In my previous post, I discussed what it took to buy a very cheap 2004 Range Rover— $3000 + $150 for a new fuel pump. Now let’s talk about the rest of my ownership experience, shall we?
(Full Disclosure: Land Rover wanted me to drive a 2004 Range Rover so badly that they gave it an amazing depreciation curve that allowed a broke person like me to afford it 13 years later. Thanks!)
After I did the initial repair to the Range Rover, it was everything that a Range Rover should be. It started, drove, and stopped just like any other vehicle, wow! The ride was pretty comfortable and it handled about as well as a 5500lb brick can handle, which is not very well. It wasn’t very fast and it had plenty of body roll on sharp turns, but I quickly found out that those didn’t really matter.
There’s something about driving a Range Rover that’s hard to explain... it just feels really “right.” The seating position is quite high, there’s excellent visibility all around, and due to the relatively high ride height you feel like the king of the jungle in traffic. It just has so much presence, but I might be a little biased here. I will say, I got cut off in traffic way less when driving the Range Rover, whereas I’m just about invisible when driving my lowered 540it.
The design of the L322 Range Rover is excellent— it’s aging incredibly well as the years go by. The boxy shape pays homage to the Range Rover’s utilitarian roots, while details like the vertical fender vents, LED tail lights, and Xenon headlights give it a contemporary look. There’s nothing that looks quite like it out there, and in this age of generic-looking cars, that’s high praise.
The interior has a really distinctive look that’s still echoed in current Land Rover products. The way the wood trim runs vertically is a brilliant deviation from the norm, and the controls are all very easy to use— clearly the work of the Germans. While the interior in my particular Range Rover was a bit tired after 13 years, it was very much intact, with no creaking or rattling anywhere. The seats are quite comfortable and it’s a wonderful place to spend some time. I will say though, I greatly prefer the light interior option in these Range Rovers; it’s more visually appealing whereas the black/gray interior looks a little drab.
I can’t help but mention the HVAC system, which is one of the best systems I’ve experienced in any vehicle. A lot of AC systems have trouble keeping up with Phoenix’s legendary summer heat, but the Range Rover handled it effortlessly, actually managing to make me uncomfortably cold in 110ºF temperatures. I know it’s lame to get excited about good AC, but it was just that good.
The amenities were excellent, considering the age of the vehicle and how little I paid for it. Heated seats front all around, heated steering wheel, fantastic sound system, automatic headlights, parking sensors, power folding mirrors, million-way power adjustable seats, and a surprising amount of cupholders for a European vehicle. And while most cars have heated rear windows, the Range Rover one ups them by having a heated windshield, with extremely fine elements running through the whole windshield. I thought that was a cool touch, a nod to the Range Rover’s go-anywhere nature.
The cargo area had acres of storage space, especially with the back seats tumbled forward. Under the cargo floor was a full size spare, along with a clever strap system to make it easy to retrieve the presumably heavy spare. The split-opening tail gate is a cool throwback to older Range Rovers, as well as being an excellent place to sit and have a picnic. My Range Rover also had a pretty sturdy-looking class III tow hitch that was rated at 7700lbs, which combined with the self-leveling air suspension makes for an excellent tow rig.
A much-maligned feature of the Range Rover is the air suspension system. It’s brilliant when it works, being able to adjust the ride height several inches to accommodate for higher speeds or off-roading. For example, when you go faster than 65mph for more than a few minutes, the Range Rover automatically lowers itself a little to decrease aerodynamic drag and improve stability. My particular Range Rover had no issues with air suspension, but I will mention that it is quite cheap to service if you know what you’re doing. There are plenty of reputable places to get remanufactured air struts like Arnott and Rebuild Master Tech— at a fraction of the cost. The only reason to pay $1200 for a strut replacement is if you have a bumper-to-bumper warranty, like a certain writer we all know.
The real beauty of the Range Rover though, is in its amazing ability to combine good on-road manners with excellent off-roading abilities. I took it on some mild off-roading on a lake just outside of town, and while I didn’t even come close to utilizing the Range Rover’s full abilities, I felt extremely confident taking it over some pretty rough surfaces. Also worth noting is that the Range Rover has a proper transfer case with a low range, for more serious expeditions.
Looking under the Range Rover, I saw beefy subframes all around and everything was covered or protected in some way. Even the shifter linkage had a hefty metal cover over it. For all the flak that Range Rovers get for their build quality, the core of the vehicle is quite robust.
After spending some time off-roading, I got back on the road and comfortably cruised back to town at 80mph with excellent AC and music blasting. Very few SUV’s manage this duality so well, with most forgoing any real off-roading capabilities in exchange for puttering around town.
Who cares?! I don’t.
But if you do care for some reason, I averaged 13mpg no matter how I drove. The 4.4L V8 has to work pretty hard to haul the big heavy lump around, so you can pretty much forget about ever getting decent fuel economy. Of course it also requires premium, since it has a BMW engine.
I loved my Range Rover, it was an excellent all-around vehicle. But it was not without its flaws— stay tuned for the next article where I’ll detail exactly what I had to do to keep my Range Rover in good running condition, and how much it cost. For now, I’ll leave you with my favorite picture of the Range Rover.
Danny is a guy in Arizona that’s obsessed with old, unreliable European cars (mostly BMWs). He works as a web developer to pay for his fleet of questionable vehicles. You can follow more of his adventures on his YouTube channel: youtube.com/dannysgarage