2011 Land Rover Range Rover HSE

Matt Tierney

I'd never been in a Range Rover before I had the chance to drive ours. I've heard nothing but praise when it comes to this car, so I had high expectations. Rightfully so for a car that has a base price of almost $80,000. Luckily, the luxury SUV met, even exceeded, all of my expectations.

Outside, the Range Rover is elegant and muscular at the same time. It's styling is much tamer than competitors like the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne, but it's still an attention-grabber. Exterior looks are only trumped by interior design and quality.

The navy piping on our parchment leather seats was perfect, the cherry wood trim on the dash was warm and inviting, and the overall feel inside is wonderful. Some luxury cars take embellishment too far, putting suede-this and aluminum-that everywhere, but not the Range Rover. Nothing inside immediately pops out at you, nothing seems out of place. That, to me, is how you define a car's perfect cabin.

If I were to buy a Range Rover HSE tomorrow, I wouldn't add a single option on, not even upgrade to a different trim level for the supercharged 5.0-liter V-8. It's absolutely flawless as a base model. I can't wait until we get another one in, or for the day I have $79,685 to spend on one.

Christopher Nelson, Road Test Editor

I was able to spend a lot of time in this Range Rover, driving it more than 500 miles over the weekend. I had just finished a 60-hour workweek and was exhausted, so I was not looking forward to my impending 240-mile drive on Friday evening. I wasn't able to leave until 6:30 and was backed up in traffic only 10 miles into the trek. Oh, and did I mention it was pouring rain? I was feeling sort of sorry for myself when I looked around and came back to my senses. Here I was, behind the wheel of an $80,000 luxury sport-ute, a vehicle far nicer than most of the more pedestrian transportation appliances with whom I was sharing the road. Surrounded by fine wood and leather in the cockpit of the Range Rover, I had an expansive view of the road thanks to the high seating position and the low windowline. All the luxury amenities were at hand -- navigation system, fourteen-speaker stereo system, satellite radio, an iPod interface, power everything.

In back was my dog, who also seemed to like the view out, as she spent a good part of the drive standing up on the seat looking out the window. And in the cargo hold were my roller bag, a dog bed, a set of golf clubs, and various other loose items, such as shoes and a bag of dog food. I'm happy to report that the traffic backup didn't last that long, the rain stopped about two hours into my drive, and I arrived at my destination by 10:00 p.m. After my rough week and the long drive, I arrived at my destination relatively fresh, thanks to the Range Rover.

The next morning we piled four people and two sets of golf clubs in the Range Rover. The only hitch was that one of those four people was my 76-year-old, five-foot-tall mother, for whom the climb up into the back seat of the Range Rover was nigh on impossible without a boost. She's actually rather spry (although she'd hate me to use that word when describing her, as it connotes old age), but the step-in height of this vehicle was just too much for her - we had to literally give her a boost to get in the back seat. And, once she and my sister (who is also only five feet tall) were in the back, they discovered that if they put their rear ends all the way to the seatback, their legs didn't touch the floor. My mom suggested that the Range Rover should come "with an old lady hoist," but perhaps running boards or a step stool would be a better choice. Actually, if you're really short and you must have a Range Rover, perhaps the new Evoque or the LR2 would be a better choice.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

Wait, this is an entry-level Range Rover? I must not have much of an imagination when it comes to interior decor, but I have a hard time picturing what a dressier interior could look like. The HSE's cabin is plenty opulent as it stands, especially when paired with the optional luxury interior package, which adds the creamy Oxford hides and the wooden veneers shown here. Is there really any need for the full-leather dashboard and semi-aniline leather seating found on the Autobiography, other than to serve as a trump card at the country club? I can't think of one.

Likewise, I have a hard time justifying the need to step up to the supercharged models when the HSE's direct-injection 5.0-liter V-8 is already stupendous. Though it provides only a mere 375 hp to the Supercharged version's 510 hp, the naturally aspirated engine is happy to rev, provides plenty of pull, and sounds drop-dead sexy when pushed hard. Perhaps I'm simply not dreaming big enough, but I fail to see a single way where an HSE fails and the Supercharged and Autobiography models succeed.

Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor

The Range Rover, in all its iterations, continues to be in class by itself. It marries go-anywhere capability and sumptuous style better than any other vehicle on the planet. But, while it's exceedingly desirable, it's far from ideal for the activities of every day life. Its upright, boxy proportions make it extremely susceptible to cross winds; over undulations at speed, the Range Rover's nose feels a bit floaty and disconnected from the road; and it's high floor can make ingress, egress, and cargo-loading a challenge. But there are plenty of positives, the most notable being the excellent powertrain; the engine is refined but appropriately growly under hard acceleration and the six-speed automatic is as smooth as they come.

As Evan mentioned, at $80,000, it's hard to believe that this HSE model is the base Range Rover. It does come with a fairly extensive list of standard features, with the heated steering wheel being my personal favorite. A close second is the heated windshield, which, on the morning I used it, cleared the dewy fog that coated my windows before I had reached the end of my driveway. In fact, it did the job several minutes faster than the standard HVAC defroster in other vehicles has on similar mornings. Admittedly, it can be somewhat distracting when the sun hits it just right.

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms

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