As it does with so many aspects of life, the law of diminishing returns applies to extravagant vehicles. It applies to the performance. It applies to the luxury accoutrements. It even applies to public perception of a vehicle's worth.
The acclaimed Range Rover is no exception to this law.
A friend of mine heard I was driving the 2014 Range Rover Supercharged for a week and insisted that I stop by his office so he could check it out. Always one to enjoy the attention of driving expensive cars, I was happy to oblige, especially considering the big Rover is my friend's "lottery win dream car."
Showing up unannounced and tossing the key to him resulted in my friend's giddy response and a small entourage of followers keen to see what was so special about the boss's dream machine. Most commented on the size of the big SUV, especially slotted between a small roadster and a subcompact in the parking lot. Others speculated at the cost. "What's this thing worth, about 75 grand?"
Therein lies the first problem. To most of these kind folks, any vehicle valued at more than $50,000 or 60,000 is an expensive luxury car, the kind driven by athletes, celebrities and people of importance. To spend much more than that is pointless and couldn't possibly be justified. And when most of the parking lot is filled with perfectly good cars costing $30,000 or less, you can see where they're coming from.
This Range Rover Supercharged however, starts at $115,000. When you add in some of the niceties like the glossy wood and leather steering wheel ($425), metallic paint ($1,800), premium sound system ($1,850) and a fancy lighting package ($1,760), you're rapidly flying past $120,000 and haven't even paid the government yet. So by common perception of the folks at my friend's office, this thing is overpriced by about $40,000.
Naturally upon learning the price, people become either put off or keen to learn what magic powers the Range Rover possesses.
To begin with, this thing has presence. Perched up high on its 22-inch wheels, the car casts an imposing shadow. Its paint is as deep and liquid as I can recall seeing on any modern car and inside, the glossy wood, Berber carpets and fragrant leather could have been stolen from the Royal study.
Beneath the bonnet resides the supercharged 5.0-litre V8 now common to various high-end Jaguars and Range Rovers. This is truly the most magical aspect of the car. Presenting 510 horsepower to the driver's right foot enables the Range Rover to reach 100 km/hr in less than five seconds according to several American publications. This is an extraordinary achievement when one considers the nearly 2,500-kg heft of the big brute (astonishingly, a mass that is reportedly over 400 kg less than the previous generation Range Rover that featured far less aluminium than this one).
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Driving the Range Rover Supercharged in such an aggressive manner had me imagining what it must be like riding atop a rhino that's just been branded. It's ridiculously fast for its size and intimidating to everything around it, but the prospect of navigating such a beast around corners at speed is even more intimidating to the driver. Still, for its size, weight and water-tower-like centre of gravity, the big Rangie is decently capable at changing directions. And beating muscle cars at the drag strip – then proceeding to drive over the field at the end of the strip – would also be a little bit magical.
"Oh, you've got 420 horsepower? How cute. 510 right here, baby."
When not driven in such an undignified manner, the Range Rover's interior is a luxurious place to reside. The seats are tall and comfortable, the upgraded stereo powerful and crisp, and the ride is akin to being on a 150-foot power yacht at calm seas – smooth and fluid. What's more, with considerable insulation, the outside world, and indeed even the big V8, produce mere suggestions of sound to the cabin's occupants.
The new 8-speed automatic always chooses the right gear and helped the Rover achieve a 13.3 L/100 km consumption rate of premium unleaded during its stay with me. This figure is nearly identical to the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid I drove last year, so given the performance nature of the Rover versus the eco-nature of the Cadillac, this is no small feat. The standard (and sometimes annoying) auto-stop feature of the Range Rover also contributes to its mileage.
All of this is to speak nothing of Land Rover's legendary off-road prowess, which allegedly lives on in this newest flagship, and of which I cannot attest. There is no way I was going to risk the Rover's splendid finish or precious aluminum skin for my own off-road curiosities, no matter how badly I wanted to. With all the electronic considerations and engineering Land Rover has put into this car's off-road ability, it is reportedly an exceptional experience though. Options are provided for terrain type (gravel/snow, mud, sand and rock crawling), as well as ride height, which at its summit allows the fording of water nearly three feet deep. To ensure a tire isn't placed wrong, cameras are discreetly placed all over the Rover to give a view of what you have either run over, or are about to.
And should you get any mud on your precious Wellies, the rear of the Range Rover still opens in a two-part affair, allowing a convenient tailgate to perch upon and kick off the dirt.
I suspect the astronomical cost of admission is due in no small part to the storied name and ties to both royalty and the aristocratic population alike. There is very little the Range Rover Supercharged can do that many other SUVs costing half or less couldn't also achieve, short of impressing well-heeled folks at the pheasant-hunting club.
Fortunately for Land Rover, the cost of this car needs only be justified to those who wish (and can afford) to buy it. And the folks for whom a lowbrow Cadillac Escalade or vulgar Porsche Cayenne simply wouldn't cut it. The 2014 Range Rover Supercharged is truly a luxurious and exciting vehicle; one that's well-deserving of being on so many lottery-win wish lists.
Exterior Styling: 4.5/5
Interior Design: 4.5/5
Fuel Economy: 3/5
Pricing: 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged
Base price: $114,990
Vision Assist Package: $1,760
Meridian Premium Sound System: $1,850
Metallic Paint (Causeway Grey): $1,800
Destination / Delivery: $1,470
A/C Tax: $100
Total Price as Tested: $121,970