People buy Range Rovers for the same reason they stay in bad relationships: those brief moments of joy overshadow years of frequent pain.
As your Rover is being towed from work for the eighth time, you tell your skeptical friends “You just don’t know her like I do.”
I have owned three Range Rovers: 2004, 2006, and 2010 HSE. The first two had a total of 18 trips to the service department outside of scheduled maintenance. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Background of Modern Range Rovers
In 2004, a BMW-built Range Rover was brought to market. At the time it was the most expensive redesign of any car in history.
Reading the press releases, I had to wonder if a 17-year-old with an unmonitored expense account had taken over BMW R&D. How on earth could you spend more designing an urban assault vehicle than they spent on the early 2000’s 7 series, M5, and M3, combined (some of the best driving cars ever built)?
I understood the hype after my first three-mile test drive. Even at 6’3” it took a slight hop to place myself in a comically-high, 17-way adjustable leather throne. It took three attempts to close a bank-vault-like door before it latched with aristocratic thump that still makes me smile.
Every surface was covered in thick, hand-sewn leather and an exotic wood finish. A turn of the ignition greets you with a deep roar of a 4.4 liter V8. You expect a 6,000-pound tank to be heavy and slow, but somehow it only requires one finger on the wheel and a toe on the accelerator to maneuver with the utmost confidence.
The car draws attention from nearly everyone you pass and you can’t help but feel that not only is this the best car on the road but you’re a better person for driving it.
- The sound system is fantastic.
- The suspension absorbs every imperfection in the road.
- It handles corners with surprising confidence.
- You can tow or transport nearly anything.
- Every snow drift or steep hill calls for you to traverse it with ease.
That’s the Range Rover’s trap. They are amazing for 3-5 miles before things start to go terribly wrong.
Of course by then you have bought it. It has depreciated 40% in two days, so you say to yourself, “This is just a fluke. I have a warranty, and it can be fixed.”
For a few weeks, you’re back to feeling superior to all lesser motorists only to be brought back to earth by another warning light. One good part about spending half your life in the service department waiting room is it gives you time to read others’ experiences on user forums. You learn these early models were plagued with a few major mechanical flaws.
- The biggest issue being an air suspension system that must have used party balloons and engine hoses from plastic surgical gloves.
- Every three months one of the air bags spring a leak costing $1,200 once out of warranty.
- About once a year the compressor would burn out from trying to constantly fill struts that resemble Swiss cheese after inspection (at $2,000 per replacement).
The large V8 runs very hot and thin exhaust and coolant hoses melt into a rubbery blob every 30,000 miles. They set you back about $1,500 to replace. A couple years later you get tired of the constant problems and sell your $80,000 SUV for $16K on trade.
This sounds like a nightmare, but this speaks to the heart of what a German-built and English-finished car can achieve. The once bitter rivals took their shared experiences of the 1940’s and figured out Stockholm syndrome doesn’t only apply to prisoners.
With time and the right balance of comfort offset by brutality you can alter someone’s psyche to become irrationally addicted to the up and down wave of emotions. Even with the sale to Jaguar/Ford in 2006 and Tata motors in 2012, this concept has remained with the car, as if it were welded into the double reinforced chassis itself.
Modern Models are Still Hit-and-Miss
The overall reliability of Range Rovers has recently improved. Models of the last six years seem to suffer more from quality control issues than design flaws. I refuse to part with my 2010 because it simply won’t break—no matter what I do it has been a flawless.
I know others who have a 2010 HSE where the interior lights turn on for no reason, the sunroof leaks huge amounts of water, and they are on their third set of catalytic converters.
There are gems to be found, but I highly recommend buying a one-owner, 2-3 year used model with fully documented service history. If it’s going to be ugly it will have shown by then.
Save yourself 50% off. Most people can’t tell the difference between a 2005 and a 2014 model.
From my experience and those of dozens of owners I’ve spoken with, a trouble-free Range Rover is finding a needle in a haystack. You will always tell yourself the next repair will be the last or this newer model will solve the problem. It doesn’t, and I’ve come to grips that it never will.
How Others Makes Compare
I’ve tested the waters with Porsche Cayennes, G wagons, Q7’s and even Escalades, but none of them make you feel the same way the Range Rover does. Passion overcomes logic and you find yourself back in another one.
I can say with 100% confidence I will never own a less reliable car. I can also say with 100% confidence a Range Rover will always be in my garage.
Every morning I see it, and it says, “I’m really sorry about last week. I’m going to change. Give me just one more chance.”
With a Jaguar XFR and 911 Turbo parked next to it, when I want to go for a relaxing drive after a long day at work, half the time I grab the Range Rover keys. It defies reason, so don’t try to justify why you should buy or keep one.
The heart wants what the heart wants. Which is why I’d rather be broken down in my Range Rover than driving your Jeep.
About the Author
A lifelong gear-head, Devin Beck is Vice President of Sales for Kaltura software and a recovering Range Rover owner. A native of Cincinnati, a perfect weekend for Devin includes a glass of strong scotch, a round of golf, and a drive in his favorite Range Rover (not necessarily in that order).