Land Rover recently unveiled its two new 4x4 offerings for 2006-the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport-and while the vehicles share much of the T5 chassis architecture that debuted on last year's LR3, the two vehicles are divergent enough in appearance and handling as to be considered distinct marques.
The new-for-'06 Range Rover, like the Rover Sport, is powered by the same 4.4L Jaguar-sourced alloy V-8 that propels the LR3, but with a major difference: a factory-option Eaton supercharger that bumps rated power up to 400 hp at 5,750 rpm and 425 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm. Both vehicles sport the ZF six-speed automatic transmission and full-time two-speed transfer case with a solid 2.93:1 low range, a locking center diff, and an optional locker for the rearend. Both vehicles also employ four-wheel independent suspensions with driver-adjustable air springs. The Rover Sport additionally receives Land Rover's Terrain Response system that allows the driver to 'dial in' the vehicle's performance algorithms to best suit the terrain encountered, be it mud, snow, ice, sand, rocks, or pavement.
Where the Range Rover boasts the traditional, squarish Rangie look, the Rover Sport is sleeker, more aerodynamic and sportier handling-like a Rover GT, in other words. It's also 5 inches shorter in wheelbase, 7 inches shorter in length, and 2 inches lower to the ground than the Range Rover. Both Rovers get 19-inch rims and 50/55-series radials standard, with 20s and 40-series as the only available wheel/tire option (settle down, Fred, of course you can wheel 'em, trust me). While the tires are skinny, at least the Rover Sport gets premium rubber: Dunlop Grandtreks for the 19s, and Michelin Synchrones for the 20s. Top speed for the Rover Sport is a governed 140 mph (!). Base price for the new Range Rover is $74,950, for the Rover Sport $56,750.
We recently spent a week overseas wheelin' both Rovers over sand, rocks, loose dirt and bedrock, muddy sluices, and even snow during an impromptu blizzard in the Pyrenees (get out your atlas). Our initial impressions were quite positive-the Range Rover seems to be head and shoulders better than any previous version, and the Rover Sport seemed surprisingly capable off-road while still displaying the kind of on-road manners typically found on a BMW X5. But we have barely scratched the surface of these vehicles yet-for there are tests, and then there are tests: specifically, our 4x4 of the Year test, coming in our February '06 issue. We'll let you know how these luxo-cruisers behave, and if you can really wheel 'em-at least in the way we define wheeling.