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Winter 2006

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news



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Article by
Fabio Petrone

Range Rover Sport Supercharged



The aristocratic Range Rover, which innovated the automobile sector more than thirty years ago as founder of the SUV family (Sport Utility Vehicle), now has a descendent. In fact the Range Rover Sport isn't just a "souped-up" version of the eternal queen of four wheel drives but a brand new model, more compact and with new motorisation but, to dispel any doubts about its illustrious forbears, with unmistakable Range Rover lines. With the Supercharged version, which boasts no less than 390 HP, we set out from Rome and drove up the Tyrrhenian coast to France - Nice - by way of Versilia, La Spezia, Lavagna etc., on the roads where numerous, probably most, Italian superyacht shipyards are concentrated, those which build 24 metre plus vessels.

A subdued growl announces that our Range Rover Sport's 4.2 litre V8 petrol engine is running. A light but deep sonority which even when idling gives an intuition of all the force, the power, that this heat unit is ready to release. All of 390 HP which at full gallop, as the accelerator goes down, transform that sound almost into a roar, music to the ears of those in search of big thrills. Before setting off we take a walk around the car. Though its volumes and height are imposing, to the eye it effectively seems slightly less vast than the classic Range Rover. More than eighteen centimetres shorter and about five centimetres less in width, partly attenuated by the "muscularity" of the whole, especially at the front with the new perforated grille, shining with its titanium finish. The form of the light units is also new, more enveloping. The headlamps are adaptive bi-xeno, which is to say with a powerful ray of white light which is oriented in accordance with direction but is also raised and lowered while descending or climbing a gradient. And then low trim, rear spoiler, more inclined stern, raked roofline, twin chrome-plated exhausts, profiled door ledges and above all four great alloys, with tyres to match, which have a certain effect on the fine design but also give a glimpse of the massive Brembo braking system.

The colour also lends a touch of originality, at least in the case of our Supercharged which certainly doesn't pass unobserved, wholly matching the essence of this vehicle which is really somewhat out of the ordinary.

When you get into the car you immediately perceive the characteristics of the Queen, first of all for the sensation of domination you get at the wheel, emphasised by 360° visibility. The driver is perfectly positioned, thanks to electrical adjustment of the seat and backrest, is embraced by the leather upholstery and has an unimpeded view of the instruments and buttons. Super-comfortable because there are armrests if you want them. But above all you feel a head above the others, which soon gives an unexpected feeling also with regard to handling the nonetheless imposing volumes of this little Range Rover.

With the door closed the subdued growl of the idling V8 is a distant echo. Indeed everything is muffled and the occupants are left only the pleasure of enjoying the trip and the comforts of the cockpit. First of all its spaciousness, because even if the people in the front seats are tall, those in the back can still stretch out with ample legroom. Top class car fittings and finishes complete the rest, which everyone can enjoy but especially the driver. Nothing is spared for full enjoyment of driving. At the wheel you are sunk before a massive console that envelops you, with controls for the integrated system of hi-fi, navigator, trip computer and phone and a colour touch screen that facilitates use thereof. Lower down, after the air- conditioning and gear lever - a ZF "intelligent" automatic that adapts to driving style and conditions, with sports calibration selectable and also useable as a shift - a retractable knob reveals another pearl of the new Range Rover Sport, which is to say the Terrain ResponseT system, the same one used by another irrepressible Land Rover 4x4, the recent Discovery 3. You turn the knob and select from the various road conditions you might find driving a Range Rover: from pure all-terrain - with the appropriate tyres - to asphalt, which for the Supercharged can also mean achieving GT performances. On this basis the system selects the most appropriate adjustments with regard to the vehicle's traction and dynamics, including gear ratio, torque, electronic traction control, adjustments of the transmission and the automatic downhill slowing system. To further reduce roll, the vehicle also has the Dynamic Response active system which intervenes on centrifugal forces on a bend to reduce inclination.

We ate up a fair amount of asphalt, almost 2.000 kilometres, mostly on motorways but also on state highways, sometimes tortuous. What we noted was absolutely surprising, especially on sharp bends where the car handled unexpectedly. Thanks to electronics, but also to the wheelbase which is 14 centimetres less than the larger Range Rover, the vehicle turns well and rolls much less than its tonnage might lead you to believe.

Talking of speed, what strikes you is not so much the pure datum - also because the vehicle is electronically limited to "only" 225 km/h - as the progression you don't expect from a vehicle which, fully loaded, weighs three tonnes. High performance Jaguars equipped with differently calibrated 4.2 litre supercharged petrol engines that deliver 287 kW (390 HP) certainly offer better performances, but the thrust that 550 Nm give this vehicle when you put your foot down brings a shiver of pleasure just the same. And then that roar of the powerful American V8, appreciated by many in Versilia, on the Italian Riviera and on the C“te d'Azur, whenever we stopped off at a quay or shipyard. Of course, because the most aristocratic 4x4, a car that looks good outside the theatre and also dominates the jungle, is equally well suited to the yachting world, driving around with the same regal casualness among boats under construction or in the ports where the queens of the sea are moored.