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RANGE ROVER 3.0 TDV6

Boasting the world’s first aluminium SUV monocoque body – and notwithstanding one or two irritating onboard design howlers – the new Range Rover is a technical tour de force, reports Gi’s Anthony ffrench Constant

Until the arrival of the first Range Rover in 1970, any status associated with 4x4 ownership invariably related to your total acreage of barley and possession of a dairy herd large enough to make the naming of individual animals somewhat impractical.

The Range Rover changed all that at a stroke, taking the 4x4 not just onto the tarmac, but more specifically onto the most well heeled strips of urban tarmac in the land and, thence, of course, to the weekend cottage in Wales. The original marketing blunderbuss may have successfully targeted the bloodsports brigade, but, let’s face it, the Range Rover has always been, above all, a status symbol.

That first Range Rover had a gestation period on a par with diamonds and, but for the addition of rear doors after some, oh… 11 years or so, went on to rule the 4x4 roost, unchanged, for 24 years. No surprise then, that, 42 years into it the history of the marque, this is only the car’s fourth incarnation.

And also no surprise that, despite the fact that it’ll still shave its own legs, kick sand in the faces of bullies and leap tall buildings at a single bound, all pretence of agricultural practicality has been expunged from the presentation; the company being the first to admit that, first and foremost, the new Range Rover has been designed to ooze luxury from every pore.

And, frankly, with prices now starting at a wallet-melting £71,295 and a price tag of a hundred grand not unlikely for all-singing specification models, it had better…

Boasting the world’s first aluminium SUV monocoque body, it certainly looks the part. All the trademark styling cues – floating roof, clamshell bonnet, split tailgate (now pointlessly powered in operation) and front wing ‘gills’ – remain. The latter, however, are now entirely residual thanks to an under-bonnet air intake system resembling the twin funnels of a futuristic Blue Riband contender perched under the bonnet atop the wheel arch.

The analogy is entirely appropriate, since this measure has increased the car’s maximum wading depth to an hilarious 900mm.

In all, given the dubious levels of Chinese market-appeasing ‘bling’ creeping into the marquee of late, this a suitably stylish yet reverential tug of the forelock to the sacred Range Rover DNA. Indeed, the only seriously questionable exterior touch is daytime running lights resembling a tangle of fairy lights lobbed at a Christmas tree by a petulant toddler.

On board, the designers have also (largely) made a decent fist of upping the luxury stakes whilst retaining most of the best of the BMW-driven predecessor’s entirely pleasing interior. The new dashboard doesn’t have quite the same threedimensional punch of the original highend- stereo-speared-through-leather-cladbeam concept, but there’s more room throughout and the seats are better, yet still not £100,000 comfortable by any stretch of the imagination…

Irritatingly, the sacrosanct arm of the ‘captain’s’ chair now tussles in vain for the attentions of your elbow with a pointlessly oversized, leather clad centre console box lid better suited to Rastafarian hair containment. I utterly fail to understand a design department that, whilst averring that this adjustable arm remains sacred, promptly makes it unusable.

Switchgear, reduced in quantity to make the Hoovering easier, is tidy enough, but the electronic facsimiles of real driver’s instruments remain as unconvincing and un-luxurious as ever. Though offering access to myriad layers of information concerning everything from the direction your mud-plugging front wheels are pointing in to who’s yelling at whom on Eastenders this week, the centre console screen presentation and operation remain distinctly below par, even when pitched against cars of half the price.

Clearly, then, a disproportionate amount of dosh has been spent on that all-aluminium body, leaving little save loose change to lavish on that with which you actually live on board…

The positive, however, is a saving in weight of up to an astonishing 420kg over the third generation car; think an entire compliment of passengers lighter. And that’s just as well because there are no new drivetrains on offer, the payoff being improved performance through such rigorous dieting.

I drove that destined to be the best seller; the 245bhp 3.0 litre V6 turbodiesel version which, mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, will now throw this 16 ft 4in, 2.1 ton goliath to 60mph in just 7.4 seconds, and on to 130mph.

The ride’s better and the handling’s much improved too. The revised air suspension is a huge improvement on previous, Seasick Steve efforts, most notably in its low-speed ride quality. And better control of body roll has all but eradicated the disconcerting, ocean racer yaw of its predecessors. On the motorway, a combination of serious refinement and a driving position 90mm higher than any other SUV make for an appropriately snooty, nosein- the-air experience.

Granted, there is still a whiff of vagueness to the steering and, for all its size, the Range Rover doesn’t feel quite as firmly planted as some rivals. But then, none of those rivals can hold a candle to it when the going gets properly boggy.

I drove a standard car on standard tyres straight off the motorway and onto Land Rover’s daunting off-road course at Eastnor Castle and it didn’t miss a beat. Entry, breakover and departure angles remain unchanged (a bearded way of saying ground clearance at the front, rear and middle is the same), and the car tackles the worst Mudfordshire can throw at it with a glib insouciance which, like a gliding swan, entirely belies the mechanical and electronic effort going on beneath the surface. Just as well too, since I inadvertently found myself shod in little more substantial than the off-road equivalent of carpet slippers, and wild horses would not have dragged me from the car…

A true Range Rover, then, which, but for a few interior design howlers, stands its ground as a peerless combination of luxury and off-road ability, making you feel properly special every single time you climb behind the wheel. Not least because you’ve been able to afford the purchase price.

RANGE ROVER 3.0 TDV6 TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION

Price: £71,295
As tested: £87,895
Engine: 2993cc V6 twin-turbo diesel,
245bhp @ 4000rpm,
442lb ft @ 2000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with
paddle shift override,
four-wheel drive
Performance: 7.4 sec 0-60mph,
130mph, 37.7mpg, 196g/km
Weight: 1880kg/Steel
Dimensions L/W/Hmm: 4966/1877/1468

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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