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

  • nelly_h 09 Jul 2010

    What's not to love about that? Ticks all the boxes for my semi-rural existence.

    Also amazed at how all manufacturers seem to be currently making significantly more powerful, torquey engines while giving better economy. Thumbs up to engineering smile

  • Not Ideal 09 Jul 2010

    Love the new RR and the new diesel engine spec sounds fantastic.

  • HowardB 09 Jul 2010

    Land Rover, Range Rover, Freelander, Discovery, Defender, even the 101FC, all vehicles that we can be proud of!

  • loudlashadjuster 09 Jul 2010

    The first few paragraphs of this article read like Troy Queef...

  • Chris-R 09 Jul 2010

    loudlashadjuster said:
    The first few paragraphs of this article read like Troy Queef...
    Such praise! smile

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