Top Gear goes behind the scenes at the Range Rover reveal
It's a big car, the new Range Rover, in more ways than one...
Out of the fog of champagne and celebrity chatter emerges a figure with a wry, faintly bemused expression. He speaks with a singsong French accent, but there's steel underneath.
Land Rover CEO Thierry Bolloré has not long celebrated his first birthday at JLR. He kicked off his time there by cancelling a billion pounds’ worth of investment in future products like that new electric XJ we’d been promised, and a Land Rover EV. He’s not afraid to take the tough decisions. His well worn blue double-breasted jacket stands out in this crowd of influencers and that famous person you recognise from somewhere. Wait, is that David Starkey over there by Clare Balding?
Bolloré is just a brief warm-up act before the headliner swaggers on. Here’s chief creative officer Gerry McGovern in trainers and a polo shirt that anyone else would surely have been turned away in. He flashes a mood board on the big screen that looks like the advert section from a posh in-flight magazine. “The great luxury brands have this thing called emotional connection,” he explains in a flat monotone. Tough crowd. He spends five minutes explaining how “less is compellingly more”.
And then 2017 Britain’s Got Talent winner Tokio Myers ambles on stage to perform a virtuoso three minutes across grand piano, drums and steel pans before ambling off again. Compellingly, it turns out less is more. There’s smoke coming from behind the curtain, hopefully it’s not the car.
The room lights with the glow of a hundred influencers firing up their ‘grams, the curtain drops, sheets are positively fired into the air and the Range Rover is revealed, a vision in beige.
“Breathtaking in its modernity,” oozes Gerry. Even if he does say so himself. But then if Land Rover can’t get excited about its flagship product how can anyone else be expected to? He gently caresses the side of the car, waxing over its gently falling roofline. “Look at those magnificent wheels,” he implores. “It’s a chariot.”
Gerry’s excited that royalty drives the Range Rover (“It needs a touch of formality”) – but it’s quite big, surely Her Majesty will need a bit of a leg up to get inside. The interior takes luxury “to sublime levels", we’re told. The tour continues as the car spins about on the stage. “Look at that beautiful curvaceous rear. That strong haunch that looks like a well exercised deltoid. Modelled on me, incidentally.” All of Gerry’s jokes get an appreciative whoop from the rafters.
The SV badge is revealed, the firm’s new sign of ultimate luxury. “We chose ceramic because we wanted something that represents modern luxury.” Like a mug?
Chief commercial officer Lennard Hoornik arrives wearing chinos and a lovely tan. We’re quickly introduced to his panto refrain of “Did you think that was enough for our engineers?” every time a new feature is explained. Nothing was enough for their engineers. It’s amazing they ever finished. They’ll probably still be working on the car when it arrives at your house.
Lennard rattles off the features at machine gun pace. The turning circle is less than 11 metres thanks to rear wheel steering, sonar sensors will tell you whether that puddle you’re about to drive through is achievable, microphones in each wheel well record road noise and feed the active noise cancelling speakers that lurk in the headrests. There are PM2.5 filters in the aircon and germ-blasting ionisers (“It’s the safest place you can be”), and if you’re not worried about socialising you can have a party in the boot thanks to the cushioned tailgate, rated for 350kg of your closest friends.
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The lights rise and the influencers surge forward, then it's time to toast with more champagne.