Get­ting dirty


Virtuozity - - Automobiles -

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

En­gine Power/torque Top speed Ac­cel­er­a­tion Trans­mis­sion Driv­e­line 5.0-litre V8 510 bhp @ 6,000 rpm 625 Nm @ 2,500 rpm 248 km/h 0-100 km/h in 5s 8-speed au­to­matic 4WD

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