Rugged, in Vogue
You’ll feel at home in the rough stuff or at a five-star resort
AUTOMOTIVE arrogance has a new face, although the badge hasn’t changed. At the wheel — rather, the Command Driving Position’’— of a Range Rover, you can partake of regally supreme motoring.
This is a relative concept— if you look at the starting price of $195,100 (or $211,140 as tested) then you’re going to choke.
It also goes against the trend, with the Vogue SE sliding in $7300 cheaper than the supercharged V8 petrol equivalent. But consider what you’d have to buy for the same cachet, credibility and ability: a large prestige sedan and an even larger SUV, for which you could pay twice as much.
With this leviathan you get it all in one package: poweradjustable front and (to a lesser extent) rear seats, all heated and cooled, quad-zone climate control, rear TV/DVD screens (with rear remote), xenon headlights, quality leather trim, keyless entry and ignition, softdoor close, touchscreen satnav and infotainment (with digital radio and TV, a clever two-way screen for the front passenger and a top-grade thumper of a sound system).
The test behemoth’s numerous options included a large sunroof with electric shade, not something I’d tick for $3080 given our climate. The reverse traffic and blindspot warning system is worth the $1000 asking price, as are rear privacy tinted windows for $790, but the wood-leather steering wheel was $980 worth of slight slipperiness.
There are bucketloads of clever stuff on this fourth-generation Rangie but we’ll stick to Terrain Response II and the pick of the powerplants, the twin-turbo diesel V8, which growls with pleasant menace.
Power is up 9 per cent to 250kW and it doesn’t mind a rev to get that peak at 3500rpm but the SDV8’s parallel sequential turbos enable its relentless surge— the peak 700Nm is on tap from 1750rpm through to 3000rpm.
The 0-100km/h sprint takes 6.9 seconds yet it can also sip 8.7L/100km, Land Rover says. We returned 13.0L/100km from some dirt road and suburban work and not much on the highway.
Terrain Response has inspired similar versions from competitors but Land Rover shifts the goalposts again— MkII’s Auto setting analyses driving conditions and automatically selects the most suitable terrain program.
The driver can still change modes between General, Grass/ Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl and get tips for using low range (an endangered item in this segment) and the adjustable suspension.
It can only be a Rangie. The LED headlight treatment within the smoother snout isn’t to all tastes but given its bulk it’s a credit to the design that the dimensions are not apparent until you walk around it.
The most aerodynamic Range Rover yet claims more rear leg room. Aluminium construction in monocoque (an industry first) trims 400kg from the outgoing model but it’s still a heavy vehicle at 2360kg.
Euro NCAP awards five stars. The Rangie also has the inherent safety of four-wheeldrive and good dynamics, as well as six airbags, autodimming mirrors, parking sensors and reversing camera, automatic emergency braking, stability (traction and roll-over) control, trailer stability control, hill start and descent control.
The big black beast sits low on its haunches and looks mean. Install yourself behind the wheel in the impressive seat and it’s a nice fit. Punch the start button and the diesel V8 fires quickly into life.
Turn the transmission selector knob, pinched from Jaguar, and we’re under way. The eight-speed auto is smooth and smart. Even on part-throttle velocity builds quickly but the quiet cabin and refined yet controlled ride don’t betray it. From the helm the view is considerable, like sitting atop an elephant— albeit one that’s consulted a naughty sports scientist, so considerable is the urge. Steering is light and perhaps not as meaty as you’d hope. The adaptively damped suspension rides brilliantly despite (optional) 21-inch wheels and 45-profile tyres, effectively countering the body roll of its first and second-gen ancestors by way of active lean control.
The latter disengages offroad for excellent suspension articulation and traction. You can throw $200,000 worth of off-roader at seriously tough terrain with a clear conscience and no financial fear. There’s very little it won’t clamber over or plough through. Fast dirt is a doddle despite its mass. Fast bitumen is pretty interesting too— where once a Rangie would have scraped its sidemirrors on the bitumen (slight exaggeration), the new version sits flat and tortures tyre sidewalls instead.
Quiet school-run duty is a given, with digital TV and infrared headphones in the rear. The only noise aft comes when the signal is interrupted (‘‘this TV is scratched Daddy’’) or the ignition is turned off.
Cabin comfort is considerable, with well-cut and soft leather trim, heating and cooling for four seating positions and ambient lights that can be tailored for colour- choice. Storage is only average — the door pockets are still difficult to reach and the glove box isn’t enormous.
Boot space isn’t bad but rivals have more, as well as seven-seat options, something this maker has on its to-do list.
Its towing vehicle status is among the best in class with a 3500kg braked capacity. A load-distributing hitch would be good if Land Rover has changed its tune and agrees to one.
But it’s not perfect. Some trim has suffered for the test car’s tough start to life, looking a little loose. The proximity key was happy enough to allow an unlock but locking was with key-fob button only.
Effortless, impervious, arrogant and clever, the Range Rover is at home on the five-star hotel forecourt and the toughest terrain. The benchmark 4WD system enables off-roading even for numbskulls and the turbo diesel V8 is a gem. A few annoying niggles remain.