India’s Tata Motors saved Jaguar Land Rover from extinction in 2008 and while that’s true, the story needs updating: “With the parent (Tata Motors) making losses, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is driving more than 100 per cent of the (Tata) profit,” Mahantesh Sabarad, an analyst at Fortune Financial Services India Ltd. in Mumbai, told Bloomberg.
So Tata Motors, part of the $100-billion (U.S.) Tata conglomerate, is being propped up by JLR, thanks to vehicles like the 2013 Range Rover Supercharged.
Canadians are buying Land Rovers at a staggering clip – sales were up nearly 39 per cent last month – but we’re a pipsqueak nation compared to China. There, JLR expects to sell 100,000 vehicles this year, most of them Land Rovers. China is JLR’s single biggest market, period. In Canada, JLR will sell 7,000-7,500.
Land Rover has been jolted into overdrive by the latest remake of the Range Rover. That came for the 2013 model year and the changes were transformative – the first SUV in the world with an all-aluminum body structure. That liposuctioned up to 420 kilograms (926 pounds) of weight.
My $129,045 as-driven tester came with the 510-horsepower supercharged V-8 – a bomb of a power plant – and the adaptive suspension was more than up to the task of handling all that muscle. This is a big, tall SUV that drives more like a big, tall sports car.
The cynics will weigh in on Land Rover quality and they have a point. I remain gob-smacked by Land Rover’s inability to crack the above-average ranks of the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study (IQS).
At the same time, Land Rover ranked No. 4 in J.D. Power’s APEAL study (Automotive Performance Execution and Layout). This is telling because it explains why customers are happy to spend $100,000-plus on an SUV that gets a few things wrong in the reliability and durability department.
In fact, the Range Rover nailed the highest APEAL score of any model in the industry in 2013. The APEAL study is a “things-gone-right” bit of research aimed at finding out which vehicles are the most “gratifying” to own. Who is on top in APEAL? Porsche, Audi, BMW and Land Rover, in that order.
Wealthy buyers have people to take care of niggly things that drive middle-class folk to distraction. That’s not what concerns them. Instead, they want to be surprised and delighted; they want a rig with stunning looks, best-in-class performance, sumptuous interiors and “let-me-show-you-this” features that are the talk of boardrooms and private clubs.
Here we have the Range Rover Supercharged. The cabin is roomy and luxurious. You will even find adequate legroom in back if you happen to be a tall jet-setter.
Outside, the design is shapely, though not fussy; it’s strong and rich in detail, but not overwrought. And the standard fare includes the let-me-show-you-this Terrain Response 2 Auto system. The latter reads the road, or lack thereof, and then the computer brain selects throttle, transmission and four-corner air suspension responses accordingly. This is the sort of “oh, wow” technology that one per centers revel in and talk about to APEAL researchers.
No SUV should have a ride as composed and rich as this, and certainly not one capable of tackling mud bogs and sand traps without getting stuck. Who would punish a $127,000 truck in this way? Probably no one, but rest assured you could if you would. Meanwhile, on paved roads, this SUV carves corners and does so without feeling tippy. All of this is impressive.
As is the cabin, which is quiet at high speeds thanks to glass laminated to deaden sound. This allows you clearly to take in the sounds of whatever Meridian audio system you choose. My tester had the Premium Surround System, all 825 watts of it, running through 18 speakers and a subwoofer. My bet is that your home system doesn’t reproduce music this well.
As for the cabin design and fitments, all is as you’d expect – from the soft leather seating surfaces to the black lacquer trim. You can go a long way in comfort here because the seats are adjustable and they have the right padding in the right places.
My tester had a few extras and they drove up the price well beyond the $117,120 base sticker. For instance, rear-seat entertainment added $2,400, the heated wood and leather steering wheel was worth $425 and an elaborate, four-zone climate control package – including a front cooler box – listed for $4,150.
The verdict? If I were wealthy enough to fill an eight-car garage, this rig would have its own bay.
2013 Range Rover Supercharged
Type: large, luxury SUV
Base price: $117,120 (includes a $1,000 Green Levy, $1,270 Freight and $100 AC tax). As tested: $129,045.
Engine: 5.0-litre V-8
Horsepower/torque: 510/461 lb-ft Transmissions: eight-speed automatic Drive: all-wheel drive Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 16.6 city/10.6 highway using premium fuel.
Alternatives: Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5, Lexus GX
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