Latest Rangie still a standard bearer for class
Peter Atkinson |
Weighing almost three tonne, measuring 5.25m long and two metres wide, Range Rover’s latest progeny makes a statement.
The long-awaited fifth-generation of the venerated British off-roader unmistakably bears the same DNA as the car that – more than any other – delivered the luxury four-wheel drive.
Of course the release of an all-new Range Rover – this is the fifth in almost six decades – only goes to show how far ahead of the game Land Rover was when unveiling this car in 1967.
Who could have predicted the rise and rise – and the world’s growing appetite – for big, expensive, luxurious off roaders?
The Range Rover’s go-anywhere credentials, coupled with its limousine-like interior, has never veered from that recipe.
It never ceases to amaze how Range Rover’s designers can work with basically the same three box design from decades ago, and still create something that looks more modern, fresh and beautiful than ever.
And that’s despite having some of the world’s great marques nipping at its heels.
When this new model ‘Rangie’ was released in England late in 2022, it involved a global Zoom call for motoring writers, a masterclass of details and engineering brilliance lasting more than two hours.
The arrival of a new Range Rover could be likened to the election of a new Pope – so reverently is the vehicle held, so rarely is it replaced.
It is described by its marketers as possessing “breathtaking modernity” and among all of the hyperbole and overstatement, those two words sum it up pretty accurately.
It’s posh, powerful and peerless.
Tested here is the flagship Autobiography model, in long-wheelbase configuration that is an interesting addition to the range.
Mechanically it features a sonorous, twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 engine and silky eight-speed automatic transmission. Not surprisingly it leans towards the performance end of the range, despite its massive proportions. Likewise its off-road capability.
The all-new V8 replaces a fondly-remembered, five-litre, supercharged V8 that has propelled several Rangies (and Jaguars) over the past decade or so. Interestingly, the new V8 is developed by BMW – ostensibly for the likes BMW’s hulking X7 – and it’s a cracker with its brutal 700Nm and 390kW.
Yet it is whisper quiet in most of its operation.
The credentials of its rivals put even more pressure on this car to deliver.
Potential buyers are also considering: Benz’s G-Class, the BMW X7, Bentley’s plush Bentayga, Lamborghini’s Urus, Aston Martin’s DBX and the Rolls-Royce Cullinan.
Against most of these rivals, the Range Rover’s $333,000 price tag looks almost modest.
Each is trying to eat Range Rover’s lunch.
The Range Rover is absolutely at home in that company – off-roaders delivering a combination of blistering performance, go-anywhere capability and plush, limousine-like luxury and technology features.
With such competition, the stakes have never been higher for the Rangie.
The long wheelbase model brings additional capability – that of delivery van, with its extraordinary levels of interior space.
It swallows slightly less human cargo than a council bus, yet does so with the poise and power of a luxury limousine.
It offers seven bona fide luxury seats across three rows, all electrically operated and clad in the softest of leather. With all seats occupied, there’s a useful 312 litres of luggage space. Lay flat the third row and the capacity grows to 1061 litres. Fold forward the second row seats and that becomes 2601 litres.
Yet this expanded version has not diminished the car’s performance credentials, soft-road capability and, of course, that unmistakable silhouette.
It’s fair to say that there has never been more competition in this money-no-object segment – and Range Rover will be fully tested at every turn.
Most importantly, this fifth-generation model will be defined by how it applies EV technology – firstly in its plug-hybrid version, which should appear in the first half of 2024, and then the all-electric version which won’t be far behind.
In fact the Autobiography’s smaller sibling, the svelte Velar, is already being advertised as an EV.
Until then, this thunderous but silken twin-turbo V8 is a pretty good stop gap, with its 750Nm and 390kW. That equates to a top speed of 234km/h and a 0-100km/h split of 4.7 seconds. Only an Airbus A380 accelerates with as much thrust (and comfort).
This is an extremely large piece of metal, yet somehow the Range Rover designers, as they’ve done so many times before, somehow make the car look smaller than it actually is.
That is supported by the fact that the car feels and performs so capably for a vehicle weighing not much under 3000kg.
The new Range Rover is quite simply a tour de force – and a demonstration of why the brand has, almost without exception, continued to lift its game and keep its nose in front with every successive iteration.
RANGE ROVER AUTOBIOGRAPHY LWD
* HOW BIG? Gargantuan. It seats seven people in absolute comfort and still has space for a weekend’s cargo.
* HOW FAST? Impressively so. The twin-turbocharged V8 engine is thunderous (but quietly so) and effortlessly pushes this massive machine to the speed limit in 4.7 seconds.
* HOW THIRSTY? Officially it drinks 11.7 litres/100km. That sounds a bit optimistic – but at least the tank carries 90 litres.
HOW MUCH? Another eye-watering feature of this remarkable machine. Cheaper models start in the early $200,000s. This one, with all the fruit, costs $330,000 plus on-road costs.AAP