Driven: Range Rover TDV8 4.4

This is a bit more like it. 3,000ft up in the arid mountains under a blistering Portuguese sun, a desolate dirt road, and the only thing separating us from certain dry, dusty death is a bottle of iced Evian placed thoughtfully by the PR team in the drinks holder of our trusty Range Rover - newly empowered for 2011 by a stonking 4.4 litre diesel V8.

Our car is an Autobiography and very posh, but not that sort of 'posh'. In fact the only orange skins around here are on the occasional wild fruit trees, although several of the Land Rover Experience guys marshalling our little safari under the scorching mid-day sun are sporting traditional/authentic 'boiled lobster' hues.

Hats are recommended on a day like today, chaps, when you find yourself on the wrong side of the latest Range Rover. (The 'outside', that is). And not a fashionable hat either, because this isn't Ascot. No, for the rough stuff you need a proper titfer from Tilley that's been passed through an elephant at least once, or a travel-stained Jipijapa picked up while roving the Panamanian Isthmus in your prospecting days. A characterful, heroic sort of hat is best suited to the Range Rover brand while off-roading.

Not that I've spent much time thinking about the Range Rover as a brand. In fact until the Vogue-ish launch party for the new Evoque last week I probably didn't think the Range Rover was a brand at all. I had it down as an iconic bit of off-road kit, a trail-blazing legend in its own lifetime, and a triumph of British (and yes, a little bit of German) engineering.

But if Range Rover must be a brand, then please let it be one for proper chaps and the game sort of girls who gallop horses, climb trees or sail the oceans single-handed. The sort once referred to as 'spunky', because some things in our motoring lives should be sacred, after all.*

With that in mind, it was reassuring to find only a lonesome Defender station wagon marking the summit of our mountaineering expedition and not Victoria (bloody) Beckham who, following her surprise appointment as new Range Rover Evoque 'design executive', we half expected to have been parachuted-in to hand out 'off-roading in heels' tips.

She hadn't, but that's possibly because Range Rover technology has advanced to the point where off-road driving tips are largely redundant, other than common-sense hints such as 'keep your foot on the brake over that blind precipice', 'accelerate gently up that vertical cliff face' and 'please don't open the door when driving in three feet of water'.

It's difficult to explain the breadth of off-road capability inherent in the latest Rangies, which is why Land Rover is so keen to get punters involved with its off-road experiences where they can be amazed in the first person. Suffice to say the range of electronics employed to master all types of difficult terrain reduces the driver input to the minimum. You aim, accelerate, brake and the job is done, in as much comfort as it's possible to imagine thanks to the niceties of the air suspension.

The new 4.4 litre V8 diesel under the bonnet plays its part well off-road, developing almost 10 percent more torque than its 3.6 litre predecessor and 15 percent more power. The new figures are 516lb ft and 308hp which, even in a car weighing up to a mighty 2810kgs, is grunt a-plenty.

It's enough on-road, in fact, to take the car from 0-60mph in 7.5secs, shave more than a second off the 50-75mph time, and power the Rangie to a limited maximum speed of 130mph. An 18 percent fuel economy improvement provides 30.1mpg (combined), while CO2 is down 14 percent to 253g/km - all of which figures are quite frankly, impressive.

The all-new engine makes its efficiency gains largely from parallel sequential turbocharging, but also features ceramic glow plugs and improved piezo injectors among a raft of other technical advances. The block itself is similar to the old 3.6 diesel, but is taller to accommodate a longer stroke - a fact which maybe unfortunately precludes its fitment to the Range Rover Sport. (Interestingly, the new unit is built by Ford in Mexico. It was intended for a new truck application - since canned - so the engine is currently 'bespoke' for Range Rover.)

Equally impressive on- and off-road is the newly adopted 8-speed automatic gearbox with Jaguar-style rotating gear selector offering normal and 'sport' modes. The model also comes with paddle-shifters which may be occasionally useful, but generally the 'box is seamless when left to its own devices.

The V8 diesel model also now gets the Brembo brakes from its supercharged V8 petrol sibling. They are certainly up to the job of slowing the beast (although you sense they are working hard in extremis), and help impart the confidence required to use the Range Rover at the high cruising speeds it finds so effortless on tarmac.

A number of 'classic' Range Rovers on hand at the launch event served to reinforce how far this model has come over the years. (Stay tuned for more on the oldies.) Wandering steering and wallowing suspension are distant memories for a car that now handles and steers with poise and stability that belies its size. And for all-round 'driveability' this new diesel must surely be the pick of the range, in spite of our fondness for the supercharged petrol job.

Throw in a package of recent interior and chassis control enhancements, including optional reclining rear seats, and the 2011 Range Rover looks an increasingly sound choice for covering high mileages at 'executive' speeds, whether you intend to use its amazing off-road capability or not. At £67,495 in Vogue trim, or £81,395 for the lavishly-equipped Autobiography that we drove, it's a lot of very fine car for the money.

*The author reserves the right to withdraw all controversial comments if required to justify them...

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (62) Join the discussion on the forum

  • jagfan2 13 Jul 2010

    rudecherub said:
    Not so much complaining about more power / performance, just not excited about the meagre gains - like I say BMW looked at a 4.4 diesel but found the gearbox could not handle it some years ago... It seems rather than being the best by far the Range Rover is looking underpowered when compared to simple pick up trucks in the most important market.
    Strange that since both all the big makers use basically the same gearboxes, perhaps some are designed and tested for more arduous conditions that other competitors dont engineer for?

    X5 40d may be lower on CO2, but its a jumped up 3.0d, the TDV8 is a lot less strained, and has 100more Nm as its now the 8sp ZF, so can pull higher/longer gears better too. Will waft along much more effortlessly, sounds a lot nicer and stacks up well against the competition

    Cayenne hybrid - works on paper, great for tax, but thats all large SUV hybrids are for, you wont get the performance or the economy real world. Also you will probably struggle to buy one with <200g CO2, read the small print, almost all options will affect this.

  • Deva Link 11 Jul 2010

    orbtar said:
    I would completely ignore any claims that Land Rover make for so called improvements to fuel economy.
    I have a new Discovery 4 and a new Range Rover 5 litre Autobiography, both cars are supposed to be way more efficient than
    their predecessors but are actually far worse in the real world returning 3 or 4 miles to the gallon less than the 2008 models.
    I can't believe that someone with a new Range Rover 5 litre Autobiography is commented anout MPG! rofl
    orbtar said:
    Also, if buying a new LR product, you need to be in an area with good dealers/service agents, West Suffolk is not a good place to be!
    Yet you bought 2 new ones?

  • tankplanker 11 Jul 2010

    Aeroresh said:
    I think you'd have to be a hardened petrol lover to now choose the 5.0 supercharged version over this one, especially in this country.
    Another lovely engine and one I'd kill to be able to run. Having said that as the company car tax would be about the same for the big diesel and the big petrol in the RR only difference in running cost comes down to fuel for a company car. If you are taking mileage the extra 5p a mile that the petrol earns from most companies over the diesel means that you can normally have substantially lower MPG in a petrol and still break even compared to a diesel, in this case 23mpg for the petrol would roughly give you the same amount of mileage money back from your company as the diesel.

    I should have clarifed early that I mean petrol hybrids rather than plain petrol, contrast the RR against the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid:0-60 in 6.5s, 34.4mpg, CO2 emissions of 193g/km and 388bhp. Shame the Cayenne is so ugly.

  • toppstuff 10 Jul 2010

    Lovely cars.

    But there is something i have to say.

    Whoever the Board Director is who is responsible for marketing, fire him immediately. Victoria Beckham - for gods sake, why? What are you thinking you blithering idiot?!!!

  • nick_j007 10 Jul 2010

    5potTurbo said:
    Love Range Rovers

    Dislike LR/RR dealer salesmen who think you don't have the time or can't be bothered to serve you
    (I hope this only applies to Dorset, or LR/RR won't last long!)
    Not entirely in your area. I had to walk up to the service desk and say 'Any chance of buying a car?' as there was nobody in the show room!
    I think they were in a meeting.

    West Mids.

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