The first car we test drove for The Happygirl was little- REALLY little— the Fiat Cabrio 500c. It was sweet but the kind of car that was great for driving to and from work and around town running small errands. This week we went BIG with the Range Rover. THIS is the car you drive when you're packing up the kids, grandparents, pets, groceries and LL Bean bags for a week at the beach.
The great thing about test-driving a car for a week, rather than an hour-long test drive is that you can see how the vehicle actually fits into your life rather than just getting a feel for the suspension and handling. What REALLY matters is the drivability. Is this a car that will work with your day-to-day life? Will it work with the kids and your gym bags? Will it fit in your garage? How does it handle parallel parking? It is comfortable to drive? Are the cupholders accessible? Can you see all around you when you put the car in reverse? Is the dashboard easy to use or will you find yourself fumbling around with too many dials?
This week's car delivery is the 2012 Range Rover Sport in Indus Silver. The engine is a 5.0 L 375 hp Aluminum Alloy V8 with permanent front wheel drive and four-wheeel electronic traction control. With a car in this price range ($67,695.00 with the Premium Logic7 Audio Package and Luxury Interior Pack) it is loaded with what you would expect for safety and comfort with a few (fun!) unexpected extras. There is, of course, a six airbag supplemental restraint system, side impact beams, front and rear fog lamps, rearview backup camera, keyless entry system, leather interior, power sunroof, GPS, 11 speaker harmon/kardon speaker system with Bluetooth / iPod connections ready. Two fun additions: ambient interior mood lighting and an insulated cooler in the center console (available with the Luxury Pack.) After I discovered the insulated cooler I said to my husband "Oooo! I LIKE this car!" L. said "You should. The QUEEN has Range Rovers."
I own a small convertible and sometimes going from a little car to a large SUV can be disconcerting (yes, I subconsciously duck when entering a low parking garage entrance in an SUV.) Driving the Range Rover, however, wasn't like that. Perhaps because it is so open and airy and also because you don't have to hoist yourself up to get into the driver's seat. You're up high enough without feeling like you're driving a tractor trailer, like some other SUV's I've driven. The ride is smooth, the braking even smoother. It rained considerably this week and even driving through standing water during a rain shower on the 405, the Range Rover easily recovered from what could have been an easy hydroplane if driving a different vehicle.
Spacewise, the ride is comfortable with soft but firm leather seats and yes, ergonomic cupholders, just where you would expect them to be. (It baffles me sometimes where car manufacturers place the cupholders, where you have to reach either almost behind your elbow or under the dashboard where nothing but a small coffee would fit in the cupholder.) The backseat is spacious with plenty of room for kids, yes, but it's also comfortable for your parents even on a long drive. The wayback is well laid out (the backseats recline to tote huge items) with a power tailgate that was a nice touch when loading groceries in the trunk. The area would easily hold your suitcases as well the dog's crate.
Driving the car for a week was a pleasure, a luxurious pleasure. I'm thinking of driving cross country in August and I can imagine that a car like this would make that drive quite comfortable with one exception--the fuel economy on the Range Rover is 13mpg city / 18 mpg highway. That's a hefty hit at the fuel pump. However, if comfort and safety are your main concerns, the Range Rover is a well thought out vehicle that just might make you feel a Queen.