Range Rover is all muscle
My contact at Range Rover said: ‘‘If we’d given the car more wading ability it would have floated away!’’ He was only partly joking and managed to encapsulate two of the new Range Rover’s main sales propositions: it’s even better off road and it’s a whole lot lighter than before. So into the water we went, deep enough for the caramel fudge-like liquid clag to wash slightly over the car’s new softer-edged bonnet and settle at about inner wheelarch height while I waited for the vehicle in front to drive out of the hole. It was a cinch. The 4x4 turbodiesel V8 even gurgled like an old motor torpedo boat as it clambered easily out of the mire, but I couldn’t help thinking that sitting
there in the lap of leather-clad luxury, it was a bit like going off-road in the automotive equivalent of Downton Abbey. I could just imagine Mr Carson saying: ‘‘Do you think this is wise, m’lud?’’ ‘‘That’s alright Carson,’’ I would reply. ‘‘The Rangie’s got it all in hand.’’ And it did. Its ability is beyond most off-roaders’ aspirations, and many don’t believe its stately elegance clothes a dirt-digging chassis and accoutrements as much at home in the mountains as outside the opera. The 2013 Range Rover is completely new from the ground up except for its engines, and they were already best in class or close to it. Apart from those, they have started from scratch, with Land Rover’s design chief Gerry McGovern told not to change the look of the car, just make it better. Job done. Crafted from aluminium – just as the best current Jaguars are – the Range Rover’s bodyshell weighs no more than a modern Mini Clubman’s. So the new Range Rover might look familiar, but it’s an allnew device, weighing up to 420kg less than its previous version. Which not only explains the its vastly improved dynamics, but also its astonishing performance, fuel economy and emissions figures. The entry-level engine, which won’t reach us until later in the year, is a 190 kilowatt three-litre TDV6 turbo diesel which, with the help of start/ stop, has official figures of 7.5L/100km combined and CO2 emissions of 196g/km but can also accelerate to 100kmh in 7.9 seconds. For the twin-turbo diesel 250kW 4.4-litre SDV8, the CO2 rating is 229g/km – a 10 per cent improvement on the previous car with the same engine, while the zero 100kmh sprint time is just 6.5 seconds, only a second and a half longer than the 375kW 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8. The latest Range Rovers all use an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission - two ratios up on the previous model. This provides astonishing refinement and quietness. Like a good butler, the power and torque is there, but is not applied with fuss or drama. Another feature across the range is air suspension soft enough to react quickly to shallow and harsh bumps, making its occupants feel as if it’s not quite touching the ground at all, passing along the open-road with such aplomb that few luxury sedans could get close to it for refinement. Body control is good and the Range Rover courses through bends with ease. Its new air suspension set-up allows body height adjustment, and with its lighter weight and a new version of the company’s Terrain Response system it’ll do the business in the dirt as well as anything else. Terrain Response II has an automatic setting which recognises what kind of surface the car is driving on. The new Rangie now has a fording depth of 900mm, so almost half the car can be submerged before you need to panic. While the car’s breakover angle is down a tad at just over 28 degrees, the Range Rover’s approach angle is improved to 34.5 degrees, while the departure angle at 29.5 degrees benefits from a much cleaner cutaway rear valance area. When things get tough, the air suspension can be raised or lowered. The Range Rover’s height has daily benefits. Room with a view is often the main buying point for most SUV aspirants, from a $10,000 used truck to a quarter million dollar Range Rover, and the comfort and legroom benefits are huge, and often preferred to the similarly-stickered longwheelbase European luxury sedans that also populate the potential Range Rover owners’ checklist. So close to the expected Range Rover template is Gerry McGovern’s new car, that it’s a surprise to learn that the wheelbase has been extended by 40mm, while the cabin offers another 120mm in rear legroom and accommodates power recliners. The cabin really is vastly improved for space over the old car’s, and there’d be few more effective modes of road transport for four large people and their belongings than the new Range Rover, though if you’re seated in the rear, and you’re quite tall, you could strike your head on the side headrail-mounted interior lamp. The designers have eliminated half the switches that used to exist in the Range Rover’s driving environment, having transferred many minor functions to the car’s central touchscreen. The new Range Rover has taken a design gimmick from Jaguar by providing an instrument cluster that’s a digital rendering of traditional sweep-dial gauges. It’s very smart and easy to read, but it doesn’t go far enough. If these instruments, are digital, then why can’t an owner personalise them, as they would a PC, iPad or Smartphone screen? Now the nitty-gritty, how much? When compared with the equivalent previous models, the new Range Rover is $14,000 more expensive in the case of the $210,000 SDV8, and $29,000 more expensive for the $255,000 Supercharged petrol V8 Vogue. The good news is that you can see - and feel - where every cent has gone. There’s a load more bits and bobs that Carson could help you choose from. His advice could be useful, as some items like special wheels and adaptive cruise control could add $12,000 each in a heartbeat. Even the entry-point TCV6 HSE will start at $195,000 and is loaded with gear. The new Range Rover is no small achievement. Relative to its weight savings, to score the equivalent success, massmakers of smaller vehicles would have to lose more than 220 kilos from their products. I’ll bet they won’t.
Radical Rover: Range Rover have shifted their focus with their latest model.