2012 Land Rover Range Rover HSE

Even the "basic" British SUV is loaded with luxuries to complement 4WD expertise

When it comes to making claims for its products, modesty is not Land Rover's tactic. Range Rover, the British automakers's biggest model, is simply called "the pinnacle of luxury SUVs."

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New for 2012

Minor trim changes for 2012 Ranger Rover include body-color side grille surrounds and door handles, gloss black headlamp and taillamp back plates, and a black front grille surround. Joining the top-end Autobiography model is a new ultra-luxury Autobiography Ultimate edition. A new Towing Preparation Package is optional (standard on Autobiography models).

New Silver Packs, available for the Range Rover HSE with Luxury Package and the Supercharged version, group popular options at a discounted price-saving Range Rover buyers $2,200. Silver Packs include adaptive front lighting and high-beam assist, blind spot monitoring, a surround camera system, 1,200-watt Harman/Kardon Logic 7 stereo, four-zone climate control, and a wood/leather steering wheel.

The Range Rover Autobiography edition gets a newly standard Exterior Design Package that includes unique bumpers and foglight surrounds, upper/lower front grilles in Titan finish, and quadrangle exhaust finishers. An HD Radio and iPod lead now are standard across the board.

Dubbed "the most luxurious Range Rover ever," the Autobiography Ultimate includes such extras as twin iPad devices in the back seat, a handcrafted leather interior with machined aluminum detailing, and a "super-yacht" inspired teak luggage area floor. Only 500 Ultimate editions will be sold globally, crafted to order with a 510-horsepower supercharged V-8 engine.

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Power and Performance

Range Rover's 5.0-liter, direct-injected V-8 engine develops 385 horsepower at 6500 rpm in naturally aspirated form, or 510 horsepower at 6000-6500 rpm in Supercharged guise. The Eaton twin-vortex Supercharged V-8, with dual intercoolers, produces 461 pound-feet of torque. Both 2012 Range Rover engines drive a six-speed automatic transmission with Normal, Sport, and Manual modes.

Engines are specially engineered for off-road travel, including waterproofed components and an oil pan that accommodates extreme tilting angles. Full-time four-wheel drive has an infinitely variable locking center differential. Electronic air suspension has four driver-selectable modes: Access, Standard, Off-Road, and Extended.

All Range Rovers have Terrain Response, including Sand Launch Control, a Rock Launch Program, and Gradient Release Control. Ground clearance is 9.1 inches (11.1 inches in Off-Road mode). In Supercharged and Autobiography models, an Adaptive dynamics system monitors vehicle conditions up to 500 times per second.

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Driving Impression

Built on a 113.3-inch wheelbase and measuring 195.8 inches long, the Range Rover is Land Rover's largest model, but it doesn't come across as huge. Despite its heft (5,697 pounds minimum), the Range Rover performs capably, with smoothness and elegance the bywords. In fact, everything about the motion of a Range Rover qualifies as smooth, from the refined yet assertive acceleration to the suspension's controlled reactions to bumps or holes, to the manner in which this sizable SUV corners with care and certainty.

Despite its size, this posh SUV is quite easy to drive and to judge-and even to park. Ride quality is generally easygoing, though a harsh bump does transmit momentary jolting to occupants. On smooth surfaces, the Range Rover glides along blissfully.

Apart from bragging rights, there's no compelling need for the supercharged engine. At certain speeds, acceleration is almost exhilarating, and always utterly refined. From a standing start, the regular Range Rover almost leaps ahead when the pedal is pushed. From 35 mph or so, there's a momentary delay to downshift, then enthusiastic response-more than expected from a heavyweight. But at highway speeds, acceleration isn't as vigorous. Though quiet running, the 2012 Range Rover is not eerily silent. Engine sound and feel is noticed mainly at idle.

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Interior Features

Inside the 2012 Range Rover, European leather trim is complemented by satin black and natural wood finishes. Virtual dials and graphic displays on a 12-inch screen replace the traditional instruments. Autobiography models have rear-seat heating/cooling, plus airline-style winged head restraints. Available safety aids include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, automatic high-beam assist, and a surround camera system.

Something of a climb is needed to get inside, with no running boards to help; but it's not an obstacle for most likely occupants, and worth the effort. Once inside, meticulously stitched leather upholstery is so pretty, it's almost a shame to sit on it. Front and rear occupants get plenty of space for spread-out comfort, and even the center rear position is acceptable.

Although the cockpit is overloaded with control buttons, each has a purpose. Many are strictly for the four-wheel-drive possibilities, needed only if one actually intends to take this vehicle off the beaten track. In the innovative instruments, only the active segment is illuminated.

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2012 Range Rover Pricing

No bargains are to be found anywhere in Land Rover's lineup, but Range Rover prices top the list. Pricing starts at $80,275 (including the $850 destination charge) for a Range Rover HSE. The LUX Package adds $4,370. A 2012 Range Rover Supercharged stickers for $95,670, while the Autobiography commands $126,665. Topping the group by far, at $170,000, is the Autobiography Ultimate Edition.

For what you get, a Range Rover just might be worth the hefty outlay. However, even the "basic" HSE is packed with luxury, and the slightly smaller Range Rover Sport promises comparable amenities and capabilities for less than $61,000. Though both are built in Britain, Land Rover now is owned by the Indian Tata organization. http://www.landrover.com/us/en/rr/range-rover/

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