Words by Maarten Hoffmann
I have always loved the Range Rover although never for reasons based on common sense. It never really made sense – it was huge, thirsty, not very reliable and the engine used to age at the same rate as a dog; that is seven years for every one of any other car.
Admittedly, this was a long time ago and l have not owned one for years. It has been with us since 1970 and to prove it’s off-road credentials, in 1972 the British Trans-Americas Expedition become the first to travel by car across the Americas from north to south including the totally road-less Darien Gap. That particular model is now on display in the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust in Warwickshire. As spectacular as that was, the actual owners of the cars never traversed anything larger than a kerb – a little like buying a 30 roomed mansion and living in the kitchen!
That said there are many attributes that overtake it’s off road capability and as l haven’t driven one for many years, l was keen to get my hands on the latest model. I would like to say that it is now sitting in my driveway but having spent half an hour trying to get it in, it is not. This is a huge beast and the first car in a year that will not fit in the driveway.
Sitting inside, it is like a soft warm hand snuggling you in, as it is beautiful. The leather is the best yet and the layout and style of the interior really is quite superb. Refinement is a much overused word by car companies but the word was invented for this car. Everything is electric and totally silent and not only rivals the Mercedes S Class but is getting on to equalling the Bentley – and of course, neither of them will go up a mountain or tow a house.
The rear door is bigger and fully electric and there you find the famous polo viewing seat that is sadly missing in the Evoque. The panoramic roof is great and floods the interior with light and the TV/DVD system in the back leaves you with a combination of unbridled joy and utter guilt, as on my way to Birmingham, l heard not a peep out the kids for the entire journey and for the first time ever they moaned when the trip was over. Quite nice to have a fridge in the armrest as it really does keep the Chablis cold.
It is a gorgeous drive, as you would expect, and wafts around looking indignantly at all other inferior cars and with the ride height and luxury of the interior, l too quickly became indignant should any inferior oik cross my path. Fuel consumption will always be the worry with a car like this but they have tackled this too. Land Rover has splashed out over a billion pounds designing an all new aluminium monocoque so that although this is bigger than the previous version, it is also lighter. If we ignore the V8 (difficult but l will) then the 3.0 litre V6 diesel is the one to go for as it has a remarkable turn of speed and will return 37mpg.
If you want to go off road, there are buttons to play with but top tip: just leave the Terrain Response gizmo in auto and let the computer sort it out. Up mountains and down dales, across cavernous ditches and even a trip to Somerset is a breeze, whilst you serve yourself a glass of fine Chablis from the fridge and watch CBeebies – whilst laughing at the weather forecast.
Whilst on the entertainment system, the front screen does the neat trik of preventing the driver from watching TV whilst driving, yet allows the passenger view to remain. All good but a tad disconcerting as my wife would burst into hysterical laughter at some programme she was absorbed in, whilst on my side l was using the same screen to navigate the Gatwick ring road which, as l am sure you know, is no laughing matter.
Although lighter and faster, it is still a pain in the derriere to park. Well not to actually park as with sensors everywhere, it will virtually do it for you but it’s getting out of the blasted thing once in our skinny little British parking bays. Try opening the doors to get out – then you realise why it has such a huge sunroof as that was my only exit option in Churchill Square!
I could rattle on for a while about the standard kit and what this behemoth will do but in conclusion, it is a remarkable feat of British engineering – the comfort of a Bentley, the speed of a Jaguar, the economy of a BMW and the off road capability of a Sherman Tank. There is a pedigree to this darling that it is tough to replicate, although Bentley will try next year with their first ever 4×4. The Range Rover has been tested and refined on British roads and Amazon jungles for 44 years and has what can only be described as breeding.
My favourite bit? Silly really but when you open the door at night, the rear view mirror lights up and spells the words Range Rover on the pavement. I know it’s silly, but you know that if a car manufacturer spends time and money on little stuff like that, then they really have sorted everything else.