Rugged, in Vogue

You’ll feel at home in the rough stuff or at a five-star re­sort

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige - STU­ART MARTIN stu­art.martin@cars­guide.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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