2014 Land Rover Range Rover Long-Term Update 4
Early morning is a wonderful time to be up on the roads that wriggle through the mountains that ring L.A., especially in something fast and grippy. I’m still tingling from a recent dawn patrol in Alfa’s scintillating little 4C, but on this particular early morning I was in the Range Rover. I wasn’t expecting sports car thrills. But I wasn’t expecting how well the big Rangie would cope with sports car roads either.
The laws of physics are immutable. The Range Rover is a 5170-pound SUV with a relatively high center of gravity and -- on my base-spec model -- relatively modest 236/65 Pirelli Scorpion Verde tires on 19-inch rims. So you feel the mass through the turns, and the tires let go early when you start to push.
Mild understeer is the default handling mode. Brisk progress is best achieved using the old slow in, fast out technique: You need to make sure you brake, then turn in, and once you’re past the apex, get on the gas. Fortunately, the steering, though light, is accurate and delivers good feedback, telegraphing clearly when the front tires are about to lose their bite. I found a quick dab of left-foot braking helped tuck the big Rangie back onto line if I arrived at a turn a little too hot.
It was up here, in the mountains, that I realized how much DNA the Range Rover shares with its Jaguar cousins. Twist the central selector into Sport mode, use the steering-wheel-mounted paddles, the eight-speed automatic transmission will execute smooth, crisp shifts, and hold the gear you want for as long as you need it, as in any Jaguar sedan.
The supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 is also shared with Jaguars, though modern electronics allow JLR engineers to dial in completely different power and torque characteristics. In the Range Rover, the 340-hp engine is nicely responsive between 3000 and 4000 rpm, and as revs build there’s the merest hint of the cammy snarl that Jaguar goes all “Spinal Tap” with in the F-Type and dials to 11.
But the most impressive thing about hustling the Range Rover along a mountain road is its sublime body control. Rapid direction changes in old, softly sprung Range Rovers were an adventure. In today’s car, softly sprung by modern SUV standards, there’s still body roll, but it’s beautifully modulated. A quick left-right-left won’t leave you fighting a tank-slapper, heart in mouth, as it used to.
The 2014 Range Rover is no sports car. But it’s not tedious through the twisties either.
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