DRIVEN: NEW RANGE ROVER
We've seen it, we've sat in it and finally we've driven it - all the goss on the all-new Range Rover
fails to follow form, then, unless you accept that the visual purpose is sufficient in itself. "The vertical detail reduces the visual impression of length," says Land Rover designer Gerry McGovern, who makes it clear that this is quite sufficient to justify the garnish.
But then... but then, you look a little harder at the new Range Rover and a lot of subtleties start to emerge. Its nose is shorter and less bluff, the windscreen sits back at a faster angle, the waistline rises rearwards and both front and rear lights have little tongues licking around the corners. Also, the wheelarches hug the wheels like never before, which has the unexpected effect of making the Range Rover look more compact than it really is. The body seems less of a burden.
It is, too. That's because the whole monococque structure is now made from aluminium, which contributes to a hefty weight saving of up to 420kg. Length, width and wheelbase have all grown a little but the roofline is lower. Rear-seat passengers have significantly more lounging room.
Which is part of the point, because more than ever before the Range Rover is the definitive luxury SUV. Never has the 'U' part strayed further from its origins; it's almost an oxymoron now. The RR was introduced to us in Morocco and the Range Rover's party piece was not simply that it can drive along the sides of sand dunes with barely any tail-slippage, nor that it can clamber along rocky riverbeds before clawing its way back up the bank, but that it can do so while keeping its occupants in near-silent, air-conditioned luxury with barely a body-wobble between them as it does so.
It's a brilliant off-roader, then, but you expected that. It can now wade in water up to 900mm deep, too, thanks to air intakes right up just below the bonnet. They look like a ship's funnels. But can the Range Rover really do this while also rivalling the world's best luxury saloon for ride and handling, as claimed? Up to a point it can.
The supercharged V8 is the hotrod of the range, with a claimed 5.4 seconds to 62mph and - with the right tyres - a 155mph maximum. It feels properly quick on the road, with enough torque to make you wonder if it really needs eight forward gear ratios in its ZF automatic 'box, but a 322g/km CO2 figure is the downside. The V8 diesel at 229g/km is a better eco-bet and still gives you 62 in 6.9 seconds; subjectively it feels nearly as quick as the supercharged car, and doesn't sound much different. That's how refined the diesel is.
The one to have, though, is the V6, preferably on the smallest, 20-inch wheels. 7.4 seconds to 62mph, 130mph, 196g/km, 442lb ft of torque and a £71,295 starting price. On real roads it might not have quite the ballistic surge of the V8s but it's plenty quick enough for an SUV. It, too, is ultra-refined and un-diesel-like, and it also both handles and rides the best. The V8s still feel a bit SUV-like, with large masses being shifted and a feeling of forces being fought, and they can thud heavily into road-breaks. The V6 steers sweetly and naturally, you're hardly aware of the minimal extra roll, and it eases beautifully over bumps while feeling much more agile than it should. Physics are defied best here.
All have the lush cabins and myriad trim possibilities you'd expect of a new Range Rover, with only a slightly untidy on-screen menu and an annoying beep when you press the start button to cloud the picture. England expects, and the Range Rover delivers. Again.
RANGE ROVER VOGUE TDV6
Engine: 2,993cc V6 turbocharged
Transmission: 8-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 258@4,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 442@2,000rpm
0-62mph: 7.9 sec
Top speed: 130mph
MPG: 37.7mpg (NEDC combined)
Price: from £71,295