The fourth-generation Range Rover was designed and built from the ground up to impress those that are hard to please. It’s a big money car – at least £71,295, but more like £85k with a few toys – but, in return for your serious stack of hard cash you get a stunning all-aluminium body, a sumptuous interior and arguably the most advanced and capable off-road-ready suspension and transmission underpinning any SUV on sale today. Motor-Vision’s driven the much anticipated new super-SUV on twisty British back lanes, motorways, and up to the axles in filth!
If looks could kill
Tearing around some favourite back lanes in your tuned-for-suspension-and-brakes RenaultSport Clio 172 is all about pumping adrenalin and growing a big grin – pulse-racing fun that’s always a pleasure. But, walking up to the all-new Range Rover – in so-deep Barossa Black metallic paint – and I’m not excited to drive to it hard, to delve into the depths of its chassis set-up in search of the last whiff of grip. No, I just want to slide into that Dark Cherry leather driver’s seat and cruise into town where people can see me.
Of course, it’s an entirely different beast to the nippy little Renault – although you’ll be surprised what the Range Rover can do through some tight turns – there’s more to it than just driving a Range Rover, and this new car more than ever, is about the occasion of it; feeling a little self-satisfied in this big chunk of luxury. Even a little lordy! But, don’t feel bad, it’s your time to feel like a hip hop video star, and today, in this all-black, range-topping Autobiography Range Rover, I’m an underdressed, over excited Essex-born Snoop Dogg!
At 5-metres long, the new Range is about the same size as the car it replaces, and actually a touch smaller than the (massive) Audi Q7. It’s got a smaller frontal area and a lower roofline; both combining for better aero performance. But, the headline to this new Range Rover story is that all-aluminium body. It’s much lighter, very stiff, offers more space inside, and, I think, brings a little extra glamour to the feel of the car. Aluminium has long been the light and expensive metal of automotive, nautical and aerospace choice, and every curving inch of the new Range is lovingly hand-finished in the temperamental metal.
I say temperamental, because aluminium isn’t as hard and predictable as steel and behaves differently when you try to bend, fold and form it, and it was, according to the Range Rover designers and engineers introducing their new baby to the assembled press, a 10,000-hour struggle between man and metal to get every panel gap and shut line as pin-perfect as a £100,000 car-buyer would demand. But, they wanted to trim over 400kg from the car’s weight, so it had to be aluminium.
With the equivalent of five people-worth of weight less to haul – but still weighing in at a healthy 2-tonnes-plus – the new Range Rover doesn’t work its engines as hard as it predecessor, and for every 100kg you save in weight, your car will be some two per cent more efficient. That’s all cool, but cooler still is the so understated design.
The new headlights and taillights are packed with LEDs and both feature a flick-in design touch at the top side of the lens; into the bodywork, while at the front we see luxury camera-style lens lettering around the projector bezels; themselves surrounded by a snaking LED strip.
Other touches you might recognise from Range Rover’s heritage are the front wing graphics and the metal-colour belt line that runs under the doors and up to the base of the rear lights.
The wing graphics surely mimic a shark’s gills, but unlike the shark, they are no longer used for breathing as in the outgoing car. The new Range takes its engine-breaths from vents flushed into the top edges of the front wings, under the clamshell bonnet. This means the new car can wade in water up to 90cm deep without spluttering. That’s over the tops of the wheels!
And the belt line that kicks up at the rear harks back to the models before – especially the very first design – and has been painted to match the aluminium metalwork now covered by up to 18,000 different options for paint colours, leathers and wheels.
On the road
It might be a bit of a joke among cynical motoring journalists that almost all of these highly engineered Range Rovers will unlikely ever dip a 22-inch rim into the mud. But, it also means that the new Range must waft down the road like a cool summer breeze, while still being able to plough the mud if needed. And that’s a suspension and transmission combination to make a chassis engineer’s eyes water.
Disguising its significant weight has long been a clever Range Rover trick – using dynamic electronics – and the new car is more computer-controlled than Bills Gates’ bathroom! Where once you had to select the terrain type by looking out of the window, observing the conditions and then pressing the relevant terrain button, now the car does it all for you. Snow joke, it’s muddy amazing!
The air-assisted suspension is fully adjustable for road work or mud mashing, and with just under 600mm of wheel travel, at full height, this is the farthest travelling set of wheels on any SUV. But, on the tarmac, she hunkers down in ride height.
A slight brain reprogramming is needed when hustling the Range Rover. The new car corners flatter and faster than any Range before it, and while it’s no apex-nailer like the RenaultSport Clio, it rocks much harder than its sheer size would suggest. You can even pop this one into Sport mode to stiffen the ride further, hold the revs longer, and add a touch more ‘pointy’ to the steering. But, you know me; I’m all about the cruising.
Our main Motor-Vision test drive motor today is a Barossa Black, Autobiography range-topper with Dark Cherry Seats, a Cherry and Ivory leather interior, and Ebony Macassar veneer. Dark red seats and piano-black wood veneer, basically. This one’s also got 21-inch alloys – they range from 19- to 22-inch – and with a few extra toys, including a £1,500 rear seat entertainment system, tips the scales at just under £88,000. And it’s got the smallest engine – a wee, 3-litre, twin-turbo V6 diesel…
Fear not, the V6 – coupled to a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox – is a potent little peach of a powerplant and will be, by some margin, the best selling engine in the UK. I did try the 4.4-litre V8 diesel and 5-litre supercharged V8 petrol, too. More on those later.
The 3.0L TDV6 Diesel, as it’s known in the brochure, has been hauling Range Rover products for a few years now. It’s tried and tested, but with much less weight to haul in the lighter new car, a ‘mere’ 3-litre V6 becomes an impressive performer. 60mph comes in just 7.4 seconds and it’ll hit 130mph, while CO2 emissions sit at a respectable 196g/km; combined economy quoted at 37.7mpg. Previously unheard of figures for a big Range.
The 8-speed ‘box delivers the V6’s power (257bhp) quickly and cleanly to the road while the continuously adjusting suspension keeps things way flatter and faster than surely physics should allow, and in any on-road situation, this SUV is pokey, not slouchy.
My only complaint from inside the vast, leather drenched palace of an interior, is a sometimes noticeable ‘clatter’ from the wheels as they pound through potholes. Basically, the initial ride – as the wheel strikes a hole in the road – can be felt as a judder through the wheel – but, as the judder travels up the chassis and into the cabin it’s all but smoothed out. As a journo, I was looking for it, and this is the compromise between the stiffness needed for off-road and the softness needed to waft down the motorway. Waft this car still does, oh yes, but larger potholes are its enemy.
Big power up
So what of the V8 diesel and V8 petrol motors? Well, the more you spend on your new Range, the more grunt you can expect. A 4.4L SDV8 Diesel in Vogue trim will cost just over £78k, while the 5.0L V8 Supercharged Petrol comes only in the range topping Autobiography trim, and will cost over £95k, without extra toys.
The V8 diesel is a monster of torque with a full fat 700Nm of thrust from just 1,750rpm. This low-end thumper will punt a new Range Rover to 60mph in a Porsche bothering 6.5 seconds, and on to 135mph.
The supercharged V8 petrol motor sits smugly at the top of the power tree with some 500bhp+ to play with, and a lump of torque at 625Nm. This all-aluminium, 48-valve supercharged bull of an engine will get you first past the post in every respect, hitting 60mph in 5.1 seconds (the car weighs at least 2,330kg in this trim!), and hauling on to 155mph.
If I lived in the real world, I, like most new Range Rover buyers in the UK, would go for the V6 diesel – it’s a cracking motor with an eye on the frugal. However, if I came from the planet Cash Mountain, I would, of course, slide into the soft leather seat of a V8 supercharged Autobiography, and care not for the combined fuel economy figure of 20.5mpg. And that’s without booting it!
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This full day of test driving also took us to the Longcross Land Rover testing facility in Surrey; a petrolheads dream of private snaking tarmac, underwear-chewing off-road climbs and descents, and absolutely no rozzers in sight. Here we put the new Range Rover through its filthy paces.
With the aid of some serious computing power, the Range Rover will climb inclines that leave you seeing only sky out of the windscreen, and let you drop into descents that have your torso straining against the seatbelt. These climbs and drops are not natural, but you get what you pay for, and a good few quid gets you a very capable off-roader.
The constant rain of late left us in deep mud and the deepest of ruts, but again the Range dug in and pulled through. Full-time four-wheel drive and a proper low- and high-range set of gear ratios, and plenty of engine grunt, means that the Range Rover is well equipped on the rough stuff. Slip on a set of proper off-road tyres and I’m sure this thing’d pull trees out the ground!
The new Range Rover made me feel good, and I think you’d feel good driving it, too. From the moment I nestled into the Cherry Red leather seat and cast my gaze over the expanse of Barossa Black clamshell bonnet, I was hooked.
So smooth, so quiet and so classy, if your ego needs a little boost and you’ve got the cash, then it’s downright rude not to recommend the Range Rover; from smaller V6 motor all the way up to snarling supercharged V8.
You get what you pay for and you’ll be paying through the nose, but at this top end of the market it’s all about feeling good in a rolling luxury leather palace, and this new Range is top notch luxury car, or, indeed, a mud-pounding super-four-wheel drive. The choice is yours, enjoy it.
By Dan Anslow