Land Rover Range Rover 4.6L HSE (1996)

7 Nov 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Land Rover Range Rover 4.6L HSE (1996)

New Car Review


by Tom Hagin

When the Range Rover County was discontinued in 1995, it lead to the first and only clean-sheet redesign in that model’s 25-year history. The vintage County was replaced by the 4.0 SE, which upgraded the rugged Range Rover look into a more contemporary design.

This change is especially evident in the new 4.6 HSE, a limited-edition, more powerful version of the 4.0 SE. This new Range Rover design now looks the part of up-to-date sport utility vehicle.

OUTSIDE – The new exterior completely abandons the chunky appearance of the older County model. The steel-and-aluminum body features redesigned front pillars to reduce water buildup, while its split rear tailgate is power-operated and uses lightweight technology to make its opening and closing easier. The new package is neater and tidier, and there are fewer body panels, which means smaller gaps and more uniform panel alignment.

Its modern design is virtually devoid of chrome, with matte-black bumpers, grille, window trim and outside mirrors. Lots of glass and a tall greenhouse gives a panoramic view from inside, while handy headlight wipers with heated washers enhance its foul weather abilities. Its massive 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels mated to low-profile 255/55HR18 Pirelli Scorpion all season tires are more boulevard cruiser than off-road king, but they are handsome.

INSIDE – Inside are a plethora of switches, knobs and controls, and it takes a while to master them all. Each heated front bucket seat is covered with leather, 10-way adjustable with memory, and very comfortable and supportive. The automatic climate control features dual temperature controls and a pollen filter, while a tilt steering column, variable speed wipers, cruise control, power glass sunroof, power door locks, power outside mirrors and power windows are all included.

The audio system is top-notch; a 120-watt AM/FM cassette player, matched to a six-disc CD changer and 11 speakers. Steering wheel controls for speed and audio controls further add convenience, while the inside rearview mirror automatically dims when bright lights approach from the rear. When the weather chills to freezing, both the front and rear glass is heated, as are heated washer jets for the windscreen.

ON THE ROAD – With all of its modern electronics and gadgets, Rover continues to rely on a Buick-derived all-aluminum V8 engine that has been a Rover mainstay since 1966. But by increasing its piston stroke and compression, and adding internal stiffeners and special balancing techniques, the 4.6 becomes the largest production version ever of this engine, and it’s also the most powerful.

The HSE’s 4.6 liter V8 produces 225 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, which successfully addresses any shortcomings in power that were perceived in previous models. Acceleration is vastly improved with just over nine seconds needed to reach 60 MPH, quite good considering the HSE weighs almost 5000 pounds. The sole gearbox available is an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic, which shifts smoothly and predictably, and also features a selectable sport mode that will alter shift points as needed.

BEHIND THE WHEEL – Ranger Rover’s backbone remains a box-section steel frame, with new heavier gauge steel and four sturdy crossmembers. Both front and rear axles are solid, while the rear uses composite radius arms which are linked together to make an anti-roll bar. The solid axles are vintage, but the Electronic Air Suspension is state-of- the-art.

It uses air springs with five ride heights and Standard height is considered normal. Low drops the vehicle an inch for better handling and stability, and the HSE automatically defaults to this height above 50 mph. The Access position drops the Range Rover 2.5 inches for convenient entry and exit, while High and Extended modes raise the vehicle 1.6 and 2.8 inches, respectively.

Braking is via four-wheel discs, with a sophisticated four-channel all-terrain anti-lock braking system (ABS), which doubles as traction control.

SAFETY – Dual airbags, side-impact beams, traction control and ABS are all standard features.

OPTIONS – There is no optional equipment available.

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