With State-Of-The-Smart 4WD And 400 Horses Underhood, What's Not To Like? And Get Over The 20s Already.
Last year, Land Rover unveiled the LR3 (Discovery 3, in Euro-speak), a midsize luxury 4x4 SUV that marked the company's first all-new offering as a member of the Ford stable. Based on a two-piece hydroformed chassis code-named T5, the LR3 boasted such new developments as four-wheel independent air suspension and a dial-actuated "Terrain Response" four-wheel-drive system, that allows the driver to literally tune the vehicle's performance parameters to best suit the terrain at hand.
This year, Land Rover returns with two more entries. One vehicle, already safely ensconced in the pantheon of 4x4 legend, sports enhanced levels of performance and refinement; while the other, brand new for '06 and based on the T5 chassis, takes the Land Rover brand in a radically new direction-the rarified high-performance sport/touring segment previously thought the province of SUVs from Mercedes, BMW, and Porsche.
2006 Range Rover
The senior statesman of the Land Rover stable, the Range Rover has been the ride of choice for Hollywood notables, Saudi princes, and the English gentry for over three decades. The original "luxury-utility" vehicle, it has always placed a premium on go-anywhere, off-pavement ability-sometimes at the expense of on-road ride and handling. Later incarnations of the Range Rover have largely addressed this concern, and the newest Rover-extensively refreshened for the 2006 model year-is far and away the most streetable yet.
Beneath The Bonnet
Introduced last year on the LR3, the Range Rover's Jaguar-sourced 4.2L all-alloy V-8-punched out to displace 4.4 liters-is the base HSE-trim powerplant, capable of delivering a peak 305 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. In most 4x4 applications, this would be power aplenty, but Range Rovers are heavy vehicles, approaching three tons in full-tilt trim, so Rover engineers, in partnership with Eaton, have equipped the '06 Rover with a supercharged version of the 4.4-a 4.2L which employs a fixed-rate camshaft in lieu of the variable valve timing used by the naturally aspirated version to optimize torque output across the rpm band. (Ironically, the motor reverts back to stock displacement with the addition of the supercharger, due to the 2mm-thick cylinder liners that are added to reinforce the block. Why? Read on.)
The belt-driven (off the crankshaft) Eaton supercharger utilizes twin impellers, to compress incoming air via a serpentine "Cobra Duct" intake, and twin intercoolers to cool it down to best optimize charging of the increased airmass being forced into the cylinders via higher-capacity injectors. The result of this forced induction is a significant power boost-now a rated 400 hp at 5,750 rpm, and 420 lb-ft of torque at 3,500.
The benefits of the supercharger over, say, a turbo? Primarily, the supercharger is always "on"-that is to say, there's no dreaded "turbo lag" or spool-up time needed for the supercharger to deliver instant power under throttle. Letting our test unit's standard six-speed ZF automatic transmission do its thing with the V-8, our own seat-of-the-pants testing suggested zero-to-60 times in the mid-sevens-not too shabby for a 5,800-pound vehicle with not the sleekest aerodynamics. The only telltale sign of the 'charger's presence is a smooth whine directly off idle, and a lusty-but-not-overbearing exhaust note.
Over, Under, Sideways Down
As in years past, the Range Rover uses a full-time transfer case with a 2.93:1 low-range; overall crawl ratio is very good for OE issue-45.57:1 with the stock engine, 43.25:1 with the supercharger. (Eaton-equipped units get taller ring-and-pinions-you lose some crawlability but gain a stronger gearset.) An electronic locking center differential works automatically to manage torque transfer front to rear, and an optional electronic rear locking diff splits power to the rear wheels when tractive needs demand.