Test Drive: 2011 Range Rover Sport Supercharged

?Range Rover Sport Supercharged: A high performance off-roader?

The Land Rover brand now shows a good deal more promise than before, with significant and ambitious forward progress and improvement in the manufacture of both of the premium brand following its acquisition by TaTa, an East Indian based company.

The big news for 2010 was the entry level LR4 model. which replaced the LR3. The Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models both however, received significant enhancements and improvements throughout their model lineups.

Visually the entire Land Rover family took on a fresh new look with a smoother, more attractive and more contemporary front end styling and revised LED lighting, without sacrificing any of Land Rover?s traditional persona and DNA.

Four key elements dominated the development of last year?s Land Rover model lineup: first, a fresh approach to functionality; second, sustainability; third, premium-ness and luxurious-ness; and fourth, desirability? – Land Rovers continue to be used off-road globally, more than any other brand. The emphasis was placed on a personality change, rather than an architectural modification for both the interior and the exterior design changes, with an emphasis on greater formality and elegance. The exteriors reflected evolution, while the interiors represented a more revolutionary approach.

The Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models provide a choice of two engines ? both are 5.0-liter, DOHC, 32-valve 90-degree V8s with electronic, sequential direct fuel injection. The first is the same naturally aspirated version that drives the new LR4, while the second choice adds an Eaton, Roots-type twin-vortex supercharger and ups the power output ante to 510 horsepower, and the torque to 461 pound feet. Fuel economy is the same as that of their predecessors.

Power for the base Range Rover is delivered by a refined and powerful new 5.0-liter V8 Direct Injection engine that generates 375 horsepower along with 375 pound feet of torque, while qualifying as ULEV2 compliant. The engine is coupled?to a 6-speed adaptive automatic transmission, and an updated version of Land Rover?s award-winning Terrain Response? system.

The interior was all-new for 2010 in every model, and? despite the power increases, all models utilized a ZF HP28 6-speed electronically controlled automatic with CommandShift? manual control, featuring Normal, Sport and CommandShift? manual shift modes, with available paddle shifters; locking torque converter.

Other mechanical and safety enhancements included: a new braking system; Adaptive Dynamics suspension with Bilstein Damptronic valving; a variable steering system; an extension o Land Rover?s innovative Terrain Response system; Blind Spot Monitoring system; Adaptive Cruise Control; a unique Surround camera system; Adaptive front lighting with auto high-beam assist; Hitch Guidance, Tow Assist, Brake Stability Assist; and Keyless Entry. Another big plus was the reduced switch count, resulting in a more intuitive operation of vehicle functions.

The implementation of a new TFT instrument panel that projects gauges and information from the rear in place of physical fixed gauges continues as a novel and interesting feature.

My latest Range Rover test? vehicle was the supercharged Sport model, powered by the 510 horsepower 5.0-liter supercharged V8. The exterior finish was done in Bournville ? a deep mahogany-toned metallic finish with an Arabica and Nutmeg Premium leather upholstery with Anigra wood trim accents. The base price was set at $74,545. while options such as the Premium LOGIC7? audio system upgrade, Anigra wood trim, 20-inch wheel and tires and Inland transportation charges increased the final tally to $78,095.

SUMMARY: For the 2010 model introduction, I was afforded the opportunity to experience both the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport in driving through four states and winding up on a specially prepared off-road course located on a portion of the old Astor Estate property.

Naturally, as one would expect, both Range Rover models performed faultlessly, taking on all challenges effortlessly. The new interiors allow for wilderness excursions in the lap of luxury, and the new mechanical improvements seem capable of tackling any terrain with finesse, particularly?under the guidance and spotting in tricky places by Land Rover?s expert Off-Road team.

I?m not convinced that the added power generated by the supercharged Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models could be considered as really necessary or advantageous in rock crawling, but they do allow for easier towing and a more refined image, and in a traditional African safari scenario, I?m sure the supercharged Sport model would handily outrun an angry rhino.

Range Rovers in any form are virtually capable of everything that they are called upon to do in terms of off-road excursions, proven time and again on challenging press outings that require highly technical techniques over rugged terrain. The Range Rover Sport models enter the 2011 model year with a host of refinements, following the transformational 2010 model year, that showcased these performance-oriented luxury SUVs with their new powertrains, more luxurious interior and enhanced chassis control technology.

In addition, a 2011 Range Rover Sport GT Limited Edition becomes available, combining the performance of the naturally aspirated 375-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 with a similar styling presence to the Range Rover Sport Autobiography, along with additional features. The Autobiography, which was introduced for 2010 as a limited edition, will continue as an option package for 2011.

New highlights for 2011 includes: a standard Extended Leather Package and contrast stitching on seats, center console and door panels on HSE LUX and Supercharged trim levels; a new Vision Assist Package includes: an Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS; swiveling headlights); Automatic High Beam Assist (AHBA), and a Surround Camera System; a standard audio system now comprises 240-watt harman/kardon? electronics and amplifiers and 9 speakers (including subwoofer); an optional Premium Audio includes 480-watt harman/kardon digital surround sound; 13 speakers plus subwoofer; HD radio, and satellite radio (satellite radio standard on Supercharged model); and new paint colors: Fuji White, Baltic Blue and Siberian Silver.

The Range Rover Sport supercharged delivers sport sedan-like handling characteristics with rapid acceleration and responsive braking and seemingly unparalleled off-road prowess. In the final analysis, Land Rover without a doubt produces some of the most versatile and able adventure vehicles on the planet.