– Immense road presence
– Cabin trim and features
– Very very powerful
– Pricey with options
– Not as spacious as it looks
– Maybe too powerful
Desirability always seems to skip a generation with the Range Rover. The original was so special that they continued to build it alongside the quickly-forgotten second-generation model. And then came the third generation in 2003, which totally redefined how cool a Range Rover is, while clearly remembering the original. At the dawn of a generic new Range Rover for 2013, it only seems fair that we take a look back at the outgoing generation at its peak form, with the 2010 Range Rover Supercharged.
The grandly-tall boxy shape defines the Range Rover, and this full-size “L322” generation does an excellent job of capturing the essence of the classic styling from the 1970s, if a little diluted by its third frontal facelift since 2003. Facelifted just for the sake of it, the 2010 added glittery-LED driving lamps, a reshaped front-end, slightly redesigned tail-lamps, and new wheels.
Hopping into the high cabin can be easier if you can figure out how to lower the air suspension automatically, although we’d recommend springing for the optional side-steps if you plan to use this as a family hauler. Inside, passengers are greeted by acres of stitched leather and soft-touch surfaces all over, with thick cloth along the headliner and chunks of real wood on the dash. The window sill is set very low as all passengers sit high up, another trademark of the Range.
Space up front is great if you can get comfortable with the driving position. You need to set the seat ideally so your knees don’t touch the dash while you’re still able to see the bonnet, something that can be tough for shorter drivers. Space in the back is very good, though not particularly impressive given the size of the car. The thick leather seats are tall, with huge headrests, little side-bolstering, and little individual armrests up front to give that “business-jet” feel. There’s four covered cup-holders as well as several pockets and cubbies. The boot is massive, but loading it can be unwieldy with a hard-topped cargo cover that is confusing to dismantle, and a two-piece tailgate that opens to form a tray at the bottom, making it harder to grab your cargo when unloading.
The amount of tech is, at times, remarkably advanced, and at times surprisingly lacking. The touchscreen multimedia computer is simplistic but very user-friendly, integrating controls for the booming CD/MP3 stereo, navigation, trip computer and certain funky off-road suspension readouts. It’s also supposed to have a “dual-view” function where the driver and passenger sees different views on the same screen, but either we didn’t notice it or it wasn’t working. The excellent four-zone auto a/c has nice big knobs for quick control, with rear vents and controls as well. And there’s a big futuristic LCD screen that replaces the speedo/tach gauges, showing customisable graphical images of the gauges instead.
But then there’s the oddities, such as the smart key that allows keyless start, but still requires a key-fob button to be pressed to unlock the car. Or the nearly-invisible defrost wires etched all over the front windshield that become visible if light hits them at just the right angle, giving the feeling that you’re driving a prison van.
All the other usual luxury features are there, such as adaptive cruise control, HID headlights, parking sensors with rear camera, ventilated power-everything front seats with adjustable-everything, and a multitude of airbags. But the sunroof is tiny, and there are no aids such as blind-spot monitoring, something a car this big might benefit from.
The Range Rover “L322” was never fast, but then, it never needed to be fast. It always moved with adequate haste, so the new Jaguar supercharged 5.0-litre V8 they plopped into the engine bay for 2010 is serious overkill for this truck. Making 510 hp at 6000 rpm and 625 Nm of torque from only 2500 rpm, we timed this well-abused tester in the 0-100 kph run at 6.0 seconds flat in July weather! The super-smooth 6-speed automatic and auto all-wheel-drive make mince-meat of straight tarmac, but it feels a little too crazy flooring this truck, as the front rises so high under hard acceleration that all you literally see in the rearview mirror is the ground.
The throttle also feels a bit twitchy, so the sudden surges of power from idle feels undignified for a luxury vehicle. But at least the fuel economy has vastly improved compared to older models, as we recorded a palatable 17.8 litres/100 km, better than anything we’ve seen with any Toyota Land Cruiser.
The Range Rover handles better than most large 4x4s, partly because it’s a wee bit smaller than most large 4x4s, and partly because it comes with computer-controlled air suspension. The body roll is moderate as long as you’re not “forcing” the car. So if you turn into long smooth corners, it feels as flat as a decent car, but turn into a sudden sharper curve and it’ll lean like a monkey, though it never loses neither grip nor stability, not with all those electronic nannies watching.
It can be made to handle predictably once you figure out how it rolls, literally, but you still need to take care. The steering is lazy and lifeless. The brakes stop the car without diving thanks to some air-suspension trickery, though stopping power is average.
You’ll still feel like a king driving it around town though, with that high driving position. It rides fairly comfortably with 255/50 tyres on 20-inch alloys, though closer in smoothness to today’s firm-riding Mercedes-Benz S-Class rather than the ultimate waftiness of a 1980s Mercedes-Benz 500SEL. It is quiet up to 80 kph, after which physics takes over and wind noise becomes very obvious. And it is reasonably easy to park with the help of sensors, cameras and big windows.
The big Range Rover retains all the offroad capability that a Land Rover product deserves, ignoring the girly Evoque of course. The big rims limit it a bit, but there is still enough rubber to manage most dunes, while the ground clearance is excellent with the air suspension at its highest setting. There’s some terrain-management gimmickry for sand, mud, hill-ddescent and all that, but it’s largely redundant. The low-range gearing is enough equipment. However, few Rangie owners will ever venture offroad with their expensive possessions, mostly because they have no interest in offroading, but sometimes because they’re afraid of the temperamental electronics giving them the finger in the middle of the desert.
All in all, even with its weird handling, even with its quirky electronics, even with its potential reliability issues, and even while looked down upon by owners of outdated G-Wagens, the Range Rover remains the ultimate luxury 4×4 in existence, the softened next-gen model notwithstanding. And yet, it’s not going on our recommended list any more because competitors offer almost as much at a lower price. The only way to buy a Rover is by making an irrational decision, which pegs you at the same level as Maserati and Bentley owners.
Current Model Introduced in:
Test Acceleration 0-100 kph:
Observed Test Fuel Economy: