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Motoring: Rovers ready for off roading

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | September 29th, 2008

It's official now that all the paperwork is finally done, Land Rover and Jaguar are now owned by the Indian car firm Tata.

But there are a couple of big questions that stand before us, like are these vehicles good enough to command their price-tag, and with the price of gas, does it make sense owning an SUV?

Well let's look at these two individually starting with the Range Rover Sport HSE. This is the baby Range Rover, but there is nothing small about this vehicle. This 188.5” long vehicle is no family hatchback. It is big and imposing, just what buyers of such a truck look for. Typically I don't like the looks of SUV's, but I have to admit, this Range Rover Sport is a stunning vehicle.

The Range Rover Sport is very well equipped with power windows, locks, mirrors and seats as standard, as well as the heated front windshield. The interior is appointed in the finest leather and the wood trimming actually looks good.

There is plenty of space for four people, five in a pinch, and the trunk area is big enough to swallow your luggage if you are going on a road trip.

On that road trip, if you need to get off the paved-path and decide to do some off-roading, the adjustable ride height would come handy, as well as the terrain response system which allows you to pick from five different settings, depending on the type of surface you're driving on.

So make no mistake, the Range Rover Sport is not just for show, this is a proper, get down and dirty SUV. Last year I did a Range Rover off-road course in one of these and it was remarkable to experience what this vehicle is capable off.

However, despite all its ability, I bet over 90 per cent of its owners will never go proper off-roading, which is a shame. That means it will be doing the daily chores, which is no bad thing, because this truck doesn't ride like a truck. Think of it as a luxury car and you get the picture. It is smooth, quiet and refined in all the right places. The suspension is amazing, because not only can it handle all the rough off-roading, but also provides good stability at high speeds. Sure it might not keep up with a Ferrari F430 through a mountain pass, but not many vehicles can anyway.

It impresses you with its straight-line speed. The HSE model that I had was equipped with the base engine, a 4.4-litre V8, producing 300 hp and 315 lb/ft of torque. Mated to a great sixspeed automatic gearbox (with CommandShift for manual use of the gearbox), it sends power to all four-wheels. So make no mistake, it is quick too with the sprint from 0-100km/h coming in 8.9 seconds, with a top speed of 209 km/h.

But I know what is the biggest question on your mind, how bad is it on gas? Well not too bad. I averaged 14.2-litres/100km on an urban cycle, which might be no picnic when the price of regular gas is $1.35/litre (by the way, the Range Rover Sport does prefer premium gas), but it is no worse than most luxury cars. Plus, if you can afford an SUV that has a starting price of $71,600 you should be able to afford the gas.

If your budget doesn't stretch that far, than perhaps you should look at the Land Rover LR2. The LR2 starts at $44,900, but yet it still has most of the clever offroading technology you'd find in its bigger brother.

However, it is smaller, and lacks the visual presence of its bigger brother. It also lacks the V8 engine of the Range Rover Sport, which is essentially a bored out Jaguar unit, instead the LR2 uses a Volvo sourced 3.2-litre, in-line six cylinder engine which produces 230 hp and 234 lb/ft of torque. The LR2 also uses a six-speed automatic gearbox with CommandShift, and that helps this all-wheel drive vehicle to achieve 12.6-litres/100km, which is very impressive for a truck on an urban run.

It is impressive in other areas too. This too is quite spacious and practical, and its road manners are quite good as well. I have not done any sort of off-roading with this truck, but since it also has the terrain response system, and from the pictures I have seen, this LR2 can handle pretty much all the rough stuff you're ever likely to encounter.

So there you have it, two good SUV's which are not as bad on gas as you might imagine.
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