Recently, I found myself behind the wheel of a 3.0 litre diesel variant of the new 2013 Range Rover, driving on public roads in close proximity to the brand’s Gaydon office. Nothing, quite prepared me for this latest tour-de-force.
Walking through the streets of London’s Mayfair, you cannot fail to notice the profusion of SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles). The popularity of four-wheel drive vehicles is of equal magnitude in neighbouring Chelsea, spawning the much-used disparaging phrase, “Chelsea tractor”.
I would suggest that those who criticise SUVs have probably never driven one. This genre of vehicle provides a commanding view of the road, granting a sense of reassurance. Moreover, they feel intrinsically safe, with substantial bulk to protect the inhabitants and four-wheel traction delivering tenacious grip on otherwise treacherous surfaces.
Assuage any guilt
There are disadvantages with this type of vehicle, namely economy and CO2 emissions. However, this latest generation Range Rover has done much to assuage any guilt thanks to a laudable fuel consumption figure of 37.7 mpg and an impressively low CO2 output of 196 g/Km (both based on the combined cycle).
Like many men of my generation, I have embraced SUV ownership on several occasions, primarily motivated by a need to transport all the Davies clan and the occasional hanger on as comfortably and practically as possible. Invariably a voluminous load compartment has proved useful when moving a myriad of family chattels from A to B. Yet, I have seldom ventured off-road.
On the blacktop
I drove the previous generation Range Rover off-road and was aghast at its ability to ascend and descend treacherous mud-clad hills with minimal fuss. More recently, I found myself behind the wheel of a 3.0 litre diesel variant of the new 2013 Range Rover, driving on public roads in close proximity to the brand’s Gaydon office.
Unable to venture off the blacktop, I can only speculate on the ability of the latest Range Rover to travel off-piste. However, with a gold-plated reputation for its go anywhere ability, I see little reason to believe its prowess does not continue to shine with similar brilliance.
Driving the Range Rover on a series of straight and twisty public roads, I was able to appraise its ability in what, for many customers, will be its usual mode of use.
Engine and transmission
The 3.0 litre diesel is the entry level powertrain. However, do not misconstrue, it is no slouch, accelerating to 60 mph from rest in 7.6 seconds and having a maximum top speed of 130 mph. It is not only the statistics which are impressive but the subjective feeling of quiet, serene progress; this car conveys its occupants with matchless refinement.
The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts ratios seamlessly, without any hint of delay in engaging the optimum gear. There is a distinct absence of the ratio hunting found on the ponderous automatics of my youth. The latest generation automatics seem to continuously improve and this must rank as one of the finest I have experienced. The cylindrical shaped gear selector of the former model has been retained and it induces a smile every time I press the start button and see it rise from the centre console like a dance hall Wurlitzer.
I have owned several so-called “limousines” but their ride is vastly inferior to the wafting excellence of the Range Rover’s ride. It absorbs small undulations with aplomb and yet remains remarkably nimble in terms of handling, amazing given it is nearly five metres long and weighs 2160 Kg.
My test car was very highly specified with a myriad of electronic gizmos to enhance driver and passenger enjoyment. The satellite navigation system proved user-friendly and the in-car enterntainment system provided peerless aural delights to sate the needs of the most dicerning clientele. However, my needs at times often boil down to the comfort of the seats and available room for my larger than average torso. In this regard the Range Rover fulfills my every need admirably. Indeed, I found the gorgeously clad, leather driver’s seat more comfortable than the faithful armchair residing in my lounge.
I did try sitting in the rear of the passenger compartment and expected it be a tad more commodious, but in reality this is a minor criticism. Moreover, the probability of carrying two, 6ft 4 inch inhabitants, in series, one behind the other is probably unusual to say the least.
With my co-pilot sat in the front passenger seat, recording my perception of the Range Rover in real-time, unscripted and raw, I struggled to find much to complain about.
I briefly mentioned that the boot could be a smidgen larger and then found myself tongue-tied as I scrabbled around to find something to take issue with. I found it impossible to hide my overwhelming affection for the new Range Rover.
A cosetting ride, good maneuverability, well appointed cabin, impressive performance and commendable fuel economy. These are merely some of the many attributes I recorded to paper, with many more left unsaid.
The Range Rover is a British institution which has proved popular with royalty, but based on my experience it can happily claim the title of “King of the Road”. It ranks as one of the finest cars I have ever driven.