DRIVEN: Street Dreams Piloting the 2015 Range Rover LWB


    If you’re looking to spend north of $120,000 on a car — and most of us aren’t — you have a surprising number of options.

    There are sports cars, exotics, super-exotics and hyper-exotics that all scratch that itch. You could spend a mortgage on an executive sedan, and you could easily spend that much on a classic — a pristine Camaro you lusted over in high school. There are dozens of ways to tell the world that your largesse extends only as far as your two thumbs, pointed back at you. “This guy” has a boat-load of money.

    But if you want to spend that much on an SUV, you’re surprisingly out of luck. At least right now, you are.

    Cadillac would love to oblige, but the most you can pay for an Escalade — on the brightest of days with the whitest of teeth — is about $100,000.

    Porsche can play with their Cayenne, but at that price you’re paying for a sports car with more ground clearance. You’re more likely to take your new iPhone skin diving than take a Cayenne GTS off road.

    Uber-luxury carmakers Bentley and Rolls Royce will oblige in the next few years, but you have $120,000 burning a hole in your pocket — now.

    You could question the logic of a rolling, six-figure, all-terrain yacht, but those tend to go away in the backseat of the 2015 Range Rover LWB.

    It’s a bigger backseat version of the British-born, all-planet SUV. A capitulation that most Range Rovers never see the duty they’re built for (not even nanny duty) and that most will always be the conveyance — never the conquerer — of any mountain. Thankfully, there’s an available rear seat recliner and massager available, so it can go right ahead and conquer the mountain of knots in my back at the very least.

    I’m equally split between falling asleep in the back and raising the dead in the front. This example, a supercharged V8 wedged between its haunches throws 550 horsepower at the optional 22-inch wheels. Flinging the beast from 0-60 mph is a 5-second affair, and is wholly satisfying considering it’s nearly 5,000 lbs. before lunch. Forgoing convention and whipping passengers around in a refined SUV has all the makings of serving hot dogs at Easter brunch, but damn if it’s not a tempting idea.

    Although every inch of the Range Rover’s chassis is built to mitigate its heft and super-sized luxury there’s much more going on here. At its heart, it’s built to traverse the Andes and submerge in the Ganges and there are few reminders for that. Although the creamy leather and panoramic sunroof draw “ooohs” and “ahhhs,” the Terrain Response system — Range Rover’s complex mess of land-sensing features — should get a standing ovation. From bouldering to fording 3 feet of water, you’re never once asked to hop outside and crank hubs, seal doors, attach snorkels or affix bayonets — it’ll assault all landforms without missing a note of Fleetwood Mac on the inside.

    It must be uncomfortable for an automaker like Range Rover to continue down the course of creating SUVs like the Range Rover LWB. The first hint that it can’t complete the Paris-Dakar and it won’t be a true Range Rover in purists’ eyes. The first hint that it can’t command top spot in a valet’s lot and the luxury buyers will balk. Very few cars are expected to triumph in both settings.

    The reality is, most Range Rovers never have to ford a river or ascend a dune. Want proof? According to Range Rover the most popular color is black, and have you ever seen what happens to a black car when brush scores exterior paint? It’s called “desert pinstriping” and I’m guessing it’s awfully expensive to fix.

    By making the Range Rover LWB, the experts have rendered their complete verdict: “We know what you’re going to do with this and we’re catering to you, even if you have separation anxiety from the fantasy that you’ll ever go off road.”

    And the Range Rover’s on-road manners are where it truly shines anyway.

    The adaptive suspension and copious sound deadening make highway cruising a sense deprivation chamber. No bumps come in, all the noise stays out.

    In true luxury car form, the long wheelbase version of the Range Rover can be infinitely optioned to the point of ridiculousness. Our test car clocked in at a supreme $105,000 and change, but a custom paint job, executive seating in the back and some sort of exotic animal shod on all four seats and it’s possible to pay nearly $200,000 for such a ride.

    On a related note: There’s little in the way of guarantees that these massively priced SUVs becoming anything remotely considered popular. Both Aston Martin and Porsche have offered high-priced, four-door versions of their sports cars on the market before and only one is relatively popular. This executive version of the Range Rover isn’t necessarily commonplace (although the less-expensive Range Rover Sport is, and that has a tough time holding on to its value) yet it still seems that most automakers are pinning their ears back and running for sky-high prices, even though history is no certain predictor of future success.

    The Range Rover Long Wheelbase plays in a market that’s about to be heavily crowded with other players.

    Bentley, Rolls Royce and even Lamborghini may have ultra-luxurious SUVs in the coming years to compete with the Range Rover, but for now the company is relativley thin.

    Even if it takes a thick wallet just to pay for one.