Saturday, January 21, 2006

Blown Rover is Fast but So What?

Faster is better, right? So what’s the deal with the mocking headline? You wouldn’t buy a flash light to drive nails or an antique chair for firewood. So why buy a sport-utility vehicle to go fast?

This is why I have never understood the rationale for the Porsche Cayenne, the hot version of BMW’s X-5 or the AMG edition of the Mercedes M-class. Why put lots of horsepower and a specially tuned suspension in a vehicle whose original justification nowhere mentions anything about going as fast as possible down straights and around corners?

Thus my problem with Land Rover’s Range Rover Sport Supercharged edition of the LR3. Yes, it will leap down straights with ferocious intensity and carve up corner apexes with a wholly unexpected level of confidence.

The same $75,000+ required to put a Sport Supercharged in the driveway could buy a Dodge Magnum Hemi and a Dodge Ram 1500 4X4. The Magnum hauls a lot and goes faster than the blown Rover, while the Ram can traverse the vast majority of off-road terrain within the English SUV’s capabilities.

Aha! In posing the question in such utilitarian terms, however, I have revealed the plebian nature of my perspective. No Dodge ever built has offered the same level of prestige and class as a Land Rover. That the Sport Supercharged is quick as blazes just make it jolly more fun on the estate’s lovely back roads.

Oh well, my half-acre estate in rural Maryland probably isn’t the sort of scenery Land Rover’s designers had in mind when conceiving and birthing the Sport Supercharged. It is intended for a select few prospects.

Power is courtesy of the same 390 horsepower 4.0 liter supercharged V-8 normally found in the R editions of the Jaguar XK and XJ vehicles. Put your foot in it and the Sport Supercharged will rip from rest to 60 mph in less than seven seconds.

Similarly, the suspension is well-sorted and is aided by massive 20-inch tires and electronic stability control, with a result that the Sport Supercharged is quite capable of moving down a twisting lane with far more velocity than any other SUV, save the aforementioned Cayenne and its German fellow travelers from BMW and Benz.

The interior is lavish, as expected in a Land Rover and there is no getting around the handsomeness of the current edition’s exterior look. And you need say no more than “let’s take my Land Rover” to let other folks know you’ve arrived at one of those top household income brackets.

Still, there is less cargo capacity in the Sport Supercharged than the regular LR3, thanks to the shortened chassis, and that blown V-8 does love its petrol and demands it in massive quantities whenever the itch to go fast strikes.

The Sport Supercharged is indeed fast. Luxurious and prestigious, to be sure. But anything remotely practical? Not really. Which brings us round to the question posed by the headline. And the real answer is .... because it's fun!