‘Finest lux­ury SUV’ shows off its classy de­scent

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - Keith Ward

IT is a rum way, as the lo­cals might say, to treat a near-£100,000, spank­ing new car.

En­cour­aged by in­struc­tors on a spe­cial off-road course in York­shire, I am plung­ing into a tree-lined ravine down a muddy one-in­three gra­di­ent, steeper than any pub­lic road in Bri­tain, and try­ing des­per­ately to fol­low the ex­pert ad­vice to keep both feet off the ped­als while brac­ing my­self against grav­ity.

No wor­ries. Gov­erned by the maze of elec­tronic wiz­ardry be­low its bon­net, the lat­est Range Rover picks its own de­scent with the care­ful de­lib­er­a­tion of a skilled moun­taineer.

Next, with tail high to the sky, its un­der­belly ex­posed and one wheel wag­gling mo­men­tar­ily mid-air it is tack­ling a rocky, side-to-side track fiendishly de­vised to give it the gait of a drunken sailor. Mis­sion ac­com­plished. Next, cross­ing a river on a nar­row, two-plank bridge, sill-view side cam­eras look down to make sure you re­main in line.

An en­hanced Ter­rain Re­sponse sys­tem on up­per-trim ver­sions now au­to­mat­i­cally se­lects best power train and chas­sis set­tings for such as snow, mud, rocks or sand, while ad­vis­ing the driver when to man­u­ally se­lect lower range of the 16 gears, or raise the ride height.

There’s 17mm ex­tra ground clear­ance, to 303 mmand, grat­i­fy­ingly in view of Bri­tain’s in­creas­ing flood risk, a 200mm en­hance­ment, to 900mm, in wad­ing depth.

Later in the day, the same ve­hi­cle, suit­ably hosed down, is seren­ity it­self, cruis­ing qui­etly with saloon car poise around the scenic, wind­ing, stonewalled roads of the Dales. A re­vised chas­sis and new four-cor­ner air sus­pen­sion has made the ride more sup­ple and no­tice­ably re­duced body lean on cor­ners.

It is this dual off- and on-road per­son­al­ity that has given the Bri­tish­built Range Rover world renown since its de­but in 1970. Now, with its mak­ers see­ing a new surge of success un­der In­dian own­er­ship, the fourth gen­er­a­tion en­tered show­rooms with a fan­fare as “the world’s finest lux­ury SUV”.

A new all-alu­minium body struc­ture helps make it 420 kg or 39 per cent lighter than the steel-shelled out­go­ing model, sav­ing weight equiv­a­lent to five adults, so im­prov­ing fuel ef­fi­ciency while quick­en­ing per­for­mance.

A longer wheel­base within a sim­i­lar foot­print al­lows 118mm more rear legroom. The plump leather rear seats fold down, but not into a com­pletely flat floor.

Small, square rear lights look cu­ri­ously un­der­sized by mod­ern de­sign fash­ion. The hor­i­zon­tally split rear tail­gate now closes elec­tri­cally.

The cock­pit con­trol lay­out with its two dis­play screens re­port­edly features 50 per cent fewer switches, but still war­rants a swot-up ses­sion with the hand­book. A sump­tu­ously fur­nished cabin could do with a grab han­dle on the screen pil­lar to hoist you into the high-set driver’s seat.

THE YORK­SHIRE TEST: The Range Rover Vogue tack­led some of our tough­est trails.

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