I know it's not fashionable to like big, heavy, gas-guzzling SUVs, but, oh, was I smitten by this Range Rover. Our test car is very dark brown, almost black, with a brown and cream interior that is absolutely gorgeous. You open the door, and you're overwhelmed by these brown leather seats with thick, cream-colored piping: absolutely scrumptious. It also has thickly woven brown carpeting, a brown stitched-leather upper dash over a cream-colored main section, and black and chrome accents. It's just a stunning interior environment.
The Range Rover, which was revamped for 2010, doesn't just look great, it also drives really well. It has a remarkable feeling of solidity and refinement. It rides beautifully, which makes me wonder if the Jaguar engineers had a hand in the chassis tuning. The new, 375-hp version of the Jaguar-sourced V-8 is all the power this vehicle needs, so the 510-hp supercharged version of this engine that is also available must be something else.
The center instrument cluster is a plasma-type display; when the vehicle is in Park, it displays a sky with clouds and such. When the vehicle is moving, it displays a tachometer and a speedometer whose numbers gradually light up as both revs and speed rise; only the numbers that have been reached are displayed; the rest are grayed out. Very cool.
The steering, although a bit light, is still a revelation for a big SUV, as it's very precise and very communicative. There are a number of sophisticated camera systems for viewing various exterior angles of the car, including the views to the front and side, to aid the driver when he's pulling out of a parking space, say, or out of an alley into traffic. Unfortunately, I could not manage to get the plain-old rearview camera to work at all, so I had to rely on the old-fashioned method of backing up: turning my head and looking through the rear hatch. Speaking of which, I was surprised that, when I hit the button on the center console that releases the rear hatch door, it only unlocked it; it didn't rise up on its own.
The touch-screen navigation system is the latest derivation of the Jaguar/Land Rover system, and it works quite well and is intuitive. All of the secondary controls are very handsome; many are ringed with chrome.
There's no question that the Range Rover is a vehicle that's a bit over the top, but it's extraordinarily appealing nonetheless.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor