Best luxury off-roader just got even better
The man from Range Rover said: "If we'd given the car more wading ability it would have floated away!" He was only partly joking. The new Range Rover is even better off road and it's a whole lot lighter than before.
|AT A GLANCE|
|Powertrains: All in-line front-mounted four-valve-per cylinder engines, driving all four wheels, with low-range and an eight-speed automatic.|
TDV6 HSE - 2993cc Turbodiesel V6. 190kW at 4000rpm, 600Nm at 2000rpm. 0-100kmh 7.9secs, 7.5L/100km, 196g/km CO 2.
SDV8 Vogue - 4367cc Turbodiesel V8. 250kW at 3500rpm, 700Nm at 1750-3000rpm. 0-100kmh 6.9secs, 8.7L/100km, 229g/km CO 2.
S/C 5.0 Vogue - 4999cc Supercharged V8. 375kW at 6500rpm, 625Nm at 2500-5500rpm. 0-100kmh 5.4secs, 13.9L/100km. 322g/km CO 2.
|Chassis: Four-wheel independent air-suspension; electronic power steering; permanent all-wheel-drive; automatic terrain response system II.|
|Safety: Front, side and curtain airbags; ABS; cornering brake control; traction control; dynamic stability control; roll stability control; first-aid kit.|
|Dimensions: L 4999mm, H 1835-1877 mm, W 2073mm, W/base 2880mm, Weight 2160-2360 kg, Fuel 85L (V6s), 105 (V8s).|
|Pricing: TDV6 3.0L HSE $195,000, SDV8 4.4L Vogue $210,000, Supercharged 5.0L Vogue $255,000.|
|Hot: Looks the same; amazingly quiet, smooth, quick and nimble; superb off road; cleaner and cheaper to run; roomier and better made.|
|Not: Looks the same; eye-wateringly expensive to some; base model not here yet; justifying the car to SUV-phobes; no 7-seater (yet).|
|Verdict: The best luxury off-roader in the world just got even better, and it's cheaper than some similarly-powered luxury German sedans!|
Click photo for more views of the new Range Rover IV.
Into the water we went, deep enough for the caramel-fudge-like liquid clag to wash slightly over the car's new softer-edged bonnet and settle 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?"
"That's all right, Carson," I'd reply. "The Rangie's got it all in hand."
And it had. The Range Rover's ability is beyond most off-roaders' driving aspirations, and many 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.
So Carson needn't have worried about the 2013 Range Rover. It's completely new from the ground up except for its engines, and they were already best in class or close to it. Land Rover's design chief Gerry McGovern was 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 monocoque mean that the new Range Rover might look familiar, but it's an all-new device, weighing up to 420kg less than its previous version.
That's the equivalent of four thick-set men. Which not only explains the Range-Rover's vastly improved dynamics, but also its astonishing performance, fuel economy and emissions figures for a vehicle so large and imposing.
The entry-level engine, which won't reach us until later in the year, is a 190-kilowatt 3-litre TDV6 turbo-diesel which, with the help of start/stop, has official figures of 7.5L/100km combined and CO 2 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 CO 2 rating is 229g/km - a 10 per cent improvement on the previous car with the same engine, while the zero 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.
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, 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.
Another feature across the range is air suspension, set up softly enough to react quickly to shallow and occasionally harsh bumps. Previous air-suspension systems have been sumptuously cosy at high speed and on soft-edged bumps, but have let the plot down by simply not reacting quickly enough to high-frequency impacts. This is not the case with the Range Rover, which makes its occupants feel as if it's not quite touching the ground at all. Despite the cosy setup, body control is good and while no two-tonne 1.8m-tall car is going to be a hot hatch, the Range Rover courses through bends with accurate and nonchalant ease with its well-weighted electronic steering imparting all the right messages.
Its new air suspension setup allows a useful amount of body height adjustment, and with the lighter overall weight and a new version of the company's Terrain Response system it'll do the business in the dirt as well as anything else out there.
Terrain Response II, as it's called, now has an automatic setting that recognises what kind of surface the car is being driven over. You can still select from the pictograms showing snow, mud, rocks on the centre-console mounted rotary switch, but now it doesn't really need your help, as it can now make its own mind up.
The new Rangie now has a fording depth of 900mm thanks to a neatly designed under-bonnet induction system and an additional 13mm of ground clearance that leaves a clear 246mm underneath. So almost half the car can be submerged before you need to panic, and while that might seem a good way to get your pants wet, the Range Rover's door seals will hold back deep water from the sumptuous cabin for a while while you allow the car to grope its way ashore.
Though the car's breakover angle is down a tad at just over 28 degrees, the Range Rover's approach angle is improved to 34.5 degrees, while the departure angle at 29.5 degrees benefits from a much cleaner cutaway rear valance area. When things get tough, the air suspension can be raised for off-road work, while Carson will be pleased that the car can be lowered so Milady can disembark for the theatre in an evening gown.
The Range Rover's height has daily benefits. Room with a view is often the main buying point for most SUV aspirants, from a $10,000 used truck to a quarter-million-dollar Range Rover, and the comfort and legroom benefits are huge, and often preferred to the similarly stickered long-wheelbase European luxury sedans that also populate the potential Range Rover owners' checklist.
The eagle-eyed, or those helped by parking an old model next to the new, will note that the new car's roofline tapers, as do the body sides from front to rear, while the windscreen has move further away from vertical. The crenellated front corners remain, but it's more a vestigial homage to the original car, while the familiar squared-off extremities have softer corners that have complex comma-shaped lamp clusters, which are the biggest clue that this is the new Range Rover, and not the old.
So close to the expected Range Rover template is Gerry McGovern's execution of the new car, that it's a real surprise to learn that the wheelbase has been extended by 40mm, while the cabin offers not only another 120mm in rear legroom but enough space to accommodate power reclining back seats.
The cabin really is vastly improved for space over the old car's, and there'd be few more effective modes of road transport for four large people and their belongings than the new Range Rover, though if you're seated in the rear, and you're quite tall, you could strike your head on the side-headrail-mounted interior lamp.
The car's forecabin appears to have borrowed its layout and design from the smaller Evoque model launched last year. You can opt for wood if you wish, but there's more hide than veneer in the fascia whatever you choose and the design seems simpler than before without losing any elegance.
The car's designers say they have eliminated half the number switches that used to exist in the Range Rover's driving environment, having transferred many minor functions to the car's central touchscreen. The new Range Rover has taken a design gimmick from Jaguar by providing an instrument cluster that's a digital rendering of traditional sweep-dial gauges. It's very smart and easy to read, but it doesn't go far enough.
If these instruments, are digital, then why can't an owner personalise them, as they would a PC, iPad or Smartphone screen?
Now the nitty-gritty: how much? While Carson would think that to ask is a little vulgar, it has to be done, for when compared with the equivalent previous models, the new Range Rover is $14,000 more expensive in the case of the $210,000 SDV8, and $29,000 more for the $255,000 Supercharged petrol V8 Vogue.
The good news is that you can see - and feel - where every cent has gone, with soft-close doors all round and an amazing 29-speaker Meridian audio system. But there's a load more bits and bobs that Carson could help you choose from. His advice could be useful, as some items like special wheels and adaptive cruise control could add $12,000 each in a heartbeat and it would be easy to create a bill of $300,000 and beyond if you tick enough options boxes. It has to be said that even the entry-point (if there is such thing in Range Rover land) TCV6 HSE, will start at $195,000 and is loaded with gear, so you shouldn't feel underdone if you "only" have $200k to spend.
The new Range Rover is no small achievement, and before we take a swipe at its price, continuing size and 4WD menace just note that relative to its weight savings over the previous model, to score the equivalent success, mass-makers of smaller vehicles like the next Corolla, or Golf would have to lose more than 220 kilograms from their own products.
I'll bet you they won't.