First Drives

26 October 2012

First drive: the new Range Rover

It’s everything you expect. But better...
Car image

So it's an ‘all-new' Range Rover, is it? Looks a lot like the old one...
No, this is as all-new as an all-new car gets. It might look very much like an evolution of the old model, and the styling is very much of the ‘if it ain't broke' school of car design, but the car is completely new underneath, and features so much pared-back lightweight aluminium it's a wonder it doesn't just float away.

The words ‘Range Rover' and ‘lightweight' don't sit together too comfortably.
They will now. This RR has a spanking new all-aluminium basic structure that will become the basis for all future Range Rover products. Jaguar Land Rover has chucked a billion quid at the development of a monocoque that feature sticking and riveting variously pressed, cast, extruded and rolled aluminium bits to create bones 39 per cent lighter than the current Rangie's steel basics.

Which means more fastness, right?
It does. The new car will be available for the first time with a stop-start-equipped TDV8 3.0-litre diesel with similar power to the outgoing TDV8 (255bhp and 600Nm), in a car that weighs 420kg less. So a V6 that delivers the same speed as the previous V8, but with startling better fuel economy. Some 13.34kpl and 196g/km of CO2 from a RR? That's an appreciable benefit.

And if I want more cylinders?
Of course there's a 5.0-litre V8 petrol with a supercharger that chucks out 500bhp and hits 100kph in five seconds. But that feels slightly bonkers. We tested the 4.4-litre SDV8, which produces 335bhp and 700Nm to give a 0-100kph time of 6.5 seconds - and, more pertinently, the kind of smooth lusty torque from below 2,000rpm that we'd find hard to resist.

How does it drive?
Relaxing is a good word for it. The new Range Rover still feels like a Range Rover, just fitter. A younger, more alert version of itself. The steering is more precise and sensitive, the attitude flatter and more controlled but still with plenty of absorbency. The ZF eight-speed box is so good you don't even notice it. And the ride is of limo-quality.

So it's not an off-roader any more?
Quite the opposite. For what is still a relatively large and heavy car, the new RR is faintly startling to drive off-road. This thing will get to places you wouldn't believe. Just leave the new Terrain Reponse II off-road software in auto, and you can cross rivers, climb mountains and traverse the most treacherous surfaces, all the while listening to Radio 4 and wondering what all the fuss is about.

Still a Range Rover, then?
Exactly. This is not a revolution of the soul of a Range Rover, because it didn't need it. What it is, is a Range Rover at the very top of its game. We can see people launching themselves out of BMW 7-Series and Mercedes S-Class as fast as their chubby little Captain of Industry legs can carry them. We can see Bentley owners looking at the RR's 5.0-litre V8 and wondering whether they really need a Flying Spur.

It's that good?
It really is. The new Range Rover is here. And it's everything you expect. But better.

Tags: range rover, land rover

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