There is a certain absurdity, a collective curiosity when a vehicle costs more than $100,000.
People look at you in one of two ways, either unbelieving or questioning your sanity to buy and drive such a vehicle.
That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of people these days with incomes that allow them to drive Land Rovers, or Bentleys or Ferraris. There are, and that’s who Land Rover is seeking with its luxurious and stout Range Rover HSE, one of eight similar Range Rover models.
The base SUV starts at $90,345 while the next level HSE, the test vehicle, lists at $97,045, including delivery. Range Rovers are still built in England despite Land Rover and Jaguar now being owned by Indian mega-firm, Tata Group.
The other six models add more horsepower, a longer wheelbase, oodles of luxury goodies, and sneak the price up to $208,895 for the top-level Rover. More on all that later.
First, the HSE was the third large SUV I’ve driven back-to-back-to-back and easily the costliest. It was not the largest, that was last week’s Infiniti QX80 that offered a third row seat, as had Subaru’s Ascent driven the week before.
The Range Rover has seating for five, but is as comfortable and quiet an SUV as one could want to slip into. It also drives great. Power, handling and ride are all aces, and should be.
First, this HSE moved up $2 grand from the standard model because it was powered by a silky smooth and quiet diesel. That’s right, the much ignored (in North America) turbo diesel delivers 254 horsepower and a more than generous 443 ft.-lbs. of torque. That’s the grunt an SUV needs to crawl over rocks, and sidle up the manor’s hill country on the north forty.
Despite what you may picture in your head, the diesel doesn’t smoke, doesn’t grumble (much) and isn’t a noisy clattery thing that will embarrass you at the country club. It runs quietly and efficiently. While last week’s gas-powered QX80 was getting 16 mpg, the diesel easily cranked out 25.5 miles per gallon in about 60% highway driving.
The EPA says to expect 22 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. That seems attainable.
So the Range Rover easily and quickly accelerates to highway speeds, as it’s also about 700-800 lbs. lighter than the Infiniti. Rover says it’ll move from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds too. Furthermore, it’ll pull more than 7,700 lbs. of trailer and boat, etc.
Ride is a delight. It’s well controlled and smooth, delivering the luxurious feel one would expect in such a vehicle. A long-travel air rear suspension helps, plus this SUV rides on 20-inch tires.
Handling is precise too, although the steering is a tad heavy and feels over boosted at times. The Rover easily turns into corners and never feels top-heavy or tippy. It feels well planted, a good thing if you go off-roading.
Not unexpectedly, the HSE features all-wheel-drive and seven drive modes. There’s the usual Dynamic, Eco and Comfort that either firm the wheel a bit, change shift points in the 8-speed automatic, or soften the air ride. But there’s also Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud & Ruts, Sand, and Rock Crawl. That later one is for serious rock climbing, but that’s possible as ground clearance is 11.7 inches. The downside there is no running boards, so climbing aboard the HSE can be a challenge.
But as for off-roading, I witnessed a good deal of that at a Midwest media event at Road America’s off-roading facility earlier this year. It is amazing what these vehicles can do, although I must say the Jeeps all made the same climbs, and they cost considerably less, initially. But for folks looking to ford major streams, the Rover is stout, being able to wade 35.4 inches of water.
Inside, the Rover is plush and stylish. Riders praised its soft gray leather seats, rubbed their fingers over the walnut veneer trim ($1,540 extra) and adored the jewel-like trim, mostly chrome, but some brushed metal on the center stack and console.
I agree, this looks top shelf, but all that chrome is horribly reflective on sunny days, and with a panoramic sunroof overhead, a lot of sun can soak into the cockpit. Going with less chrome could reduce driver eye strain.
While there are plenty of buttons and knobs, Land Rover goes with two 10.2-inch touchscreens for most controls, like climate and radio. The screens can be touchy and sometimes add extra steps that you don’t find in lesser cars and SUVs.
For instance, to set the heated/cooled front seats one needs to fire up the lower screen and touch two areas of the visualized seat on the screen. That tells it to heat or cool. Then you must turn a knob near the screen to adjust the heat/cool level to one of three settings.
Storing and retrieving radio channels is not easy either. I’d suggest locking those in before you start driving on your first day of ownership.
Seats though are incredibly comfortable with soft leather and the seat bottom being relatively flat and wide. The back is more contoured. However, I could not lower the front edge of the driver’s seat to a really comfortable spot. Obviously these seats are designed for tall drivers.
Rear seats are comfortable, roomy and fold down to increase storage. Rear seats also are heated and cooled, plus will recline a bit for increased comfort on a long trip. There is no third-row seat and the heated/cooled seats add $610 to the sticker.
However, there are many other thoughtful and welcome features, including a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, dual sun visors, a fabulous Meridian surround sound system ($1,885 extra), and in back, a power split clam shell-style tailgate too.
The Rover also adds a 4-zone climate control system for $410, 110-volt power outlets for $135 and a cabin air ionization system for $100. I would expect those to be standard at this price.
Likewise, Rover charges $2,400 extra for its vision assist package with automatic high-beam lights, a head-up display, fog lights, surround camera system and adjustable ambient interior lighting. The fog lights and auto high-beams are often standard on luxury vehicles, even some mid-level cars.
A Drive Pro Pack also adds $1,630 to the final tally and adds adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and a blind-spot assist system. While these may be better than your average similar systems, all of that is available on lower cost vehicles, sometimes (Toyota for example) includes many of these as standard features.
Then there’s an issue that may depend on the sensitivity of your olfactory nerves. While comfortable and attractive, the leather here smells odd, especially when the SUV has been sitting in the summer sun all day. Whenever I first opened the door the odor was rather overpowering. I’d power down the windows and drive a bit before raising them and letting the A/C do its job.
And for the record, while diesels can be fuel efficient and run clean, simply filling the tank is sloppy. Diesel fuel pumps are always oily and make your hands smell awful for hours. I recommend keeping a pair of thick gloves in the vehicle to use when refueling.
Which brings us finally to the overall price. Starting just below $100,000, it didn’t take long with the lengthy list of options for the test vehicle to hit $108,040. And the HSE is far from the top level Range Rover.
There’s a supercharged model with a 518-horse 5.0-liter supercharged V8, starting at $105,845. It rates 14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway. A long wheelbase version of that with a 122.8-inch wheelbase compared to the tested SUV’s 115 inches, edges up to $109,890. The longer model still has no third row seat, just more interior and cargo room.
Prices jump considerably for the Autobiography and SV Autobiography models, each with a long-wheelbase model. The base Autobiography model runs $142,990, the long wheelbase model $149,290, the SV Autobiography Dynamic model $178,195 and I’d mentioned earlier the top level SV Autobiography with a longer wheelbase at $208,895.
But it does have a 557-horsepower supercharged V8, the same as in Jaguar’s F-Type sports car. Reportedly this beast will do 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds.
While amazing, so is the price!
FAST STATS: 2018 Range Rover HSE
Hits: Power, ride, off-road abilities, handling, panoramic sunroof, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, heat/cool front and rear seats, rear reclining seats, dual sun visors, split power tailgate and smooth efficient diesel delivers good mpg.
Misses: Price, complex touch radio screen, no third row seat, no running boards, driver’s seat front edge too high, multiple buttons/dials to adjust seat temps, leather interior smells odd, sloppy diesel fuel.
Made in: England
Engine: 3.0-liter diesel, V8, 254 horsepower
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 4,958 lbs.
Length: 196.9 in.
Wheelbase: 115.0 in.
Cargo: 31.8 cu.ft., 68.6 cu.ft. (second row down)
Tow: 7,716 lbs.
Ground clearance: 11.7 in.
MPG: 25.5 (tested)
Base Price: $97,045 (includes delivery)
Vision assist package (auto high-beam, head-up display, fog lights, ambient interior lighting, surround camera system), $2,400
Meridian surround sound system, $1,885
Drive Pro Pack (adaptive cruise, intelligent emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind-spot assist), $1,630
Tow Pack (tow receiver, full-size spare wheel, activity key, advanced tow assist), $1,605
Shadow walnut veneer, $1,540
20-way heated/cooled front seats, power recline heated/cooled rear seats, $610
4-zone climate control, $410
Ebony Morzine headlining, $355
All-terrain progress control, $170
Terrain response 2, $155
110-volt power sockets, $135
Cabin air ionization, $100
Test vehicle: $108,040
Sources: Land Rover, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage