Motoramic Drives: 2012 Range Rover Sport
As we pulled the 2012 Range Rover Sport into a parking lot off I-40 just outside Jackson, Tennessee, we saw another car just like ours.
"Say hi, everyone!" I said.
My wife, my 9-year-old-son and I all smiled and waved frantically. From the front passenger seat, I held up Hercules, our squat, elderly Boston Terrier, and moved his paws to make it look like he was waving, too. In the other Range Rover sat a guy in jacket and tie, sipping on his venti. He ignored us completely.
"Snotty," said my wife.
"Rude," I said.
"What's that guy's problem?" my son asked.
The dog snarfled.
Ours was clearly conduct unbecoming of a Range Rover-owning family. But we weren't owners, so we didn't care. If driving a new car is like wearing a disguise, we were doing a poor job, the equivalent of a cheap fake mustache. This beast of a car, for us, was a great, unexpected, exciting treat. We were taking it on a test drive. It had traveled a long way already. And we already owed it a lot.
My wife wanted to visit her family in Nashville for Christmas, but it wasn't looking good. One of our cars is leased. We couldn't take the mileage hit. The other car only does long hauls in emergencies.
Then, late in the afternoon on the 23rd of December, I got a call. Land Rover had a 2012 Range Rover Sport available for a test run. We could use it for ten days. Our week between Christmas and New Year's was wide open. So I said hell, yes. It was a Festivus Miracle!
On Christmas Eve morning, a guy was standing in our Austin driveway, looking pleased. Next to him was a gleaming new "Indus Silver" Rover with only about 300 miles on the odometer. He'd just driven it down from Dallas and had a great time. There it sat, in all its power and glory, boxy, confident, attentive and solid, like a purebred Rottweiler that had just spotted a bird.
I'd just watched an episode of Top Gear where Jeremy Clarkson had nearly outrun a Challenger 2 tank on open ground in a RR Sport. This was an even newer model, and it sort of resembled a tank itself, with massive 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, but without the gun. You could cook a deer on the grill. The "Automatic Xenon Headlights" cast a pleasant aura, but they range wide. They'd catch a spy at 1,000 feet. The appointment sheet says the Rover has an "Integrated Body Frame with Hydroformed, Boxed-Steel Ladder-Frame and Welded Steel Monosides." That's car company-ese for "it's built like Brian Urlacher."
Even a magnificent machine like this, with a base price of $60,000, has negatives. It gets horrible gas mileage, an estimated 13 mpg in the city and 18 on the highway, with an estimated annual fuel cost of almost four grand. Plus, it prefers premium gas. We drove it not quite 2,000 miles, the vast majority of that highway, and spent almost $300 on fuel. That's a ton of money. While I realize that a Range Rover Sport is meant to be a luxury off-road vehicle, not an economy car, that's still embarrassing, almost an extended middle finger to Mother Earth.