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Letting Me Drive a $110,000 Supercharged Range Rover Was a Mistake

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author photo by Tyler Hoover February 2017

I was reluctant to take on this nearly new luxury off-road king -- not because I'm scared of crashing someone's six-figure car or because I'm more comfortable with heavily depreciated Hoopties. The real challenge is finding something original to write about a car worshiped by everyone from off-road enthusiasts to the Kim Kardashian wannabe. What else is there to say about it?

Car-reviewer demigod Jeremy Clarkson calls it the common sense "labrador" of luxury SUVs, explaining in a recent episode of "The Grand Tour" that you only buy a Bentley Bentayga if your hit record goes to number one -- or you buy something else, like the new Jaguar F-PACE, because you can't afford the Range Rover. His motivations for saying this appeared to mostly involve leaving his co-presenters dejected over their choices -- but after driving one, I can see his point.

Although the luxury-SUV market has to be the most crowded and competitive segment out there, it seems divided into three distinct groups. The first group covers what the original luxury SUV was built for: people who want to occasionally tow their boat to the lake with their 2.5 kids seated far enough apart -- with plenty of comfort and entertainment -- that Dad never has to utter those terrifying words: "Don't make me pull over!" For this group, something like the Cadillac Escalade is a great choice.

The second group is the rare breed that actually wants real off-road utility. They desire something capable of climbing rocks and fording rivers. The logical choice for these people is a loaded-up Jeep Wrangler or a Mercedes G-Wagen.

The third group is in search for a sporty-looking car with practicality. Since the station wagon has always struggled to get a foothold in the United States -- and since consumers think a sedan is woefully inadequate for hauling a 10-pound baby -- a luxury SUV is on the shopping list. There are plenty of great options for this group, like a Porsche Macan or BMW X5.

Where the Range Rover excels is in meeting the requirements of all three of these groups. It's large enough that siblings can't poke each other, it has incredible off-road capability, and it offers great performance. The only problem is all of this comes at a cost -- in several ways.

The first cost is ... well, the cost of it. The supercharged version I drove set the owners back a little over $110,000. That's almost what I paid for a newly built 4-bedroom house in Kansas. It's one thing if a massive payout like this held its value somewhat, but the Range Rover will depreciate in 10 years to about the same value as a month's stay at a Motel 6. And the catalyst for this massive depreciation is also another major cost: maintenance.

For one single vehicle to do so many things is just incredible -- but it's like the Range Rover sold its soul to the devil to achieve this. For the duration of the factory warranty, the owner will have an incredible experience in a totally gorgeous vehicle capable of anything. But when that warranty is up, this car's captivating soul starts turning to the dark side. All the marvelous technology will almost certainly start betraying you, in the form of constant five-figure repair bills.

You could say a new Toyota Land Cruiser can do everything a Range Rover does without selling its soul, but it seems so dull in comparison -- like it never had a soul to begin with.

Then there's the emotional cost of owning a Range Rover. This roller-coaster experience of ownership would certainly take its toll, unless you're warrantied out the wazoo ... and you enjoy writing about exploiting the warranty with every failure ... and your name happens to rhyme with "smug."

You may be thinking at this point that letting me drive a new Range Rover was a mistake, because it gives me a chance to bash it as a ridiculous money pit -- but that's totally not true. It was a mistake because I totally want one now.

I was perfectly content with my fully depreciated (and mostly reliable) 2000 Mercedes ML55 AMG, and feeling pretty smug as well for owning a luxury performance SUV for pennies on the dollar. I had no idea what I was missing out on before -- and after driving this Range Rover, my 17-year-old Mercedes feels about as advanced as a horse and buggy.

If I sold off my entire fleet of leaky misfits, I might be able to swing one of these -- and, for a brief moment, I was tempted. Then I realized my automotive masochism could never be satisfied by taking a financial beating from a single car.

So this completes my first new-car review -- and not surprisingly, I've given very little useful information on the Range Rover. I promise to try harder next time.

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Letting Me Drive a $110,000 Supercharged Range Rover Was a Mistake - Autotrader