone.

After driving the Range Rover Sport for a week (a vehicle I didn't much like, although most of my experience with it was in the city, which isn't really where it belongs), I was quite happy to switch the following week to the smaller, more nimble and, in my view, better-designed Land Rover LR2.

As an everyday vehicle, the Range Rover proves frustrating, yet it's powerful off-road, go-anywhere capabilities can make almost any driver quite forgiving of such interior quibbles. In the city, it's cumbersome to manoeuvre. It also seemed to attract a lot of dirty looks from other drivers, most of whom were 'way down there' compared to the high, throne-like seating position in the Range Rover.

Land Rover’s effective Terrain Response system was added as Range Rover standard equipment in 2007. A handy control dial positioned on the centre console automatically adjusts a host of powertrain and chassis systems to suit driving conditions. Five available positions optimize normal dry-pavement driving, snow, mud, sand and rock crawling. Some of the icons for these selector positions were not readily intuitive, but a quick scan of the manual clears up any confusion quickly.

In a test on a manufactured off-road test bed that combined a steep hill and very rough potholes, the Range Rover walked the course with confidence. Any driver should have no aversion to taking a Range Rover anywhere he or she wants (save for the danger of scratching the paint on such a costly vehicle).

A second 2007 improvement was the addition of an electronically controlled locking rear differential to the list of standard equipment.

On the heels of last year’s complete redesign of the interior cabin, a few finishing touches have been added for 2008:

• Door sill plates are changed to an attractive ribbed-metal design.
• A convenient storage slot for the rear seat entertainment system’s remote control is added to the rear seat centre armrest.
• A previously optional leather dash top cover is now standard equipment.

In contrast to my view of the interior layout, Land Rover’s design director Gerry McGovern is proud of how function, luxury, and beauty blend so well in the Range Rover’s interior. He explains, “General layout and detail features are purposely practical and designed to enhance the day-to-day driving experience. We've made major strides in stowage and control location. For example, use of an electronically-controlled parking brake system facilitated moving the shift lever closer to the driver and increasing centre-console storage capacity. Twin glove boxes – one stacked atop the other and opened by an electric release button – make convenient use of the passenger side of the instrument panel.

“Of course the Range Rover’s instrument panel conforms to the latest safety requirements while exemplifying our highly praised architectural design theme. Luxury and craftsmanship live in harmonious accord. The Range Rover’s command view driving position is a customer favourite and we provide no less than nine air bags. In the gauge cluster, the instruments' highly legible graphics are surrounded by bezels exhibiting a rich brushed-aluminum finish.”

The high driving position does get my vote. But having 18 buttons to control the stereo and AC system -- just too confusing!

Range Rover Sport

The Range Rover Sport model, available with Land Rover’s Dynamic Response suspension system, is an ideal SUV for those who enjoy fast, long-distance touring. The Dynamic Response suspension system, which is standard on the Supercharged edition and optional on the naturally aspirated HSE, ensures flat cornering, tight body control, and sharp steering response. Powerful Brembo front disc brakes, included in the Dynamic Response Package, provide exemplary stopping power.

Land Rover’s exclusive Terrain Response system provides the Range Rover Sport with a competitive edge in off-road capability. Add a choice of two sophisticated V8 engines (Supercharged and naturally aspirated), four-corner independent air suspension, an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission, permanently engaged all-wheel drive, plus a long list of premium cabin features and the result is the SUV with a major accent on sport.

Improvements for the 2008 model year include:

• New power-folding exterior mirrors.
• An eight-way power seat in the front-passenger position.
• A new, power tilt and telescope steering wheel adjuster.
• A tray with a rubber mat bottom surface located in front of the navigation screen.
• New finish for areas of the centre stack, console, and glovebox release.
• Leather door inserts are improved on the HSE.
• On the Supercharged version, interior trim is now straight-grained walnut. Dark Zebrano trim is a no-cost option.
• HSE models equipped with the optional Luxury package also have Straight-Grained Walnut trim with Dark Zebrano available as a free alternative.

Land Rover’s Integrated Body-frame construction marries a hydroformed-steel ladder frame to a highly rigid monocoque body. The benefits are exemplary collision performance, efficient packaging, the stiff platform needed for superior handling and manoeuvrability, and a composed cabin environment. Miniature dampers between the frame and body at mounting points and a tuned mass damper located at each corner of the vehicle help block the transmission of noise, vibration, and road harshness into the passenger cabin.

By the way, Tata Motors acquired the Jaguar Land Rover businesses from Ford Motor Company on March 26, 2008. Tata Motors is India's largest automobile company. With over four million Tata vehicles plying in India, it is the leader in commercial vehicles and among the top three in passenger vehicles.

Pricing, effective from May 1, 2008, in Canada is as follows:

Range Rover
Range Rover HSE -- $92,900
Range Rover Supercharged -- $110,800

Range Rover Sport
Range Rover Sport HSE -- $71,600
Range Rover Sport Supercharged -- $85,500

Posted June 10, 2008

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