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Reviewed: The new Range Rover

Driven January 2013

Reviewed: The new Range Rover

The current Range Rover is from the time when BMW owned Land Rover. So, it borrowed some electronics and engine bits from white-and-blue propeller-badged cars. Still, it never lost its individual prowess. Known for its off-roading capability since the 1970s, with Munich’s backing, it turned into what was hailed as the Rolls-Royce of SUVs. A lot has changed since.

The company went from BMW to Ford to now Tata Motors. Still, as Land Rover insiders admit, the current ownership – despite all the initial skepticism – is the best thing to have happened to it.

A good 10 years since the BMW-backed third-gen Range Rover broke cover, the fourth-generation model is finally out on the roads.

And the new car is a complete overhaul. It’s only slightly longer, wider and shorter than the outgoing model. The wheelbase is up and all that extra space has gone into the second row’s legroom. Of course, it is difficult to notice the change in proportions. Thankfully, the new design is a more apparent change.

The front is more cohesive and rounded compared to the current model on sale in India. A simple yet elegant unit replaces the boxy headlamp. The bumper fits flush with the grille – with a new metallic finish – making the front look like one single unit. In profile, the increase in wheelbase becomes more apparent, although the overall silhouette remains similar. The window-line has been raised for a smaller glass area, and the space behind the C-pillar gets shorter. And with more legroom at the back, the rear wheels have been pushed further back.

The rear hatch has lost its old-school sharp edges and the glass area has shrunk a bit. What stays is the twin-door concept, which has a glass portion that opens separately while the bottom can be opened to plonk yourself on. Land Rover designers have done a fantastic job with the overall design – the new car looks remarkably modern compared to the current model, without sacrificing any quintessential elements that typify a Range Rover.

The inside has quality leather, quality wood veneer and impeccable stitching and finish. Strong ergonomics are a given. But the first difference you notice is the reduced number of buttons that adorn the dash and centre console. The digital instrument cluster stays, with a new layout. The steering wheel is a new four-spoke job. There are fewer steering buttons too but they aren’t very intuitive to use. The tall gear-shifter has been done away with – in its place is just a single dial coupled to the amazing Land Rover terrain response system. Apart from the usual Sand or Rock Crawl settings, there’s also Auto if you are shamelessly lazy. Simply depress the dial back into the centre console. Auto mode gets activated and the vehicle chooses what’s best and alters the nature of the four-wheel drive.

The new Range Rover is now significantly lighter. It uses a lot of high-strength aluminium in its construction, which has cut down overall weight by over 400kg. The current 4.4-litre TD V8 has been upgraded and now outputs 26bhp more at its peak. It may not sound like much but it has almost half a tonne less to haul. So while the old RR took 9.2 secs to get to 100kph, this one does it in under seven!

Off the road, the Range Rover’s terrain response system makes the car capable of handling way more than what a typical owner would subject it to. The car makes little work of mid-size boulders with its adjustable ground clearance and reserves of torque. The new 8-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and progressive and is mated to a permanent four-wheel drive system with a front (standard) and rear (optional) differential. If you're serious about off-roading, do tick the rear diff option when you're speccing your car. It will make your machine nearly invincible. Add to all this the ability to wade through water 0.9metre deep and the Rangie is nearly unstoppable.

The lightweight construction works on the road too. There is less body roll than in the current model, and you can throw the huge SUV around more confidently. The suspension rides on traditional coil systems, which gives the car an optimum ride-versus-handling quotient. The slightly heavier current model feels more planted on the road, but the extra weight does have its drawbacks if you fancy cornering or making frequent lane changes.

In its latest avatar, the Range Rover does little wrong. Lightweight construction means lesser bulk to haul but aluminium makes accident maintenance dearer. The updated engine and new gearbox is a sweet combination. The terrain response system means you can handle most non-tarmac situations even if you're not an ace off-roader. Plus, the luxury inside leaves little doubt that all the effort of going under the knife and hitting the gym will make the new Range Rover one of the most endearing automotive exhibits on our roads when it arrives early next year.

The only thing that even those with deep pockets need to worry about is the price – estimated to be nearly Rs 55 lakh more than the outgoing model. That is a lot of money. The only other vehicle sold in India with comparable capability, price and coolness is the Merc G55. But the Rangie runs on diesel. Might as well save where you can.

The numbers
V8, 4367cc diesel, 334bhp, 700Nm, 4WD, 8A, 105-litre fuel tank, 2360kg, turning circle 12.3m, 0-100kph in 6.9s, top speed 216kph, Rs 1.72 crore (ex-Delhi)

The verdict
Still the Rolls-Royce of SUVs. Now, in a much lighter avatar, with a much heavier price tag

Girish Karkera

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