When you acquire a Range Rover TDV8, not only do you need an extra-large bank balance to service the repayments on a R1-million purchase (roughly R22 000 a month), but you also need an extra-large garage…
Park a full-sized Range Rover under cover and you realise how big it is. In a normal garage, there will be very little space left in the front, rear or around the sides. Then – just for fun – pump up the air suspension to its maximum height, and you definitely won’t get it back out of a standard-sized garage door.
Yup, the Range Rover is a full-sized SUV, designed to provide the ultimate in off-roading ability combined with the ultimate in comfort. It does that very well, and now with the introduction of the compact 3,6-litre turbodiesel V8, it should simply do what it is already renowned for even better, while using less fuel.
The current Range Rover was launched in 2002, face-lifted towards the end of 2005, and this engine – and a host of other changes – were introduced late last year.
The look of the latest version remains faithful to the 1970 original. Proportions are similarly angular, but now with more presence than ever before. Whichever angle you look at it from, it is incredibly imposing.
The massive grille is flanked by equally massive light clusters, which gain an added dimension thanks to the “pocket” headlight treatment. The flanks are upright and the beltline quite low, yet it doesn’t look particularly top-heavy thanks to 20-inch wheels and the blacked out pillars and privacy glass, which give the vehicle its characteristic “floating roof” effect.
The trademark horizontally split tailgate is reasonably close to the vertical which makes the Range Rover a practical proposition. In addition, it aids rearward visibility, and in fact it is easy for the driver to judge all the extremities.
Features and equipment
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
With headline numbers of 200 kW and 640 Nm, this is one of the most powerful oilburners around. There’s an impressive amount of technology under the imposing, sound-deadening engine cover: it has 32 valves, four hollow camshafts, two variable nozzle turbos, and 1700-bar injection pressure. Over 400 Nm of torque is available from just 1250 r/min.
As with other Range Rovers, the engine is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, driving all the wheels all the time, with an intelligent centre differential able to vary the front/rear torque distribution.
Easing the driver’s load for 2007 is Terrain Response, which provides a menu of five settings for different off-road conditions. There is also air suspension, with four height settings between the off-road mode and the lowslung “Access” position – which is definitely needed to allow women and children to gain easy access to the cabin.
For a million, you’d expect plenty of kit, and in Vogue spec you get everything imaginable, and then some. A centrally placed touch-screen fulfils a host of convenience and functional roles, and in addition there are LCD screens in the back of the headrests. A six-disc DVD player is mounted in the boot. In the upper glovebox there’s a CD shuttle and VentureCam – a wireless video camera with integrated night light which communicates with the touch screen. Land Rover suggests it is just the thing for keeping an eye on a horse while it is in the horsebox. In addition, there’s a “normal” reversing camera. It also has an impressive Harman/Kardon sound system with 14 speakers, seat heating all round and a sunroof.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The cabin lives up to expectations in every way, our test unit featuring ivory leather with Aspen piping, and Burr Walnut wood trim. In addition there’s judicious use of metallic finishes. The ambience is hard to fault, with the richness of materials being what one would expect at this level.
The driving position is perfect, too: you sit high yet still feel part of the package and have a commanding view all round – both inside and out.
The seats are very comfortable, include fold-down armrests and have an array of electrical adjustments (including lumbar support) as well as an effective seat-cooling function. There’s a three-way memory function for the driver’s pew.
The rear is as impressive: the seating position is lofty, providing an excellent all-round view through the expansive glass area. Legroom, headroom and shoulder room are abundant, and when you are travelling two-up, the wide central armrest divides the rear into two compartments, the middle headrest becoming dual drinks holders in the process.
Carrying luggage also poses few problems. The rear seat is split 60/40, and when folded expands the luggage compartment to become one of the best in the class. The standard boot area isn’t huge, though – partly as a result of the 20-inch wheel and tyre combo under the floor – but you get a heavy-duty concertina-type luggage compartment cover (as opposed to a lightweight retractable cover), and a pull-up net to separate luggage from passengers.
The high level of cabin quality is continued right through to the tailgate, with the only exceptions being the relatively tacky removable covers either side of the luggage compartment which allow access to the DVD shuttle on one side and tools on the other, and the slightly flimsy glove compartment lids.
★ ★ ★ ★
A Range Rover – even a diesel-powered one – has to be impeccably refined, and the new V8 oil-burner gets off to a good start with a quiet, clatter- and smoke-free idle. And the drivetrain remains well-mannered right across the rev range, shifting seamlessly up the box just past 4000 r/min.
Accelerating to overtake slower traffic requires just a couple of virtually imperceptible downshifts, followed by a confident “vroom” as speed builds, pushing the wall of air aside with relative ease.
Getting things moving from standstill is slightly less straightforward, despite gargantuan engine output numbers. The combination of automatic transmission (even one geared to provide just 9 km/h per 1000 revs in first), the inherent delay in a turbocharged motor, and a kerb mass well above 2,5 tons means it steps off with decorum rather than alacrity.
Once it has built up a decent head of steam it is impressive, getting to 100 km/h in a little over 11 seconds, and to 120 in about 15. Keep your foot flat for long enough and you’ll fly – our test unit reached 204 km/h, despite a top speed claim of 200.
It sheds speed with some authority too, the upgraded brakes (from Brembo) being well up to the task. An electronically activated park brake is now fitted, activated by a switch on the centre console. It will disengage automatically when the vehicle moves off from standstill.
With six gears there’s both a low first gear and a long-legged sixth. The former contributes to the low-range prowess, while the latter helped the Landy achieve overall consumption of 12,62 litres/100 km in its time with us, much of that taking the form of main road driving in a 3,200 km round trip from Jo’burg to Botswana.
Ride and handling
★ ★ ★ ★
Formidable is the only word to describe the way the Range Rover behaves when the tarmac ends. Navigating through difficult terrain has never been so easy, thanks to the combination of a design that focuses firstly on being peerless off-road, helped more than ever in this regard by the harnessing of modern technology.
With the addition of Terrain Response for 2007, the proven benefits of Hill Descent Control, plus electronically controlled centre and rear differentials and the choice of six gears (with a suitably aggressive 2.93:1 reduction ratio), there really “ain’t no mountain high enough”.
We measured maximum ground clearance at 280mm (Landy claims 275), and the approach and ramp breakover angles are hugely impressive, the departure angle marginally less so. Landy says a half-metre of water, 45-degree gradients and a 35-degree side slope should pose no problem. Frankly, we have no reason to doubt their claims.
The good news is that the latest hydraulic and electronic controls go further than ever towards making the Range Rover much better than tolerably good for commuting. Sure, it’s no sports car, but it can be steered through bends with more confidence than any other SUV of this size we can think of, and that applies equally to fast flowing stuff, and narrow twisties.
Ride comfort and stability are aided in any given situation by air suspension that continually strives to keep the body on an even keel and also automatically lowers ride height at speed. A wheelbase of 288cm helps in this regard, and the broad track widths contribute further to providing a driving experience that is closer than ever before to that of an executive sedan.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
What makes the Range Rover great is its focus. It is totally uncompromising in its pursuit of superb bundu-bashing ability in an atmosphere of real class and style. For achieving an A+ in that regard, and then maintaining a decent scorecard when required to impersonate an executive tarmac express (but with better economy), we commend it – and give it our highest possible star rating.