Downside: Low-aspect ratio tires are great for accelerating and taking sharp turns on paved roads. But even low-profile tires designed for four-wheel-drive vehicles amount to little more than modest compromises for off-road travel. If you are going to spend most of your time off-road, be willing to sacrifice some on-road performance in favor of tires better suited for rough terrain. The same goes for people in snowy regions. Your hot-to-trot sports vehicles -- no matter who makes them -- will turn into stuck or skidding wimps if you don't have the proper tires.
As for the Range Rover Sport Supercharged itself, seating and cargo space are tight. The term "sport" in the auto industry usually connotes a vehicle that is more fun than it is practical. That holds true here.
Ride, acceleration and handling: The Sport Supercharged is excellent in all three categories on the road, which is where it is likely to spend most of its time.
Body style/layout: Range Rover Sport models are front-engine, permanent four-wheel-drive vehicles with an electronically controlled, two-speed transfer gearbox. Construction is a variation on the theme of the unitized body concept -- in this case an integrated body and frame, including a steel ladder frame and welded steel underbody. There are four side doors and a rear hatch.
Engines/Transmissions: The Sport Supercharged is equipped with a 4.2-liter, supercharged V-8 engine (thus, the name) that develops 390 horsepower at 5,750 revolutions per minute. Maximum torque is 420 foot-pounds at 3,500 rpm. A supercharger compresses more air in engine cylinders, thereby creating a denser air-fuel mixture and more power with a minimum increase in fuel consumption.
A 4.4-liter, normally aspirated, 300-horsepower engine is in the HSE. Both engines are mated to six-speed automatic transmissions that also can be shifted manually.
Cargo and fuel capacities: There is seating for five people. Maximum cargo space with rear seats folded is 71 cubic feet. Maximum towing capacity is 7,716 pounds. Fuel capacity is 23.3 gallons of required premium unleaded gasoline.
Mileage: I averaged 15 miles per gallon in 800 miles of travel. The total fuel cost for the trip was $203. That works out to a bit more than $50 for each 200 miles driven.
Safety: Traction and stability control, electronic brake assistance, six air bags, anti-rollover protection.
Price: The 2006 Range Rover Sport Supercharged starts at $69,750. The Range Rover Sport HSE starts at $56,750. Both prices include a $665 destination charge. "Starts at" is substantially important here, inasmuch as Range Rovers are boutique-mobiles whose prices can soar higher with options and customizing.
Purse-strings note: Compare with BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Porsche Cayenne.