When a sports utility offers five settings to meet road conditions and one of them is "mud and ruts," hold on to your air-conditioned leather seats.
That's what something called Terrain Response does for Land Rover's Range Rover of. So while the interior swathes occupants in leather, wood and burnished metals, the $90,000-plus Range Rover swoops over most things terrestrial.
In addition to mud and ruts settings, there's grass, gravel, snow and rock crawl. Oh, and "general driving."
That's where some rock crushing SUVs falter, but not the Range Rover. It zooms to 60 mph in a quick 7.9 seconds via a 396 horsepower 4.2L supercharged V-8. Both are engineered for serious off-roading. Land Rover says the engines can operate at steeper angles and there's more protection from rocks and water. Special throttle settings provide more sensitive control "during low speed off-road treks."
On the road it handles curves with aplomb and little body lean, tracking accurately through them. The supercharger provides strong V-8 power at any speed via the six-speed automatic transmission. The driving position is great with lots of legroom. Seats are tall and supportive with a fine four-spoke steering wheel.
Range Rover is a very carlike SUV, although it's not a "crossover." Range Rover is built on its own chassis, not one borrowed from a truck or a car.
The highway ride is serene, benefiting from an SUV-inspired suspension that smoothes out boulders. At the same time, Range Rover doesn't encourage charging into curves full speed. Still, body roll is well controlled.
Around town where most SUVs live, the Range Rover handles supermarket parking lots easily.
Like some luxury cars, the Range Rover's parking brake levers have been replaced with an electronic parking brake that automatically releases. It gets its big V-8s from Jaguar, too.
The Terrain Response control dial kicks in changes in the chassis and powertrain -- throttle response, automatic transmission operation, electronic differentials, traction control and a hill descent control.
Inside the cabin are twin gloveboxes stacked one atop the other and opened by an electric release button. The driver gets an additional airbag for his knees. The six-speed automatic transmission has sport and shifting modes and four-wheel drive is always on. There's a navigation screen (unfortunately married to the radio controls) and a backup camera (color, naturally).
The external appearance has civilized a bit from the days when a spare tire on the hood was a fashion statement. But Range Rover still looks ready to hop off-road anytime.
Open the sunroof to accommodate your top hat and stow the cane on the roof rack.