‘Finest luxury SUV’ shows off its classy descent
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.