The Land Rover Range Rover has a long and storied past. Its debut almost 40 years ago as a spartan go-anywhere off-roader is a far cry from the luxurious palace on wheels we find in showrooms today. Through it all, including numerous ownership changes, the Range Rover has largely managed to remain true to its legendary off-road roots.
The 2010 Range Rover sees quite a bit in the way of development, both under the hood and inside the cabin. Last year's 4.4-liter V8 and supercharged 4.2-liter V8 are gone and have been replaced by all-new direct-injection 5.0-liter V8s. The base V8 is rated at 375 horsepower, a significant 70-hp bump over last year's model. The supercharged V8, meanwhile, cranks out a whopping 501 hp, which is a 101-horse improvement. Notably, fuel economy stays the same even with the power increase (though admittedly, those mileage numbers are quite abysmal).
On the inside, the 2010 Rover does away with conventional gauges in favor of a sleek new configurable display panel, while adaptive cruise control and a surround camera parking system are also added to the features list. Further improvements have also been made to the Terrain Response system. In conjunction with the air suspension that raises and lowers automatically, Terrain Response allows adjustment to the vehicle's powertrain, suspension and electronic systems via five different settings: general, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, sand and rock crawl.
Premium luxury SUVs that can handle off-road adventures are a rare breed. The only real competitor that matches the 2010 Range Rover's dominance is the Lexus LX 570. However, the Range Rover's claim to supremacy in this segment does not, by any means, ensure perfection. In all likelihood, the vast majority of owners will never need nor make use of its off-road prowess -- making less rugged models like the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GL550, Porsche Cayenne or even the Range Rover Sport a more sensible choice.
Finally, one cannot ignore the Land Rover's reputation as a mechanical liability. It's unknown whether the brand's new owners will improve in this area, but in the past the Range Rover has been one of the lowest-ranked vehicles in terms of reliability -- any of the other choices are likely to cause fewer headaches. In terms of heritage and status, though, the 2010 Land Rover Range Rover is in a class of its own.