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Friday 7th September 2012


IN DEPTH: NEW RANGE ROVER

First amazing fact about the new Range Rover? It'll do over 180mph! That's for starters...


Land Rover doesn't know how fast the new Range Rover is. At Nardo a supercharged one hit 181mph but, as speed wasn't the focus of the test, the engineers didn't press it further. But they plan to go back. Curiosity's got the better of them.

Bigger but significantly lighter than before
Bigger but significantly lighter than before
Why so fast? Because it is so much lighter, being the world's first all-aluminium SUV. The monocoque of the L405 Range Rover, 39 per cent lighter than before, is lighter than an Audi Q5. It's 23kg lighter than an F30 BMW 3 Series. It's within 12kg of a Mini Countryman, for goodness sake.

All because, five years ago, Land Rover bosses approved a fundamental rethink in philosophy, engineering and construction.

The Range Rover was being used by celebs and chauffeurs to an extent not foreseen when the L322 launched a decade ago. This one caters for all these new customers, without brassing off its existing ones - by giving the engineers free rein.

Grouse beware, it'll get anywhere on t'moors!
Grouse beware, it'll get anywhere on t'moors!
Green AND fast
Because it's so much lighter, all three engines are considerably greener. The V6 diesel (the first in a Range Rover) is as fast as the current TDV8, but 22 per cent more fuel efficient, returning 37.7mpg and emitting less than 200g/km CO2. Golf GTI economy from a massive SUV that won't be too far behind in the drag race either. Next year, it will get even better: a diesel-electric hybrid has been confirmed, with target CO2 of just 169g/km and economy of 45mpg.

Don't worry. It's no slower. The 258hp V6 diesel is as fast as the current TDV8: the revised 339hp SDV8 is one second quicker. That 5.0-litre 510hp supercharged V8 petrol (limited to 155mph or 140mph, depending on tyres) reaches 62mph in just 5.1 seconds.

Familiar styling cues are maintained
Familiar styling cues are maintained
All feature the ZF eight-speed gearbox, whose in-house control logic shifts faster than in BMW applications (and four times faster than a human heartbeat). Standard paddles allow preloading of downshifts too.

Handling will be significantly better. On the faster two, there's Dynamic Response two-channel active lean control, controlling front and rear roll rates independently. It's described as "a very different experience" and one for which there's much anticipation.

Six-pot Brembo brakes are standard, clamping 380mm discs on the front. A 5,000-mile flat-out endurance test at the Nurburgring will have proven them, one of 20,000 physical tests conducted over the past 18 months. People have been busy within all those camouflaged models on the M40.

Test track 'not hard enough' for new Rangie
Test track 'not hard enough' for new Rangie
From horse boxes to race cars, people love to tow with their Range Rovers too. Its 3,500kg towing weight is one reason: sensibly, this has been retained for the new one.

Off-road
The Range Rover still has to be the world's best off-roader, says Land Rover. An afternoon watching at the Solihull proving ground demonstrates they can do the apparently impossible. Wheel travel, for example, is 50 per cent greater than a BMW X5.

McGovern's designed the exterior to maximise approach and departure angles and the underbody is completely flat - benefitting aerodynamics, yes, but also ensuring there's nothing to snag rocks when crawling. Plastic covers take it first. The air suspension gives you several get out of jail cards too. It's already 33mm higher at 125mm, but can rise a further 70mm in extremes.

900mm wading depth is best in class
900mm wading depth is best in class
Land Rover's Terrain Response is a great system but the icons aren't half baffling. As a result Terrain Response 2 has been introduced, actively monitoring inputs to automatically choose the best setting. Which is trickier than it sounds.

Oh, and something genuinely remarkable: the wading depth is 900mm, the highest of any production vehicle. Ingesting intake air via the gap between bonnet and wing permits this, circulating it within the clamshell bonnet before entering intake funnels dubbed 'Queen Marys' after their resemblance to ship funnels. The earlier QE2 nickname was dismissed when it was discovered only one of the ship's funnels functioned, trivia fans!

That's why the current car's side gills have become a graphic on the front door instead. The line below them can be colour-coded, as can the roof, and a huge panoramic roof is now available. All looks sleek, no? It is - 10 per cent more slippery: the Cd is a remarkable 0.34. Oh, and while it's nearly two metres wide and 1.8 metres tall, it's not quite as long as you may think. Overall length is less than an Audi A8.

Fewer buttons, higher quality and more room
Fewer buttons, higher quality and more room
Interior
Naturally, the interior has been pored over. The button count has been halved and quality feel is much improved. Seats set 90mm higher than any other premium SUV ensure the command driving position is suitably commanding. It's roomier in the back and easier to get into, addressing a flaw in the current car. Land Rover didn't expect it to be used so much as a chauffeur car, so the door opening was on the small side, the seat mounted too high. That's fixed here, with the walk-in rear offering 118mm more legroom.

And the split tailgate remains, now power operated and synchronising upper and lower open/closure in pure street theatre.

The best car in the world?
All this, Land Rover hopes, will sate existing customers who stated they simply wanted the same, but better. So, what will existing Range Rover customers notice? That the ride is better, particularly secondary ride (thanks to air springs with more compliance), handling is better, refinement is better. Wind noise is said to be best in class - detail engineering even stretches to felt-covered ventilation ducts to control noise.

There's a lot riding on this - it best be good
There's a lot riding on this - it best be good
But it's the combination of basic engineering decisions (it's so good off-road, they had to modify the Eastnor test track to make it more challenging) with detail ingenuity (the battery is suspended from the air suspension compressor in the spare wheel well, creating a refinement-improving mass damper) that make the Range Rover great.

Best new car of the year? It's the SUV match to the Ferrari F12, that's for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

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