MY10 2010 Range Rover Supercharged Review
Location, Eastnor Castle in the United Kingdom - photography by Nick Dimbleby
After an overnight stay in Reading, Berkshire in an attempt to knock jet lag on the head, it was an early morning getaway along the M4, to the historic Eastnor Castle in Ledbury, Herefordshire.
It all sounded rather Posh, a quiet drive up to an immaculately maintained castle, in the world’s most luxurious off road limousine, but it's much better than that - Eastnor castle is also home to the Holy Grail of off road proving grounds.
There’s over one hundred kilometres of some of the wettest, muddiest, and meanest tracks I’ve ever experienced and that’s probably why it’s also home to the world renowned Land Rover Experience.
Anyone can do it too; you don’t need to be a motoring journalist or an off road expert to have this much fun, driving across the kind of terrain you only thought fit for a Challenger 2 tank, or perhaps a small boat.
But first things first, the drive up to Eastnor Castle in the all new Range Rover Supercharged would provide us with a good opportunity to evaluate the tarmac capability of the most powerful Range Rover ever built.
Even for someone in the know, it’s difficult to pick the exterior changes on the new model, and that’s exactly how Ranger Rover owners like it, subtle as she goes.
Stand back though, as the Land Rover PR guy points out all the changes, and you’ll kick yourself for not recognising every single one of them instantly.
The front end appears softer than the previous model, more elegantly styled with a deeper grille, but it’s ever so discreet.
And the front bumper has been rounded off for a cleaner look, with the fog lamps now integrated into the front air intake, which makes for a slightly sportier profile.
The most noticeable changes though, only become evident once the sun goes down and the LED cluster around the headlamps comes to life.
It’s a stunning view in the rear vision mirror, especially when the turn signals are activated, as these too are a series of three LED stripes, front and rear.
It’s been a while since I’ve slipped in behind the wheel of the flagship Range Rover. That’s a good thing, because it makes you realise that if Rolls Royce ever build an SUV, they will need to work extra hard just to emulate what Land Rover has achieved inside this vehicle.
Land Rover’s five-star experience starts from the moment you first open the driver’s door; that overpowering smell of the extra soft leather trim will have your olfactory glands doing star jumps every time you go through the motion.
And these perforated fully air-conditioned leather seats take comfort to new levels in the high-end the luxury segment, never mind the four-wheel drive category, where Range Rover has no peers.
I can’t be sure as to how many hides have been used for the interior trim in vehicle, but you can bet it’s plenty. There is hand-stitched leather everywhere. Apart from the seats, it includes the facia, dashboard and glove box. Even the headlining is trimmed in the stuff.
There’s heaps of new technology on board too, but the drive programme is tight, which means we’ve got to get to Eastnor Castle in just over an hour, so my co-driver can play with the impressive dual view screen on the way up there.
Don’t expect to see the usual round instrument cluster when you first climb aboard, they have been replaced by a 12-inch TFT screen with full high-definition graphics and virtual dials, which are much easier to read than the physical version, especially at night.
Hit the start button (no need to dock the key fob anymore) and you are immediately aware that there’s something serious lurking under the bonnet, despite class leading NVH insulation.
With a quick stab of my right pedal, I can unleash up to 375kW (502 hp) and 625Nm of torque, delivering sports car like acceleration from the word go.
That’s 0-100km/h in just 6.2 seconds, thanks to the sixth generation, twin vortex system supercharger - which has been virtually silenced - providing the boost. Twin water-cooled intercoolers keep things from overheating.
Moreover the big Range Rover feels quick, and there’s a decided lack of body roll as I push hard into a series of bends. In fact, the harder I push, the less roll there is.
Put that down to evolution in the ride and handling department, specifically, Range Rover’s new Adaptive Dynamics System, which monitors the damper pressure on each wheel an incredible 500 times per second, and it works both on and off road.
And don’t be too alarmed if you get a little over confident on a twisty mountain road with your right foot into it, and find yourself travelling too quickly to take a bend without catastrophe circumstances. The stability control system has been enhanced, and will automatically slow the vehicle in that type of predicament.
Not that the Range Rover’s braking effectiveness has ever been in question; in fact, from the very first two-door series one version, they have always had better than average brakes.
But this new six-pot Brembo system is mind blowing in its ability to haul this monster to a standstill from 162km/h, and yes, we tested it on an old racetrack.
That’s all the more inspiring, when I tell you that the Range Rover Supercharged, weighs in at a hefty 2710 kilograms.
I’ve just switched to manual shifting, now that we’re off the Motorway and onto a few secluded B roads, and I can report that gear changes are near seamless and quick shifting.
Not sure about the Satellite Navigation maps in the UK though, the lady’s voice keeps asking us to turn left after we’ve passed the actual turn, and my co-driver is no help whatsoever, as she’s watching a cooking show on channel Five, while I’m trying to follow the route guidance.
Yes, we’re both watching different programs on the same screen, its brilliant, and its called Touch-screen dual view, meaning the person in the passenger seat can watch TV, while the driver can view maps or monitor the direction of all four wheels, if travelling off road.
No first-class accommodation is ever complete without a name brand audio system, and this Range Rover has one of the best in-car systems you’re ever likely to listen to.
It’s a 1200 Watt 19 speaker harmon/kardon unit, the clarity of which will have you begging for an encore, even when synced to a lowly 8GB iPod Nano.
Eastnor Castle is dead ahead, and our convoy of spanking new Range Rovers prepares to enter the compound, in military like procession.
There’s a line up of historical Land Rovers in mint condition to my right, but I’m far more concerned about getting a drive in Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider vehicle.
After a brief presentation and safety briefing by the Land Rover Experience guys, we climb aboard our freshly washed Buckingham Blue Vogue for a wet and wild afternoon of driving.
Within a few hundred metres, our car is utterly putrid and we haven’t yet left the grass, a sign of things to come perhaps.
Within minutes, I find myself uttering a few light expletives, as from what I can see in front of us, this looks to be seriously hard-core.
I’m also starting to think about how to avoid becoming bogged, as it’s looking like a real possibility from where I sit.
Don’t worry, if you saw the river of mud ahead of us, you’d be saying the same thing.
Time to dial up Range Rover’s off road firepower, two clicks on the Terrain Response for Mud-Ruts, and hold down a button to engage low range as its about to get serious out here.
There are a few other cool bits of technology on board this vehicle, like the Surround Camera System, which provides live images from five miniature cameras around the exterior of the vehicle.
There are some deep ruts out here but they’re covered with mud and water, so it’s a good thing that I can bring up on the TFT screen, a visual display of all four wheels and their rolling direction as frankly, there are times when you have no clue which way your front wheels are pointing under all that bog.
The trail ahead has just vanished, it now looks like more of a swamp - this will be interesting.
I’ve been caught in mud like this year’s ago in a WW2 Willies Jeep, which I was told would go anywhere, so there were a few butterflies about, as I eased the Range Rover into what immediately became forty-centimetres of wet and slimy bog.
It can’t be this easy, we’re just rolling through this stuff like it was a Sunday afternoon drive in country England.
This thing has two diff locks, which are represented on the screen in front of me and not once have I seen either the front or rear icon light up. It will take a lot more than a river of bog to activate just one of these.
Although the mud is becoming deeper in these parts, there is little or no sensation of us crossing anything but a wet patch of grass.
Even when the vehicle is leaning at near 45 degrees, there is still no indication that the Range Rover is doing anything remotely difficult.
It’s quite extraordinary that a luxury vehicle of this size and dimensions, can breeze through a course such as this, without so much as a wheel spin or either diff-lock needing to engage.
I think we just crossed what used to be a river, with a thick mud base and again, the Vogue dismisses the challenge without so much as a single wheel changing direction.
I’m starting to think that we need some more challenging terrain, like Siberia in the dead of winter perhaps. It’s all just too easy here at Eastnor Castle, for Land Rover’s finest.
With the course completed, it was time to have some fun and strap into the Tomb Raider edition of Land Rover’s Defender, which was apparently one of only 2 specially modified outfitted Defender 110’s built for the movie at a reputed cost of $200,000 each.
I wasn’t expecting a four-point harness or the racing style seats, but then again, this is Lara Croft’s car.
And you won’t find the usual diesel engine under the bonnet either, that wouldn’t make the right noise for the movie.
Instead, there’s a bellowing 3.5-litre V8, no doubt seconded from the old Rover parts bin, and yes, it does make the right noises.
The steering is awful though, way too much play to be any use when chasing down the villains, but still great fun.
If the Land Rover Experience isn’t yet on the UK’s national tourism register, it should be, as this is way more fun that anything you’ll find at Disneyland.
Check back on CarAdvice.com.au in a few days for our First Steer on the new Land Rover Discovery 4, in the beautiful Scottish Borders region.