Text: Stephen Smith
Photographs: Rob Till
Usually when I get back from a launch, I unequivocally state that the pick of the new model range, whatever it may be, is the turbodiesel variant. It just makes more sense. But in the case of the new Range Rover there is no excuse to buy anything other than the Supercharged 5,0-litre V8.
What about the fuel economy, you might ask. Well, if you can afford the R1 204 000 price tag, the cost of filling the 104,5-litre fuel tank is unlikely to enter your thoughts at all. And it’s actually one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in this premium class.
And what about the tank-range of the Supercharged versus the TDV8? Using the claimed Land Rover figures, the Supercharged should be able to travel 701km on a tank, due to fuel consumption of 14,9 l/100km.
The TDV8 should do 941km on a tank, thanks to 11,1 l/100km. But you’re hardly likely to achieve this sort of consumption in real life, and if you drive the Supercharged with any sort of gusto, you’d probably manage to double this. Even with a range of 400km or so, being pessimistic, you’ll be able find a petrol station when you need one. In Sandton, for instance, there’s one every few hundred metres? And in the unlikely event that you want to head to the gamadoelas in your Supercharged Range Rover? Buy a Jerry can.
What about the social discord you’re likely to create by buying, fuelling and driving a Supercharged V8 Range Rover? You need not apologise. If you can afford one, you’re probably an upstanding member of society, paying taxes, bringing up upstanding children, and regularly donating money to the SPCA, or something similar but trendier. And if you’re not, you’re probably a high-flying criminal who has more to worry about than what your neighbour thinks of your car.
Perhaps the most relevant complaint would be the additional carbon dioxide the Supercharged pumps out. I’m not talking about the taxation ramifications, because that’s neither here nor there with a car of this value, but the global warming, Inconvenient Truth ramifications. My answer? Plant a tree.
My final argument in favour of the Supercharged is simple: a 5,0-litre V8, with a twin vortex system (TVS) supercharger and direct injection, good for 375 kW and 625 Nm, and with a sonorous growl that complements the vehicle perfectly. It accelerates from 0 – 100km/h in just 6,2 seconds and goes on to 225 km/h, pulling effortlessly and relentlessly all the way there.
The other option is the 3,6-litre TDV8, and not even this fantastic engine (which is most likely going to be the far more popular choice) can really compete with the petrol. 640 Nm and 200 kW make for acceleration from 0 – 100 km/h in 9,2 seconds, and the top speed is 200 km/h, while all that torque means great mid-range acceleration and graceful cruising and overtaking.
Both engines have been mated to six-speed automatic gearboxes that feature an intelligent sport mode, which can sense and adapt transmission characteristics to particular driving styles. The vehicles can also be driven in a “manual” manner.
The classic Range Rover shape has been subtly refined, without losing the essence of the original Range Rover design. It’s a bit slimmer and more streamlined, with revised headlights, grille and bumper. But these are changes that will escape all but the most fervent car enthusiasts, and rightly so considering the venerability of the preceding Range Rover’s design.
The interior of the Range Rover is the same in both models, and has been considerably upgraded from the previous model, again pulling away from the pretenders who had inched closer to the previous model.
Obviously it has all the usual features, but there are also a couple of new items that warrant further discussion.
The first is the “dual view” infotainment touch screen technology which allows the driver and passenger to view different images simultaneously. This means that the passenger can enjoy a DVD movie while the driver follows navigation instructions, all on the same screen. It’s magic. Dark, Lord of the Rings magic, but it works.
Another new element is the TFT (Thin Film Transistor) instrument display. Instead of a traditional speedometer and tachometer there is a digital replacement, the speedometer’s needle “ticking” up like a watch. In between these two dials is an extensive display, showing such information as system warnings, outside temperature and vehicle information, or comprehensive off-road information (which mode you’re in, which diff is locked, where are the wheels pointing, etc). Personally, I missed the beautifully crafted dials and needles of the earlier models, but technology, unfortunately, marches relentlessly on.
Another Range Rover feature that needs to be mentioned is the array of cameras that aid in driving, and not just while reversing or when off-road. Yes, there are cameras that help with reversing, showing predictive wheel tracks for where you are heading, and there are cameras that show your front wheels for off-roading. But there are also cameras in each side of the front bumper that point to the left and right, allowing you to see what cars are coming as you edge into traffic. Brilliant.
There is also a “venture cam” that can be fitted, by means of a suction-cupped mount, anywhere on the vehicle, showing whatever the driver wishes. We used this for a rear wheel, and it was useful. The camera is stored in the cubby-hole, where it is kept constantly charged.
Off-road the Range Rover makes use of Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, which is subject to a whole series of improvements for 2010, including enhanced capabilities when tackling challenging terrain like sand or large rocks. This, combined with high ground clearance (283mm), wading depth (700mm), and all that torque (from either engine) makes the Range Rover extremely capable, if somewhat large and intimidating, off-road.
On tar the Range Rover is both sporty and comfortable, as is expected of any large, premium SUV these days. The vehicle makes use of an “Adaptive Dynamics system” that uses continually adjusting dampers to give the best possible ride quality on all surfaces, but without sacrificing handling. The predictive technology enables damper settings on each wheel to be continuously refined between ‘soft’, comfort oriented settings and ‘hard’, firm body control settings. Damper pressure on each wheel is monitored 500 times per second.
The result is a very composed vehicle, but one that does let its weight be known in corners. It is probably one of the most comfortable SUVs to drive, on all conditions, but the weight and the off-road prowess do mean that it isn’t quite as dynamic a drive as the BMW X5, or the Range Rover Sport, for that matter.
News that will please some, and frighten others, is that the huge array of new technology is supported by a new electrical system. The old Range Rover had the occasional electrical issue, so this could well be a good thing, but at the same time it means this is an untried system.
The Range Rover is available in the two models, namely the 3.6 Diesel V8 (R1 164 000) and the 5.0 Supercharge Petrol V8 (R1 204 000). For an additional R100 000 you can order the even more luxurious Autobiography model, or if you want a completely bespoke vehicle, that can be arranged on order.