TEST DRIVE | 2015 Range Rover
Few other cars match the achievement of the mighty Range Rover which turned 45 this year, and is into its fourth generation. Throughout its life, it has become the standard to which all other luxury off-road cars are judged by. I’m a big fan of the new model, so much so that I’ve placed it without a second thought in my perfect 10 car garage.
Lets be honest, the previous shape was getting a bit long in the tooth after 12 years, even after a nice facelift and a few special blingy editions towards the end of its life. So this new ‘L405’ model is much welcome. Yes, it’s bigger, fatter, more expensive and glitzy but I don’t think that’s a bad thing; just a sign of the times. Classy would be a good word to use here. The figure of 200,000 new ‘L405’ models sold in the last 5 years speaks for itself. It looks just at home around the City of London as it does crossing the ancient Silk Road from Europe to south-east China, something which Land Rover recently did in the new hybrid model to show off its ability.
And its ability is great. It has diff locks, low-range, hill descent control and features a new second generation Terrain Response system which automatically monitors ground conditions to determine the most appropriate mode to be in and optimises vehicle settings for an assured experience for all driving conditions. The system has settings for grass, gravel, snow, mud, sand, and rock crawling, as well as ‘dynamic’ mode which firms up the suspension and makes the steering heavier.
Other than the ridiculously uneconomical 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8, the engine you want is the supercharged diesel V8. It’s one the best engines out there at the moment and believe it or not, it actually sounds better than a petrol equivalent. It has a real meaty feel and oodles of torque and pull, plus you know it means business when you push the start button and hear it burble like a luxury yacht when idling.
The new model has also been on a diet. It weighs 400kg less than the previous generation and you do feel like you can throw it around especially in that Dynamic mode, well as much as you dare in a 2.3-tonne SUV. Ride quality almost matches a Mercedes S-Class for smoothness, with fully adjustable air suspension allowing you to sink the car right down into ‘access mode’ so you can almost step into it, or raise it up into off-road mode, with even higher settings deployed automatically if the car beaches.
My one big gripe with the new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport is that the touchscreen to control everything is utterly hopeless. The menu graphics are pretty basic at best and the responsiveness is poor. You have to really push the screen and feel like you’re going to crack it before it responds. For example, press the seat heating button and you wait a couple of seconds for the menu to appear. Think of trying to quickly cycle through the menus of a smartphone which is a few years old and a bit knackered and you aren’t far off. Navigating around the menus and inputting addresses for the navigation system can become very frustrating. The software has been updated in the latest models of both cars but it’s still not that great.
In contrast BMW’s iDrive system in the new X5 (reviewed here) is a little complicated but very fast, and the Audi Q7’s MMI interface is simple and never lags.
As I said earlier, the Range Rover has become more expensive over time. For example, at launch there were a few TVR-style pearlescent paint finishes available for a ridiculous £13,000. Unsurprisingly these were soon dropped when nobody ordered them but I have seen a couple on the road and they look stunning. The base price of this car is £73,950 and for that you get the ‘Vogue’ with a 258hp 3.0-litre TDV6 which just isn’t enough. This engine works well in the Range Rover Sport, a car and engine which I’m very familiar with and have driven thousands of miles in but after you’ve driven the fantastic SDV8, the TDV6 seems muted and sluggish in comparison. With the SDV8 and some fancy 22″ wheels, the Range Rover’s price jumps up by another £10,000, and a full size spare wheel is another £200 for some strange reason.
Some of the toys include wade sensors (it can wade to almost 1 metre) which uses sonar in the wing mirrors to judge the depth of the water you’re wading into, head up displays, self-parking systems and even personalised illuminated treadplates if you’re an aristocrat or just have too much money, but the middle of the range ‘Vogue SE’ model doesn’t leave you wanting much in terms of equipment.
As you can see above, it’s a nice place to be. With the panoramic sunroof, it’s light and airy, and whatever surface you touch oozes quality and you can tell Land Rover haven’t skimped on anything when producing this car.
If money is no object or you’re an Arab with a speed fetish then you of course need the range-topping 5.0-litre petrol V8 in legendary ‘Autobiography’ trim. The Autobiography has traditionally always been at the top of the Range Rover tree but naturally comes at a price. Playing on the Range Rover online configurator, it’s quite easy to reach £115,000 for a nicely spec’d example, and if you go for the petrol then I suggest you look into OPEC membership.
Because of its attributes and luxury, its rivals include cars such as the aforementioned S-Class (which we’ve driven), the Jaguar XJL and even the new Bentley Flying Spur (driven here). All these cars are more or less in the same price bracket as the Rangey and have the same road presence and heritage.
With this new model, Jaguar Land Rover has well and truly cemented the Range Rover’s place at the top of its class. It has the luxury and class of a Bentley, and the off-road ability of a small tank. What’s not to like about that? Just please don’t order one in white!
Of course, if all this luxury isn’t quite enough then you can step it up a notch and opt for the huge long-wheelbase version (below) or even the Holland & Holland model complete with shotguns and alcohol to play with on your country estate.