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2008 Land Rover Range Rover Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Land Rover Range Rover was new.

The Land Rover Range Rover pleases just about every reviewer who evaluated its performance, whether engine, brakes, handling, or its best-in-class off-road capabilities. Driving the Range Rover is, according to the majority of test drivers, an unparalleled experience.

Cars.com says the Range Rover "can tackle tough offroad terrain that would fail less-capable SUVs, yet still has the cachet to warrant a front-and-center parking space at upscale hotels." Edmunds best sums up the consensus: "When driven on pavement, the Range Rover feels stable and comfortable. In terms of boulder-bashing, it still has few equals." The San Diego Union-Tribune says "the cabin is so well sound-isolated that all worries are shut out, and it just feels good to throw this SUV into a sweeping off-ramp or backcountry curve," while the Harford Courrant adds "the HSE handled like a gentle giant, comforting you with a firm but pleasant ride, well insulated against the rigors and clamor of the most treacherous of driving locations -- the angry downtown streets."

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 Land Rover Range Rover comes in two trim levels. The base HSE model has a 4.4-liter V8 making 305 horsepower at 5,750 rpm.  It also produces 325 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.  More power is available in the Range Rover Supercharged model, which has a 4.2-liter Supercharged V8 making 400 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 420 pound-feet of torque. The Supercharged engine is also mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Acceleration on either the HSE or Supercharged Range Rover is powerful. Edmunds acknowledges the difference between the two models, noting the Supercharged offers "superior off-the-line acceleration as well as passing power, but the additional $15,000-asking price is steep. We think most people will be perfectly happy with the HSE."  The power that both engines generate is thanks to some engine upgrades for 2007, and acceleration isn't the only benefit.  The Oregonian observes, "Electronic throttle controls and other improvements have resulted in engines that are not only more powerful, but that also get better gas mileage than the previous model." Both the Range Rover HSE and the Range Rover Supercharged get an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 12 miles per gallon in the city and 18 miles per gallon on the highway for the base engine, and about the same for the Supercharged V8 -- lower than most vehicles in the class.

The Detroit Free Press reports that either engine is "smooth and powerful, and the six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and precisely." 

Auto Mall USA was a particular fan of the transmission noting that "it will upshift when in manual mode but not until engine redline, and in deference to off-roaders' occasional need for low, borderline-lugging engine speed, it delays downshifting until just before the engine's stall point."  The test driver then continues, "When in automatic Sport mode, the transmission employs slightly higher shift points and downshifts more readily. Your can sometimes feel it drop down a gear halfway through a corner to gain a sweeter spot in the engine's power curve."

Handling and Braking

Handling on the 2008 Range Rover is assessed as nimble for a vehicle of this size and considerable weight. Car and Driver says the SUV "tackles sweeping bends on the highway at more than 100 mph with complete confidence and without disturbing the passengers and still rides acceptably well on tight, twisty byways. The steering has better on-center feel."  MSN adds "the steering is nicely geared, being not too quick for off-road driving or too slow for on-road motoring. The ride is smooth, even on rough backroads. Handling is good for such a high, heavy vehicle." The Riverside Press Enterprise sums up reviewers' takes on the Rover's steering and handling by calling it, "nicely weighted", and "almost...nimble to drive. It feels smaller than it is."  However, from a small minority come a few negative comments: the Detroit News notes that the "huge turning circle makes parking a pain in the butt," and Consumer Guide adds that the "tall build contributes to pronounced body lean in corners."

Given the 2008 Ranger Rover's extreme size and weight, its confident braking performance is a pleasant surprise.  At nearly three tons, the Range Rover is a lot of SUV, but Autoweb calls the braking "well behaved," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution observes "braking is crisp and reassuring", and Autoweb calls the braking "well-behaved.".

Reviewers widely agree that the suspension on the 2008 Range Rover is a technological marvel. From inside the passenger cabin and while in motion, the suspension can be raised or lowered, depending on driving conditions.  At its tallest the Rover can safely cross up to 27.6 inches. of water, yet when it hits 70 miles per hour, the suspension lowers the vehicle for better road grip and control.

Off-Roading

Though the consensus is that the suspension is quite competent and luxurious on-road, it is off-road where the Range Rover really shines. Though it's an independent air suspension, off-road it behaves like a live-axle setup. When the suspension senses harsh off-road conditions, crosslink valves open to let one wheel affect the other. The result is that when one wheel is pushed up by an obstacle, the opposite wheel is pushed down to deliver more power to the ground and clear whatever is in the Rover's path. Road and Track says the system "works very well, front and rear," while The Family Car notes "the Range Rover is capable of duties that would simply ruin any other SUV."

The suspension is combined with the transmission, four-wheel drive and traction control system for what most test drivers observe as one of the most capable off-road vehicles on the market.  Off-road, drivers can control the Range Rover with the Terrain Response System.  From a switch in the passenger compartment, the driver selects from five types of road conditions, including normal driving, slippery conditions, mud, sand and rock-crawling.  The system then automatically adjusts the throttle, brakes, traction control and suspension according to the conditions. Forbes says the system "makes navigating rough terrain as easy as steering around obstacles and all but drives the vehicle for you." And Kelley Blue Book observes bluntly, "the Range Rover is equipped with one of the finest off-road systems ever designed."

For steep trail sections, the 2008 Range Rover comes equipped with Hill Descent Control (HDC).  When activated, this system allows the SUV to safely and stably attack steep and rough slopes by automatically controlling the braking, transmission and throttle.  MSN reports, "with HDC on, I looked like an off-road pro heading down a hillside so steep it had me sort of dangling from the driver seat, held back only by the seat belt." They go on to note, "With my foot away from the brake and accelerator pedals, HDC managed the braking and speed for me, keeping the vehicle controlled and gentle on the hillside."

The transmission again shows its strength in off-road exercises, thanks to the lowest gearing in its class. It also has an extremely slow low-range crawl, and can poke along at 2.4 mph at 1,000 rpm, giving drivers the power and control they need for demanding off-roading.  

MSN notes that the Range Rover is so stable and confident off-road that it earns the title "No. 1 Vehicle to Take Mom and Grandma Off-Road," and perhaps Automotive.com sums up the majority view of the Ranger Rover's off-road performance, saying it "continues to set the standard for the class."

Performance Options

Land Rover Range Rover HSE

The base HSE model has a 4.4-liter V8 making 305 horsepower at 5,750 rpm.  It also produces 325 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. 

Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged

More power is available in the Range Rover Supercharged model, which has a 4.2 liter Supercharged V8 making 400 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 420 pound-feet of torque.  The Supercharged engine is also mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Review Last Updated: 3/12/09

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