Thursday, February 17, 2011

Test Drive: Range Rover Sport Supercharged

An Abundance of Ability 
The Sport does everything it is told effortlessly 

When it comes to status and luxury, sometimes it can be very difficult to explain why a certain item is considered more prestigious than others and this is especially true when the real price of the object is not known to the viewer.

It’s a bit like a millionaire wearing a fake Swiss watch and no one would believe that it is cheap while a regular chap saving money just to afford the genuine article may never be able to carry it like the rich person.

The prestige of a product can be generated through association or carefully crafted advertising.

For example Ferrari doesn’t advertise, they just spend hundreds of millions every year winning races and it is trough this association that their cars become valuable.

On the other hand Lexus relies on high end advertising to lift its products from being just beautifully built cars to objects of desire.

Racing is just more visible, a podium win is for everyone to see while meticulous engineering usually needs wood and leather to speak for it.

In the SUV world, the pecking order used to be quite clear, at the top of the muddy slope stood the Range

Rover all regal and aloof while everyone else had to fight for scraps of utility and versatility and mud plugging ability as badge of honours.

However things started to change in the last decade or so as more prestige carmakers are getting their tyres dirty and claiming that their vehicle is the ultimate leather-lined terrain tamer. Range Rover felt a bit left out.

They came up with the Range Rover Sport to appeal to those who want an SUV that is not embarrassed by small family hatchbacks on winding roads and at the pinnacle of the Sport range is the Supercharged.

The brochure and expensive booklet from Land Rover tells many details about horsepower, torque, switches that call on goblins to stop the Sport from getting stuck in the mud and even explains why their leather is better than everyone else’s but today we are going to completely ignore the numbers and talk about the experience of driving a Sport Supercharged.

Sure, some German company with a Dr in its name may have built a faster and more beautifully screwed together SUV, and the one with the white and blue propeller may say that theirs is unrivalled when going around corners but the Queen of England doesn’t drive their mud plugger, does she?

From the beginning, Charles Spen King knew that the most important feature of a royal terrain tamer is lofty seating and driving position. You need to feel like you are above the mess below and looking down.

The window line on the original Range Rover was so low that pedestrians could almost see your elbow and something happens to the soul when it finds itself perched so mightily on the beast that it could see both front corners.

Yes, the biscuit leather is soft and supple and feels like a baby cow’s bottom.

Yes, the all wheel drive system is smart enough to detect the size of gravel on the road and decide if the left rear tyres could handle 35.7 Newton metres more torque going round a bend.

Yes, the air suspension will find just the right stiffness so that the Sport would take a high-speed corner at 200km/h without feeling flustered.

Yes the price is reassuringly expensive.

However the one factor that makes the Range Rover Sport Supercharged special above the rest is the fact that it behaves like a perfectly trained butler; never intrusive but always there when you need it, the butler may be more skilled than the master but will always say that the boss is right and fix the mistakes quietly later.

When you push your shoes to the floor, the range rover responds by firmly shoving you into the leather and holding you there until you lift your foot, there is no question of it giving up before you are satisfied. Unless of course, if you want to go faster than the top speed of 220km/h.

When whipped the engine emits a soft and throaty gurgle that is both comforting and satisfying.

When you turn it into a corner, the Sport will carry through without rolling, so that the driver can keep his composure and calm.

When you dive across a muddy field, the all-wheel drive system will gently guide power to the most hard-working tyre without intrusion, the only indication that the system is working is a slight jiggling as the vehicle moves forward.

The Range Rover Sport Supercharged is Jeeves built like triathlon and nearly as smart as Stephen Fry and its standard response to any request is; “Very good, sir”.

Sure the others may be faster and more agile but why would you make Jeeves run when he can walk.

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