The Range Rover sits uncomfortably next to its rivals, but as discovered, it is a cut above the rest.
Range Rover Vogue Supercharged 2008
Despite the fact that one replaced the other as our main mode of transportation about 100 years ago, horses and cars are actually pretty similar. Both need a fair bit of space to own, both can cost an arm and a leg and both are bought and sold, with the price going up or down according to their histories and ages. OK, that's a little tenuous but you can see where I'm going with this. But the most important similarity is that you buy a horse with a certain task in mind. A little Arabian isn't going to be much use if you plan to use it to pull a plough. The poor thing would be knackered before the end of the first field and would no doubt suffer the ignominy of ending up in a pot and helping people stick things together.
By the same token, a lumbering shire horse isn't going to do too well in the Dubai World Cup. Most of the revellers at this once-a-year celebration of all things horsey will have stumbled their way home by the time the poor thing makes it over the finish line. With horses, you really need to think before you buy. In the same way, cars need to be bought with a task in mind. A young twentysomething with no ties can buy a two-seater soft top to roam around in, and apart from the odd trip to Ikea it'll do pretty much anything they need for a while.
However, Mr 2.4 kids down the road is going to need something a little bigger to squeeze his growing brood into for trips to the beach or to do the school run. The problems start when the lines get blurred and people start buying huge 4x4s to take the kids two kilometres to school across the challenging terrain of tarmac and the odd kerb or two, or a guy trying to recreate his youth finds out just how impractical a two-seater really is. This has caused car manufacturers to build cars that are no longer fit for purpose. They simply don't do what they look like they should do. With so-called soft-roaders and SUVs with body kits and lowered suspension, it's all getting a bit too blurred around the edges.
This all brings me neatly to the new 2009 Range Rover Vogue Supercharged, which isn't a horse. What it is, however, is a good example of how some rules don't always apply and how some manufacturers refuse to blur the lines. The Range Rover sits uncomfortably next to the Porsche Cayenne and the BMW X5 in the sales charts, both of which are excellent cars, but entirely different to the Vogue. However, as far as I'm concerned neither is even a close rival. Both the Cayenne and X5 are polar opposites of the Range Rover. Only the latter doesn't try to be what it's not, and sticks to just being a good 4x4.
It does however handle way beyond its expansive size on the road. After you've selected the correct suspension setting, it'll hunker down and attack corners with as much encouragement as you're prepared to give, which in my case is usually too much. Yes, physics will only let you go so far, but with its light steering and reduced body roll, you can get a lot more out of the car than you'd perhaps expect. Despite this it's no sports car in the bends.
But it is also pretty quick, dispatching the 100 kilometres per hour mark in around 7.0 seconds. It'll also go on to an impressive 210kph top speed, which is very good when you consider it weighs in at a portly 3,100 kilograms. Again quick, but not the quickest. The steering is precise, the engine superb and you'll probably forget it even has a gearbox. Even the kick-down doesn't throw you back in your seat. Instead, it simply drops a cog and rapidly adds a huge lump of torque.
Inside it's incredibly comfortable with all the luxury trimmings you'd expect at this end of the market and personally I find it far more comfortable then either of its main rivals. The high seating position, a trademark of Land Rover's luxury models, gives you an almost regal view of the road around you. The only drawback I can find with the Range Rover is its sheer bulk. The high seating position adds to the feeling of size. Luckily, it hides its weight well and apart from trying to squeeze it into some of the UAE's more slimline spaces, it doesn't cause any particular problem.
In the sand the Vogue really shows its heritage, climbing dunes and sliding over crests with ease. I'm no desert-driving expert, but with the 19-inch tyres deflated, it never came close to getting stuck. Good job really, considering I'm not massively keen on digging in the sand. Unlike much of the opposition the standard bodywork stands up well to attacking dunes. Anyone not too sure about taking a Range Rover into the desert should think again. These cars are so much more than an executive school runner and shouldn't be confined to the roads.
So where does all that leave the big Range Rover? The best way to describe the Vogue Supercharged is as the car equivalent of an eventing horse. It's not the quickest and it's not the most rugged looking. It's also not the sleekest or the lowest. But it was never designed to be any of these. It was built to be a luxury four-wheel drive that can go pretty much anywhere, while keeping its occupants in extreme comfort, which it does with ease. It'll also safely drop the kids to school and give those roundabout kings a bit of competition if you're feeling saucy. That's something few other cars in its class can boast and goes right back to the roots of the brand.
In the UAE, none of us need more than one car on the drive. We all just need a new Range Rover. And for that reason, it'll probably never end up in a glue pot. firstname.lastname@example.org