THE mind says the 1988 Range Rover is silly. No one needs a $30,000-plus four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Yeah, it beats most sports-utility models in off-road competition. But how often do you ford streams, drive through mud or traverse rugged mountains to get to the office?

The heart, however, says you don't know nothin'. Look at this thing. Ain't it the most elegant box on wheels you've ever seen? Sit in those gorgeous Connolly leather seats. Touch that real wood interior trim. And what about that aircraft aluminum body over that rigid steel frame? Great, ain't it? British royalty and Saudi princes love this machine.

Your problem, Mind, is that you don't know the difference between logic and class.

Mind: Class? Hah! What would the yuppie buyers of this "British classic" say if they knew that its engine was developed by General Motors?

Heart: The engine works, don't it?

Mind: Yeah.

Heart: So, why they gotta tell anybody where the engine came from? I'm talkin' image, and image ain't real. It's feel. And the Range Rover makes you feel good, don't it?

Mind: It surely does.

Heart: So, whatcha waitin' for?

Mind: The cash.

Complaints: The Range Rover, introduced in the United States in March 1987 after winning hearts and minds overseas for 17 years, is woefully expensive. It's the Rolls-Royce of four-wheel-drive multipurpose vehicles, and it would make lots of sense to own one if you intended to, or had a need to, exploit its wonderful potential.

But most four-wheel-drive vehicles stay mainly on the road. As for those rainy, snowy occasions when extra traction is needed, any less-expensive Jeep, Ford Bronco, Nissan Pathfinder, Isuzu Trooper or Chevy Blazer will do.

Also, there are some technical bugaboos in the Range Rover. Emergency braking in this 4,303-pound machine isn't the best. The usual, acute rear-to-front vehicle weight shift in panic stops seems to increase here, with a commensurate increase in stopping distance.

However, Range Rover officials argue that the stopping distance could be shortened by competent use of their vehicle's excellent engine-braking ability, accomplished by manually downshifting the otherwise automatic gearbox from "drive" to third, second or first gear. 'Tis true. But it also means that the Range Rover requires more than the usual new-owner orientation.

Praise: Overall, the Range Rover is simply the best multipurpose vehicle on sale. A list of its virtues would require more than the space available here. But some goodies are obvious: It has the best ride of any four-wheel-drive machine at any price, largely thanks to the use of long-travel coil springs at all four wheels. Handling is generally excellent. The craftsmanship is superb. And, yeah, it'll roll over practically any terrain.

The Heart wins. I'd like to own one.

Head-turning quotient: The five-seat Range Rover drew many raves and sneers -- an ego-maniac's delight.

The engine: It's a fuel-injected version of the 3.5-liter, V-8 engine introduced by GM's Buick Division in 1961 -- yes, 1961. It's a terrific engine, but one that GM withdrew from the market in 1964 because it was too expensive to produce. British Leyland purchased the right to build the engine for its Rover vehicle line in 1965. The engine is rated 150 horsepower at 4,750 rpm.

Sound system: Four-speaker, AM/FM stereo radio and cassette by Clarion. Mediocre.

Mileage: No more than 15 to the gallon (20-gallon tank, estimated 290-mile range on usable volume), combined city-highway- off-road, running with mixed loads (one to five occupants).

Price: $36,450, including $1,125 for the optional leather upholstery, $1,375 for the optional sunroof, and a $550 destination charge. Base price is $33,400. Estimated dealer's invoice price without options is $28,056.

Warren Brown covers the auto industry for The Washington Post.