Cars: Driving home the true cost of profligacy


2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport (Land Rover)
Warren Brown
Columnist May 4, 2013

It was a beautiful day for wasting money.

That’s cynical, but true.

Warren Brown is a columnist who writes about autos for The Washington Post. View Archive

It was a stunningly gorgeous day — pristine, 71 degrees Fahrenheit in the sunlight, brilliantly painted in early spring colors. I could see the top of Storm King Mountain as I drove north toward this Hudson River town along U.S 9W.

It was an almost-impossible-not-to-be-happy day.

And then I stopped at a local service station to pump gasoline into the 23-gallon tank of the four-wheel-drive 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged sport-utility vehicle in my possession.

A few gallons still remained in the tank. I actually pumped 20 gallons.

But that was 20 gallons of required premium grade gasoline at $3.89 a gallon — $77.80 worth of fuel. I was shocked. It didn’t help that the price I paid was about 35 cents a gallon lower than what people in these parts were paying for premium gasoline a few months ago.

My beautiful spring day became a bad parody of a Motown song: “Ain’t no sunshine when you’re broke.” But these prices were no joke in a vehicle that barely got 12 miles per gallon in the city and 17 miles per gallon on the highway.

I now know the difference between rich people who can afford a nearly $80,000 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged and poor people who can’t.

Rich people can afford to spend $80 for a weekend drive in the country — without the least bit of buyer’s remorse. Poor people can’t. The moment they are confronted with the true cost of their profligacy, the get depressed,

I’m poor, but I’m getting over it. The simple truth is that I thoroughly enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the Sport Supercharged, a hefty vehicle (curb weight 5,816 pounds) that feels as nimble as a sports coupe.

Credit power (a 5-liter, aluminum alloy V-8 engine — 510 horsepower, 461 pound-feet of torque) and rigid aluminum body construction. The thing feels substantially lighter than it is. It moves fast — zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.2 seconds.

Marketers for India’s Tata Motors Group, maker of all things Jaguar and Land Rover since 2008, frequently refer to the Sport Supercharged SUV as a “car.” It is a forgivable Freudian slip.

Tata, realizing that very few Land Rover Range Rover buyers actually take their expensive vehicles into the bush, deliberately made the Sport Supercharged more car-like. It can pull hard off-road duty. But why would you do that in a luxury vehicle?

Besides, the urbanization of all-wheel-drive vehicles seems to be working in Tata’s favor. Another model, the smaller Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, is selling so well globally Tata is struggling to keep up with production.

Frankly, I would’ve preferred taking the Evoque with me on this trip. It is just as luxurious, albeit it on a smaller scale. Equipped with a 2-liter, 250-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine, it still has enough moxie to get you from one place to another with a smile on your face.

The Evoque still requires premium gasoline. But at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 miles per gallon on the highway it mercifully drinks much less of the stuff.

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