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Long-term review

Range Rover P400e Autobiography - long term review

£137,435 / £144,175 / £1,650pcm
Published: 18 Jan 2024
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SPEC HIGHLIGHTS

  • SPEC

    Range Rover P400e Autobiography

  • ENGINE

    2996cc

  • BHP

    440bhp

  • 0-62

    6s

Life with a Range Rover: is this the best luxury car in the world?

This is the life. Back seat. Massage engaged. Tilted back and stretched out. I might get the laptop out in a bit. Might. Right now I feel a nap coming on. Must be the mysterious smoothness of my professional chauffeur, Colin Hitchcock. No relation, apparently. The other side of the double glazing and electric window blinds Gloucestershire is currently slipping silently by. Next comes… well, I don’t mind really. Colin knows where he’s going. My eyelids really are quite heavy.

Over the last six months I’ve driven nigh on 15,000 miles in this long wheelbase Rangey, and until recently I’d not done a single mile in the back. The hi-tech thrones have been back there, looking tempting, promising so much with their motors and massagers and heaters and screens, but while others have cooed with delight, someone has to drive, and that someone is always me. But not today.

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Because today I’m testing the Range Rover’s bandwidth. Can it be both luxury stretched limo and extreme off-road contortionist? So my plan is simple: dress for bizniz, get chauffeured to Land Rover’s legendary off-road centre at Eastnor on the Welsh Borders, spend the day attempting to get stuck and then head home.

Happily the limo and off-road facets don’t contradict each other – both require a certain amount of suspension travel and suppleness. Now, you already know I have slight issues with the Rangey’s ride where sudden kickback from the big, heavy wheels jars the chassis. From the back seats it’s slightly less noticeable – and remains the sole complaint. Road, tyre and wind noise is a distant ruffle, and the Rangey’s slow cushioning as it rises and falls with the road makes for soporific progress.

During my less drowsy moments I consider this question of bandwidth. Luxury SUVs have been a thing for a long while now, but luxury chauffeur-driven SUVs? That’s a pretty new one. It’s basically this and the Bentayga EWB as Rolls doesn’t yet do a stretched Cullinan. And that’s where this is aimed. It’s certainly not a family car. The electric seat folding, as documented previously, is hopeless, the seatbacks tilting forward to the angle of a begrudging bow rather than a florid nose-to-toes plunge.

And it can’t be fitted with a towbar remember. I found out why that is. Not only would the towbar itself add weight, but the trailer noseweight (typically around 40kg) has to be subtracted from the gross vehicle weight (GVW), further denting the Rangey’s load carrying ability. Don’t forget that cars have a maximum GVW of 3500kg, above that they become commercial vehicles and you may need a different licence to drive them. This one, when I stuck it on a weighbridge for report four, weighed 3000kg with three-quarters of a tank of fuel against a claim of 2735kg. But that’s for an unoptioned car. The main things that drive the weight of this one up are the executive rear seating, 22-inch wheels, fridge, screens, massage seats, rear climate control, upgraded hifi and full driver’s assist. This one is being replaced by a short wheelbase D350 to see if that does the regular stuff better, so think of this as KM72 OBP’s swansong.

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Here's something I hadn’t expected. All Land Rovers at Eastnor, bar a handful of rescue vehicles, run on regular road tyres. No point giving the car a level of performance it can’t replicate elsewhere, goes the thinking. That’s good with me – shows just what the Range Rover has always been capable of. So far I’ve only scratched the surface – one of the first things it ever did was act as a luxurious observation platform during lambing season on a mate’s farm.

Today is altogether more serious. Having done a driver swap in the middle of the estate, I don my wellies, drop Colin at the visitor centre and set off to explore. As with every other Land Rover, Terrain Response doesn’t half make things easy. Just turn the pop-up knob to the surface you’re on and it’ll do the rest, bringing in diff locks and so on as and when it reckons you need them. I make a couple of other adjustments myself, raising the air suspension to give 284mm of clearance (rather than 209mm), engaging low range gears and off-road cameras – everyone harps on about the clever ‘see-through’ bonnet view, but the one I immediately find most useful is the side views down onto the front wheels that show just what a mess of the polished rims a deep rut can make.

That is the first challenge, tracking through sunken tramlines, belly scraping the mud in the middle. From there I ramp things up: I test the door seals by wading through trenches full of gloopy mud under looming trees, I ascend ridiculous gradients, stupefied by the effortless traction, I clamber over roots and rocks, just letting the Range Rover slowly, calmly pick a path, realising how handy the 4WS is in tight spots. It doesn’t like going fast on-road, and it’s no different off-road.

The only time its massive weight slightly worries me is tilting down a vertiginous drop and letting the hill descent sort it out. There’s a couple of brief skids and slips as the ABS struggles to control each wheel. And I do a lot of this in electric mode, because the silence and smoothness is so well suited to crawling around the countryside. As a result I see wildlife; not only endless pheasants, but deer, squirrels, rabbits, a woodpecker, even an owl.

I venture into Land Rover’s playground, the man-made obstacles that allow more precise testing. Torsional rigidity is up 50 per cent over the old L405 (this generation is the L460) and I want to see if there’s any twist from the long frame. I do cross ruts, rock climbing and end up tilting it to silly angles. No creaks inside. Apart from the one from my bowels. Then off again, to finish up with the most challenging obstacle any off-roader can face: wet grass. This one’s a lottery, entirely tyre dependent. Keep the treads clean so they have an edge to cut in with, and you should be fine. No tow rope required.

However, it's the extreme stuff that provides the real juxtaposition. Sat amid luxury fabrics and sleek design yet with a view out that often looks like unconquerable wilderness, it’s hard to square one with the other. What other chauffeur-driven car could get you here? Let alone get you out again? Ultimately, I wouldn’t trust another one to do what this can do.

The Range Rover takes to these trails like a Porsche GT3 to a track day. Its trick is that when it’s doing the everyday stuff, it gives no hint that it would rather be elsewhere. I’ve previously accused the Defender of being dull off-road because it makes it too easy, reducing your involvement and expertise. Here, that’s exactly what’s called for.

I want to take it home filthy, but the Eastnor team insists it’s hosed down afterwards so it doesn’t traipse dirt through the quaint village. Sticking it up on the jetwash ramps feels about the sketchiest thing I do all day. But good news: hosing it clean reveals not a mark anywhere, even the wheels.

Is this the world’s best luxury car then? It doesn’t ride as well as the latest BMW i7, nor is it as creatively and luxuriously laid out in the back as that remarkable machine. But its height lends it that sense of altitude and isolation that saloons lack. If I was choosing one to while away the hours, it would be the i7. But one to do it all? That would be the Range Rover. It goes where others fear to tread.

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