VIRTUOZITY GETS deep In THE MUD with THE 2016 range ROVER SPORT TO SEE If IT TRULY DESERVES THAT FAMOUS Offroad BADGE On THE BONNET
In my mind, there’s something not quite right when you’re merrily chatting with your passenger, as muddy water is washing up to the bottom of the windscreen. And I’m not talking about spray from a passing truck. I’m talking about a bow wave of water, lapping around the wipers and threatening to block your forward view.
But I guess it’s not surprising really, as I’m driving the latest range rover sport, a car that seems to neatly traverse the seemingly poles-apart worlds of luxury and off-roading. the two are so far removed from each other that bringing them together is a serious feat of engineering. But it’s also something that all Land rover fans expect when any new model is released.
so far, the river flowing just below my side window would suggest Land rover’s engineers have managed to somehow balance the two, despite the layers of luxury keeping me warm and dry.
regardless of how luxurious any Land rover gets, the brand’s image dictates that every car must be properly off-road capable. the car comes with an advanced version of the terrain response system fitted to all models carrying the Land rover badge. this allows you to select between a number of pre-set driving modes depending on the surface you are
trying to cross. It also raises and lowers the car accordingly.
Now, before you start thinking that I am using a bit of artistic licence and I’m actually driving through a tiny, dribbling stream, bear in mind that this is Land Rover’s official driving experience. Based at Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire, anyone can turn up and try their hand at some serious off-roading in a Defender or LR4. Or alternatively, if you are lucky enough to get invited, you could do what I’m doing and take an extremely expensive and well-appointed Sport up to its proverbial neck in mud.
Eastnor is properly challenging, consisting of deep woods littered with trails perfectly suited for a challenging day of driving. There are steep climbs, treacherous down slopes and some quite terrifying slippery cambered paths, which threaten to send you sliding off into the bushes below at any moment. And, of course, it has its very own river.
I’ve already climbed a slope that looked simply impossible and dropped down a winding path without clipping a tree. So far the Sport is every bit as capable as an LR4 in the mucky stuff.
Now, this is not my first time behind the wheel of the sporty version of Land Rover’s flagship. Virtuozity originally tested the new Range Rover Sport in Dubai back in early 2015 and found it was a massive improvement over the first generation.
For 2016 the changes are small, but move the goal posts even further forward. Although the exterior design remains the same, there are a number of new exterior colours to choose from. There are also new alloy wheel designs, with sizes up to a massive 22-inch rim. Inside, there is also a range of trim colours. For the driver there’s an added view on Land Rover’s excellent all-round camera system, plus a very clever rear camera washer, which I might need to use if I ever get out of this river.
Technology-wise the Range Rover Sport now has a stop/start function and a gesture tailgate, which opens when you wave your foot around on either side of the rear of the car. Unlike other systems from other manufacturers, you don’t need to stand right behind the car for it to see you, mean-
ing you aren’t standing in the way of the tailgate as it opens.
Under the hood you’ve got the same 510 hp 5.0-litre V8 Supercharged engine from last year. The unit is more than enough for the size of the car, especially with 625 Nm of torque to haul you along. The 0-100 km/h dash takes just over five seconds and top speed is a frankly bonkers 248 km/h.
But this test in the depths of rural England is not about speed. It is more about making sure Land Rover has stayed true to the brand’s roots. Despite all other manufacturer’s claims, Land Rover is the first one you think of when bringing up the subject of a proper off-road vehicle. Some Americans might argue Jeep has an equal claim over the title, but when it comes to off-roading mixed with luxury, nothing comes close.
As I exit the river up a steep, mud-covered bank, it’s clear that the Range Rover Sport hasn’t given up any of Land Rover’s off-road ability. It seems incongruous that any brand could build a car this capable off the tarmac, and yet so loaded with modern luxury. You really could drive through a forest to a black tie ball in this car.
Was there really any doubt that Land Rover had dropped the ball? No, not really. But messing about in the mud in a car that doesn’t require you to get out and push has a major grin factor.
Another river crossing, anyone?
Eight brand new audi r8 V10 Pluses sit brooding in front of me in the pit lane of the world-famous Yas Marina Circuit, home of the abu dhabi F1 grand Prix. this is the regional launch of the all-new r8 on the south circuit, which includes the section under the Yas Viceroy hotel.
Visually, the new car has done away with the curved lines of its predecessor. the front is more aggressive, with LED lights as standard on the V10 Plus. these were developed for the LMP1 programme and have moved across to audi’s road cars for the very first time. the lights use a reflected laser and gas to create a white beam that can project twice as far as conventional Leds.
the famous ‘side blades’ are now split into two sections, interrupted by the continuous shoulder line. at the front there’s a low-profile, single-frame grille. at the rear, the lower section is shaped by the diffuser, and—on the V10 plus—there’s an aggressive looking fixed wing.
Sliding into the beautifully crafted cabin gives me the feeling of being a fighter pilot. the low-mounted, lightweight bucket seats are entirely new and are available in either alcantara or fine nappa leather. they are supportive and