The Range Rover is the vichyssoise of SUVs—cool, creamy, and richly flavored. Usually, having too many cooks in the kitchen only results in spoilt soup, but not so for the Range Rover. Designed during the British icon’s short stint in the BMW pantry and launched by the chefs at Ford (which had acquired the Rover brand from the Germans), the Range Rover is a silky blend of Bavarian engineering, English refinement, and American utility. Like the leek-laced potato soup, the Range Rover is one concoction we wouldn’t mind seeing on our menu every day.
On a gray morning, the 2006 Range Rover Supercharged arrived in our San Francisco driveway. Hungry for some rays after weeks of June gloom, as the early summer pattern of coastal foggy weather is called in California, we jumped onto the buttery, navy-piped, parchment leather of the Rover’s driver’s seat. Using the center-console touch screen to access the standard DVD-based navigation system, we called up a route to San Gregorio beach, where an earlier check of www.weather.com had shown a patch of sunlit sand 32 miles south of San Francisco.
We shifted the Rover’s six-speed automatic transmission into reverse and the route map was replaced on the LCD screen by color video from the standard, wide-angle backup camera. The pavement behind the Rover’s 195 inches of length was clear so we let up on the brake and 5700 beautifully crafted pounds started to roll. That’s a heck of a lot of car, you might be thinking. True, but big is beautiful, at least where the federal luxury tax is concerned. Despite the fact that the Rover’s base price is just north of 90 big ones, the Range Rover’s heft—and the perversity of federal tax law—exempt this über-lux SUV from the levy.
After a drive through the Castro, where the super-sharp Buckingham Blue metal and endless sheets of Roverian glass grabbed more than a few glances, we followed the navi’s commands southward. Merging onto the freeway, we stepped on the gas and the Rover’s 4.2-liter, supercharged V-8 engine shot us forward. With a crushing 400 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, this engine propels the Rover from zero to 60 in 7.1 seconds according the folks at Land Rover. Also offered is a normally aspirated V-8 engine, which is good for 305 hp and 325 lb-ft. But, unless you need to save the 15-grand upcharge, definitely go for the amped plant—there is little difference in mileage between the two engines and the supercharged kit also brings banging Brembo front brakes and that all-important extra inch on the tires.
As we sped along twisty, two-lane highway, the Rover’s velvety ride reminded us more of a flight on a Boeing jetliner than a drive in a high-profile automobile. The steering was communicative and the electronically controlled air suspension system smoothed the bumps and kept the body roll to a pleasant minimum. Once we reached San Gregorio, the Rover’s permanent four wheel drive and electronic traction control stood ready to help if we hit any deep spots in the parking lot’s sand. Aided by the beeps of the standard front and rear parking sonar, we backed the Rover into a tight space and then looked out over the beach.
Alas, during the 45 minutes of our drive from San Francisco, the break in the fog had closed over San Gregorio, too. We sighed, reclined our seat, and then lowered the volume of the 710-watt, 14-speaker harman/kardon surround sound stereo. Now, if only we had a nice cup of soup to chow on before we took our oceanfront nap.
Land Rover is a gay-friendly company.