Range Rover Revisited – A Northern Review
On 17th June 1970, we witnessed the arrival of the Range Rover. The story however begins in the mid-1960s when Rover’s new projects engineering chief, Charles Spencer ‘Spen’ King hatched a plan to combine the comfort and on-road ability of a Rover saloon with the off-road ability of a Land Rover.
Development began during the late 1960s with the first model drawing critical acclaim from the world’s media. Here was a car with unparalleled off-road ability, but one that would be equally at home outside a top hotel once the mud had been washed off.
How do you reinvent an icon must surely have been the question asked by the designers when creating an all-new model, the task being to update and improve without alienating existing customers?
Therefore, at first glance at least, the design appears to be evolutionary. However, with recent experience of the outgoing model, it is easy how things have evolved.
Simplicity is the order of the day, with many of the old car’s fussy details removed. In their place, less creases on the doors, flush door handles, more subtle side vents and slimmer headlights to the front. The flush-fitting side glass may not be immediately obvious and a quick stroll around the back shows the new slim, vertical LED lights which are cunningly hidden until lit.
I was lucky enough to attend the UK Media Launch last year and came away impressed. However, it is not until you spend a few days with a car that you truly get to know it properly. That I have just done, as a prime example in ‘Batumi Gold’ has recently graced (and filled) my driveway.
However, it is not until you spend a few days with a car that you truly get to know it properly.
Climbing aboard, all seems quite familiar with high quality materials in abundance. However, compared with the fourth-generation model, less is more has been the philosophy once again, with much of the car’s controls taken care of by the 13.1-inch infotainment screen. I was pleased to note that the heating and ventilation controls have been kept separate.
Screen controls offer a haptic function, with a reassuring click registering each push, though this can be switched off if so desired.
A new gear selector sprouts from the centre console. Gone is the rotary dial, which I rather liked, and in its place is a more conventional lever for the automatic transmission. A button at the back must be pressed to select a gear, a little awkward in my opinion.
The familiar Land Rover Terrain Response system is activated by a round knob which pops up when pressed. Auto mode will be fine most of the time, though a quick turn to the left selects ‘Dynamic’ mode, highly recommended if you like to get a shift on.
The driving position is suitably commanding, higher than most competitor SUVs which makes placing the car relatively easy, even on narrow country lanes. All extremities are easy to see, though the various cameras and sensors will help guide you when manoeuvring in tight spots. In addition, the Range Rover is now fitted with rear-wheel steering which not only improves high speed stability, but also dramatically reduces the car’s turning circle. It certainly impressed.
Seats front and rear are likely to be more comfortable and supportive than your favourite armchair and the quality of the leather most certainly higher. For those who regularly carry adults in the rear, a long wheelbase version can be had, though legroom in the standard version is generous. There is headroom to spare. The test vehicle came with a panoramic glass sunroof and one which can be opened too, which I like.
Diesel engines still figure highly in the Range Rover lineup and fitted to the test car was a 350hp twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 diesel motor. This refined unit has enough grunt to propel this 4x4 heavyweight from rest to 60mph in less than six seconds, and the 700Nm of torque ensures that brisk overtakes and the like can be accomplished with a mere twitch of the right foot.
To get a Range Rover stuck, you would have to do something very silly indeed
Another advantage of diesel power is the WLTP stated fuel economy of 35.7mpg and this combined with a generous sized fuel tank means six or seven hundred miles can be travelled without stopping to refuel. I recorded a very creditable 32.4mpg during a busy week behind the wheel.
Aiding smooth progress is a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox which goes about its business smoothly. It is one of the best and suits the refined Range Rover just perfectly.
High speed cruising is a peaceful affair with just a little wind flutter from around the door mirrors to disturb the calm of the luxurious cabin. Find some twisty roads and selecting ‘Dynamic’ mode firms up the suspension. There is still some body roll, the big Range Rover responding better if driven with some restraint.
Electronic air suspension is fitted and for the most part the Range Rover’s ride is exemplary. However, at low speeds, a deep pothole or the like can create a rather unseemly thud. No doubt the optional 22-inch alloy wheels do not help.
Having had the opportunity to drive the Range Rover offroad at Land Rover’s spiritual home, Eastnor Castle, I made the conscious decision not to risk those smart alloy wheels on my local green lanes. I have no doubt it would have made it all seem oh so easy. Instead, a few words below from my previous excursion away from terra firma.
“The cars were set up for us, with low range selected and the Terrain Response put into a suitably muddy setting. With all that ample torque, the Range Rover romped round at barely more than tick over. Slippery ascents, soggy descents and some cross-axle wheel off the ground shenanigans were all accomplished with ease. Almost too easy as I do like a bit of a challenge when driving off road. In reality I just had to steer a central course along the lanes, with the car’s electronic trickery taking care of everything else. To get a Range Rover stuck, you would have to do something very silly indeed.”
Prices now start at a smidgen under £100,000 and I gather that the order books are bulging. So, if a luxurious, family-friendly 4x4 is your heart’s desire, the new Range Rover will deliver in spades. Elegant, refined, well equipped and lovely to drive, the car will look equally at home in a muddy field or parked outside a top London hotel.
And that dear reader, is at the heart of Range Rover ownership. A jack of all trades, and a master of them all. If you have the wherewithal, place your order without delay.
Range Rover HSE
Batumi Gold paint
3.0-litre 6-cylinder turbodiesel MHEV engine
8-speed automatic gearbox
350hp and 700Nm torque
0-60mph in 5.8 seconds
Top speed 145mph
Emissions 207g/km CO2
Gross Vehicle Weight 3,350kg
Base price £107,300
Options fitted £15,470
Total as tested £124,245