It might not look like it at first, but this Range Rover is all-new and the equivalent of four good-sized rugby forwards lighter than the previous car, says DAVE MOORE.
Iwas reassured that the man from Range Rover had said: "If we'd given the car more wading ability it would have floated away!"
He was only partly joking and managed to encapsulate two of the new Range Rover's main sales propositions: it's even better off road and it's a whole lot lighter than before.
So into the water we went, deep enough for the brown, caramel fudge-like liquid clag, to wash slightly over the car's new softer-edged bonnet and settle at about inner wheelarch height while I waited behind the wheel for the vehicle in front to drive out of the hole.
It was a cinch. The 4x4 turbodiesel V8 even gurgled like an old motor torpedo boat as it clambered easily out of the mire, but I couldn't help thinking that sitting there in the lap of piano-black trimmed, leather-clad luxury, it was a bit like going off-road in the automotive equivalent of Downton Abbey.
I could just imagine Mr Carson saying: "Do you think this is WISE, m'lud?".
The Range Rover's ability is beyond most off-roaders' driving aspirations, and many simply don't believe that its stately elegance clothes a dirt- digging chassis and accoutrements that make it as much at home in the mountains as it does disgorging its occupants outside the opera.
The 2013 Range Rover is completely new except for its engines, and they were already best in class or close to it. Apart from those, they really have started from scratch, with Land Rover's design chief Gerry McGovern told not to change the look of the car, just make it better.
Job done. Being crafted from aluminium - just as the best current Jaguars are - the Range Rover's bodyshell weighs no more than a modern Mini Clubman's and the overall savings from the use of a monoque, meant that the new Range Rover might look familiar, but it's an all-new device, weighing up to 420 kilograms less than its previous version, model for model.
Which not only explains the Range-Rover's vastly improved dynamics, but also its astonishing performance, fuel economy and emissions figures for one so large and imposing.
The entry-level engine, which won't reach us until later in the year, is a 190 kilowatt three-litre TDV6 turbo diesel which, with the help of start/stop, has official figures of 7.5L/100km combined and CO2 emissions of 196g/km but can also accelerate to 100kmh in 7.9 seconds.
For the twin-turbo diesel 250kW 4.4-litre SDV8, the CO2 rating is 229g/km - a 10 per cent improvement on the previous car with the same engine, while the zero to 100kmh sprint time is just 6.5 seconds, only a second and a half longer than it takes the 375kW 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8 to manage it.
It's not just the weight- savings that account for the performance and improved emissions, the latest Range Rovers all use an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission - two ratios up on the previous model. This also helps to provide astonishing levels of refinement and quietness, thanks to the fact that engines don't have to work very hard, and even when you do turn up the wick, improved insulation levels and noise reduction strategies mean that the power units never raise their voices beyond a murmur. Like a good butler, you know the power and torque is there, but it's never applied with any fuss or drama.
When compared with the equivalent previous models, the new Range Rover is $14,000 more expensive. The entry-point TCV6 HSE when it arrives, will start at $195,000.
- Kapiti Observer