By now, there's bound to have been at least one product planning meeting at Land Rover HQ where someone, likely a fresh hire from outside the automotive industry, has asked the question "Why do we bother making these so capable off-road?"

In a purely rational world, the kind that realizes that for 99 percent or more Range Rover buyers - or, more likely, lessees - going "off-road" means driving on the sidewalk, it would be a valid question. In the world that we live in, one in which the Range Rover has a reputation as one of the world's most capable SUVs -- for example, it is one of the first vehicles to traverse the Darien Gap on the Panama-Colombia border. Thus, making one that can't go wherever the driver wants is bound to get Land Rover brass excommunicated. No wonder every time a Range Rover gets revised, it ends up being the most off-road capable Rover ever.

The latest revision, which just arrived for 2010, sticks to this formula. However, aside from being the most capable ever -- thanks to the latest version of the Terrain Response System -- this Supercharged variant is also the most powerful Range Rover to date. Its Jaguar-sourced 5.0-liter V-8 is good for 510 horsepower and 461 pound-feet of torque, enough to launch this three-ton behemoth to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. Gigantic brake rotors -- fronts are 15.0 inches in diameter, rears 14.4 inches -- stop the beast with what feels like sports car quickness and far better pedal feel and response than is typically expected from an SUV. The laws of physics tried to object, but the Rangie will have none of it. How fitting for a vehicle that's popular with all kinds of characters that aren't too likely to listen to objections of any sort (dictators, mafiosos, professional athletes, spoiled starlets, etc).

In true luxury car fashion, the engine and accompanying six-speed automatic transmission are stunningly smooth. The exhaust note is definitely that of a V-8, but it's quite subdued and without any hint of a blower under hood. On smooth roads, the ride is on par with that of any similarly priced luxury sedan. Should pavement quality head south, however, things will get shaky. It is an SUV, after all, and it can't ignore all laws of physics. Steering is light but not dangerously vague as it is on some similarly-sized SUVs. The aforementioned smoothness comes partly thanks to standard 20-inch wheels and high-performance rubber. They're great for tackling the asphalt-and-concrete hellscape that is Los Angeles, but will need to be replaced with proper SUV tires for any serious off-piste adventures.

Inside, there's enough electronic gadgetry to make anyone that's ever heard of Lucas the Prince of Darkness to recoil in horror. The coolest feature is the all-digital instrument cluster. Where lesser cars feature a bunch of gauges with indicator arrows in them, the 2010 Range Rover packs a wide TFT screen that provides a digital speedometer and tachometer plus the usual compliment of warning and indicator lights. On the off chance that you forgot, the tachometer reminds you that the Range Rover you're driving is, in fact, supercharged - as will looking at the front door sills. In fact, the entire cabin is full of reminders that you're in a Land Rover Range Rover. The Nissan GT-R has fewer badges.

The gauge cluster also has an "off-road" mode that causes the speedometer to move over to the right, with the extra empty space being used for two displays that show wheel articulation, steering direction, ride height, and the status of the center differential. Handy information should you actually decide to risk scratching the paint by taking your shiny new Range Rover into the woods. Though it wasn't fitted on our tester, the available surround camera system is likely to be useful off-road as well, as it can show you just how close your front end is to that giant boulder - or that other Range Rover you're parking next to at Neiman Marcus. Front and rear proximity sensors are standard, as is a single rear-view camera, although the latter is placed at the top of the tailgate and provides a weird perspective.

As far as interior space goes, the Range Rover has plenty. There's no shortage of headroom or legroom and there's even the option of reclining rear seats. The cargo area is capacious, but the split-opening clamshell-style tailgate doesn't have a power open/close feature unlike most of the luxury SUV segment.

Speaking of luxury, the list of standard features is as extensive as the Range Rover's off-road pedigree. Heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel, triple-zone climate control, 14-speaker 720-watt stereo, navigation, voice control, Bluetooth, and much more are all included. For those that want more, Land Rover offers up quad-zone climate control with extra vents for the windshield and front windows, adaptive cruise control, rear seat entertainment, and for those that really like their tunes, a 17-speaker, 1200-watt stereo.

There are shortcomings, of course. The navigation system does not have built-in traffic. Well, there's an option to turn it on but at no point did it feel like working. Satellite radio takes a while to tune from station to station and cuts out far too easily, with signal being lost after passing under any overpass. The door handles, curiously, are not body color. These are relatively minor issues, however, and are easily overlooked.

Of equally little concern is the thirst for fuel. The EPA says the blown Rangie is good for 12 mpg around town and 18 mpg on the highway, but in the real world, especially with liberal use of those 510 horses and full acceleration capability, consumption going to be comparable to that of a Lamborghini Murcielago. Of course, if you can swing the roughly $100k for the Range Rover Supercharged, you can probably swing the gas bill.


2010 Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged
Base price $95,125
Price as tested $101,575
Vehicle layout Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 5.0L/510-hp/461-lb-ft 32-valve supercharged DOCH V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight 5900 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 113.3 in
Length x width x height 195.8 x 80.1 x 73.9 in
Headroom, f/r 39.3/38.3 in
Legroom, f/r 38.9/35.5 in
Shoulder room, f/r 61.4/60.0 in
Cargo volume, behind f/r 74.2/35.1 cu ft
0-60 mph 5.9 sec (mfr est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 12/18 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.37 lb/mile

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