Still Peerless

The Land Rover Range Rover continues to prove its mettle, generation after generation

By Afzal Rawuther

It has been almost five years since I first drove a Range Rover — the big, full-sized one that is. It was for a feature story, and I ended up driving every model (the OG Range Rover, the Sport, the Evoque and the Velar) over the course of a 3-day trip to a luxury wellness resort on the outskirts of Pune. I had driven smaller models before, but nothing would prepare me for The Range Rover.

Almost half a decade later, my first experience with the brand-new version is coloured by the indelible impression the last-gen Rangie left on me. And it was no ordinary impression. When you have been reviewing cars for a while, not much really blows you away. Sure, a lot of cars leave a mark, but not many fundamentally transform how you look at motoring. And I am happy to report that the latest Range Rover does that.

The sheer size makes you go about driving the car differently than any other automobile. On the crowded streets of Mumbai, the 5.2-metre-long SUV understandably takes up a lot of space. This can seem imposing for drivers when the bonnet’s size makes it challenging to spot kerbs. That said, the sheer number of cameras and sensor arrays make it easy to place in narrow bylanes and crowded markets without scratching the optional 22” rims. Crucially, this generation offers rear wheel steering, something I was grateful for as memories of my struggles to park the last-gen came flooding back. This time, the SUV was far more maneuverable with a turning radius that rivals some compact SUVs in our country. It also makes for a nimbler SUV as speeds pick up.

Best of all, the large footprint and imposing stance mean that almost always, cars go out of their way to make room for you. A Range Rover, after all, doesn’t just signify that you have arrived in life — it is the vehicle of choice for film stars, oil barons and oligarchs alike. Everything from the dimensions to the opulent, tech- heavy cabin and the sublime ride is on a different plane when compared to any of its contemporaries.

The new Range Rover might not have undergone radical changes, but the devil is in the details. The slimmer tail lamps, complete with a unique LED signature, are the biggest giveaway that you’re looking at with the latest iteration of the iconic SUV. Land Rover has made subtle tweaks to the timeless silhouette, resulting in tighter panel gaps, cleaner lines, and even pop-out door handles that add a futuristic touch. The result? An uncluttered yet striking look that is sure to stand the test of time, unlike some of its luxury SUV competitors.

Take a step into the cabin, and you’ll find swathes of leather everywhere with a commanding view of the surroundings —not very different from the last-gen model. But things are a lot more modern this time around. Plonk yourself into the rear left seat and you can lounge back with the press of a button — the front passenger seat folds away, your seat reclines, and a footrest drops down from the back of the seat in front of you. And of course, you can’t be bothered with expending energy to deploy the centre armrest, which can be summoned with a button and an additional button on the armrest presents you with cupholders. There is an 8-inch touchscreen in the armrest that you can use to manage climate control, massage functions, seat heating and ventilation, alongside the seats themselves. This is in addition to the two 11.4-inch touchscreen entertainment displays (optional extras) for the rear passengers.

To ensure that you are cocooned from the hustle and bustle of the city, there are embedded noise cancelling speakers built into the seats. Electrically operated blinds and a panoramic sunroof complete the package. As before, everything you touch is of the highest quality — the soft, supple leather, the metallic switches, even the few plastic bits are nice to the touch.

At the front, a 13.1” infotainment display is positioned on the leather wrapped dash. I wasn’t a fan of earlier-gen Range Rover infotainment systems, but this one is a serious upgrade. The Pivi Pro system is responsive and high-res, while the 360-degree augmented reality display is immersive and very informative in traffic or off-road conditions. The variant we were testing (a Rs3.16 crore D350 LWB Autobiography) employs a 3.0-litre, straight-six twin- turbo Ingenium diesel engine that makes 350 PS and 700 Nm of power and torque respectively. At 2.5 tons, this is a heavy SUV, but performance is brisk — 100 kmph comes up in 6.3 seconds and the engine never feels like it is working too hard. The 8-speed automatic gearbox is quick too and finds the right gear for most situations consistently, especially when cruising.

With the Range Rover, it was never purely about the numbers though. While it does accelerate strongly for such a large SUV, the way it pummels the road surface into submission is something that must be experienced to be believed. Once I did, half a decade ago, it instantly became the benchmark for ride quality in my opinion, and the new Range Rover only builds on that pedestal. I took it for a short dash on a highway with road works in full swing at several sections. Of course, it was easy to barrel down the highway, and the air suspension felt perfectly judged for cruising on our undulating highways. But as the perfect layer of tarmac gave way to unsurfaced bits with bumps and potholes, the Range Rover, with its skirt lifted off the ground (the air suspension can be raised for a maximum ground clearance of 295mm) still allowed me to drive with confidence. We were asked to not take the car off- roading, so we weren’t able to put it to test on that front. While it does have Land Rover’s famed Terrain Response 2 and all the hardware that makes it extremely capable, not many would do any serious off-roading with it.

It was soon time to bid goodbye, and I started reflecting on the time I had with this mammoth of an SUV. When I first drove it years ago, I remember that it seemed a little behind its peers on paper but spending some time in one changed my perspective drastically — there was nothing like it. Sure, everything from the platform to the tech, to the interiors, to even the engines on offer have changed. But the Range Rover continues to excel in all the areas that it is the benchmark in — its design, ability, presence and opulence together make it something that will not go out of style anytime soon. Sadly, only a few will ever get to experience it.

Reproduced with permission from Mansworldindia.com

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