The R&D department at Land Rover must be breakfasting on Red Bull-soaked Weetabix right now. Seriously, the rate of development is off the scale. In just a few years we've had the new Evoque, updated Discovery, Discovery Sport and a range of excellent Ingenium motors. And that's before we get to the big guns. When it comes to product launches, is an all-new Defender more important than an all-new Range Rover? Either way, the pressure and expectation that comes with both is enormous. And having cracked the former, it's now time to see to the latter.
This is the fifth-generation Range Rover and let's begin with some of the headlines. It's still available in short (SWB) and long wheelbases (LWB), and the mild-hybrid petrol and diesel versions of both go on sale today. They will be joined on the configurator by the PHEVs and the SV trim variants in around 12 weeks from now. The new Range Rover includes a seven-seat option for the LWB and, in 2024, a full battery-electric (BEV) option is due to go on sale. However, despite numerous Chinese burns, the Land Rover bigwigs stayed tight-lipped about the zero-emission version. The UK is the first market to get the new Range Rover, and the earliest iterations will begin filtering through in the spring of 2022.
What was the overriding philosophy behind the new model? Well, since 1970, the Range Rover has carved out an enviable reputation for brand loyalty. If you need proof of that, three out of four Range Rover owners come back for another and, when asked what they wanted from this new model, those owners gave a clear message: "don't [fundamentally] change it. Just make it better." In terms of looks, at least, that message has been closely adhered to. The phrase "evolution rather than revolution" was bandied around by design director Massimo Frascella and, from the front and side profiles, the new car is easy to mistake for the previous one - no criticism there, the L405 is still a looker nearly a decade on. The focus with the new car was on cleaning up the design, improving the quality of the panel gaps and then finessing material finishes. The side blades are now flush fitting and there's a more sculpted look at sill level, giving it a more substantial stance.
Where you won't mistake new for old is at the rear. The squared-off tail includes a darkened strip running the width of the split tailgate that turns 90 degrees downwards at each end. To some, this might seem a bit Burt Reynolds (it has that moustachioed look) but it's hiding high-intensity LED tail and brake lamp assemblies, as well as scrolling indicators. The fog lights, reversing lights and reflectors are mounted lower down at bumper level - the only lenses visible when not illuminated due to restrictions on tinting.
The stubbier tail design is aerodynamically more efficient, helping the new Range Rover slip through the air 12 per cent more efficiently and with an impressive 0.30 drag coefficient. It also adds flush-fitted side glass, retractable door handles (à la Velar), a smooth underfloor and active aero parts. The suspension plays its part, too - two per cent of the drag reduction comes from dropping the ride height to reduce the frontal aspect. Nothing new there, you might think. But instead of lowering at a predetermined speed, it monitors the position of the car using GPS and, if it's heading down a motorway slip road, for example, drops the ride height pre-emptively.
The slippery aerodynamics achieve NVH gains as well. Indeed, it was targeting improved refinement as well as future-proofing for the envisaged electrification requirements that ultimately dictated ditching the L405's platform and creating a brand-new one. The result was an epic five-year development programme to produce the Flexible Modular Longitudinal Architecture (MLA-Flex). Despite the recent travel restrictions, over 7,000 engineers invested a total of 7m hours - including 64,000 test sign-offs, 260,000 virtual test protocols and 1m kilometres of real-world testing. And up to this point, 125 patents have been registered - more than on any other JLR product thus far.
MLA-Flex is a mix of riveted and bonded sheet aluminium with cast aluminium sections that include its one-piece rear-subframe mounting. High-strength boron steel is also deployed in the fire wall, for noise isolation as well as crash integrity. The result is a 24 per cent reduction in actual noise intrusion. That's bolstered by noise-cancelling tech that helps to mitigate wheel vibrations, tyre noise and engine noise - 1kHz white noise is played through 35 speakers, including a 60mm speaker placed in each headrest to create noise 'dead zones' behind the main occupants.
Another benefit of MLA-Flex is up to 50 per cent more torsional stiffness. That's even with a full-length panoramic glass roof, which, like the windscreen, is bonded in place to retain as much structural rigidity as possible. As ever, a stiffer structure is the ideal starting point to optimise the suspension - in this case for both on and off road. It's double wishbones at the front and Land Rover's first five-link arrangement at the rear. The air springs at each corner work in conjunction with twin-valve Bilstein mono-tube dampers, which adjust their rebound rate in as little as five milliseconds. As with the aerodynamics, the system works predictively to limit body roll using GPS data to stiffen the springs in readiness for corners and, on top of that, there's also a 48-volt Active Roll Control system for the first time. This applies up to 1,033lb ft through the anti-roll bars to further reduce lean. All new Range Rovers also get rear-wheel steering, which provides up to 7.3 degrees of rear-wheel-steering angle. As usual, this improves high-speed stability as well as low-speed agility, giving the new car a much tighter turning circle: the SWB is 10.95 metres and the LWB 11.54m.
Obviously, it wouldn't be a Range Rover if it didn't do the off-road stuff better than any of its rivals, with Land Rover assuring the press that its latest All-Wheel-Drive (iAWD) system is overseen by Intelligent Driveline Dynamics (IDD) at up to 100 times a second. It predictively shoves torque between the front and rear axles (there's a locking diff at the rear) to optimise the traction, but can also disconnect the front axle to improve efficiency. The Terrain Response 2 system, seconded from the Defender, plays its part with six maps that give the standard all-season tyres maximum bite in anything from soft sand to wet mud. The new model can tackle inclines up to 45 degrees, has an approach angle of 34.7 degrees, a departure angle of 27.7 degrees, a breakover angle of 29.0 degrees and a wading depth up to 900mm - aided by the ability to close all the cabin vents. All, apart from the departure angle, either match or better its predecessor. And those that use their Range Rover to tow will be happy to hear that the braked towing capacity remains at 3,500kg for all ICE models and a relatively respectable 2,500kg for the PHEVs.
So what about the engine options? Well, most are centred around the excellent 3.0-litre six-cylinder Ingenium unit already proven in the last iterations of the outgoing model, and are twinned with an eight-speed ZF transmission. The engine names reflect their power output - so, for example, the D300 is 300hp diesel. The other diesel is the D350 and there's a P400 petrol, all featuring mild-hybrid assistance. At the top of the petrol pecking order is the new P530 - a 4.4-litre V8 with two twin-scroll turbos capable of powering the new model from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds. Obviously this is a BMW unit, but Land Rover says it has been modified for improved off-road use. The two PHEVs (P440e and P510e) also use the Ingenium six (the previous Range Rover PHEV used the Si4 four cylinder) combined with a 143bhp electric motor. In the P510e, that equates to 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds. Either PHEV has combined CO2 emissions of less than 30 g/km, an electric-only maximum of 87mph and up to 62 miles (WLTP) range from a 38.2kWh battery. Data from current Range Rover PHEV owners showed that 75 per cent of their journeys were under 50 miles, which should be roughly the new model's real-word range. It charges at 50kWh, which is one of the fastest charging rates of any PHEV, delivering a 10-80 per cent boost in under an hour.
An integral part of the Range Rover experience is, of course, its luxuriousness. There's plenty to talk about on that score, too, but let's start with space. This is as you'd expect it to be for a car that's 5,052mm long (5,252mm LWB), has a wheelbase of 2,997mm (3,197mm LWB) and is 1,870mm high. And while banding about those numbers is useful for comparisons, the key observations from sitting in it - and I speak as someone who's 6'3" - is that it is positively palatial in the first two rows. We're talking headroom for hats and legroom to loll about in - up to one metre of it in the LWB. On top of that there's a vast amount of foot space under the front seats and a low transmission tunnel. What about those new rearmost seats? Well, they're okay for kids or smaller adults and certainly bolster the seating flexibility needed to increase the new model's reach - apparently, four out of five potential conquest customers who walked into Range Rover's Manhattan dealer walked out again because of the lack of seven seats. In the UK, half the LWB models are expected to be seven-seaters. Getting in and out of the third row is pretty easy, and once seated, the experience is made more pleasant with slimmed-down headrests on the first two rows that open up the view forwards.
Behind the third row there's still 312 litres of space available, which is increased to 725 litres with five seats in play. Even the PHEVs retain the underfloor capacity for a full-size spare. More importantly, the split tailgate has been perfected for picnics and parties: if you opt for the new Tailgate Event Suite, a backrest hinges up from the boot floor with a set of hook-on cushions that stow away underneath it. The lower tailgate also has recesses designed for champagne flutes and in the top section, and positioned above your head are dimmable spotlights and speakers. You pick the music from your smartphone app that's hooked up to the car's infotainment system.
The interior quality is deeply impressive. The fit and finish is exquisite and complemented by the selection of fine hides and veneers. And now you can go vegan, with sustainable leather-free alternatives featuring a mix of wool and polyester. There's no seven-seat option for the SV models; instead, you choose between five or four seats, with a business-class two-seat rear bench complete with a powered footrest and central divider. You can also choose one of two bespoke themes; Serenity is luxury focused, with softer colour tones, chrome and marquetry for the woodwork, while Intrepid is more for the driver and features darkened, anodised chrome detailing. Each theme is reflected outside, with the latter having darkened chrome and alloys.
Accessible technology is a tenet of the new Range Rover. Most obviously this includes its crystal-clear displays: a 13.7-inch driver display and floating 13.1-inch curved infotainment touchscreen with haptic feedback. The rear-seat entertainment includes twin adjustable 11.4-inch screens with Wifi and HDMI connections. The Pivi Pro software is designed so that 90 per cent of its features can be found within just two presses and it's combined with Amazon Alexa that connects to your home hub and imports your Alexa Skills. All the software updates come over the air and to make those updates seamless, each Range Rover has an individual software clone - for the 70 on-board modules - stored in the cloud. The cloud version is updated first, and when it's ready, the virtual clone is downloaded to the car when there's a data connection. Only when the download is complete will you get a prompt telling you an update is available and, because it's already been downloaded, the update is available almost instantly. To keep you connected to all your devices, there are 14 powered data points including 60-watt USB-Cs for laptop charging and 15-watt wireless phone charging. Plus Panasonic Nanoe-X filtration to purify the cabin air, significantly reducing bacteria and viruses including SARS-CoV-2 - our old friend Covid-19.
New product launches are full of bluster and this one proved no different; it included the mission statement "method of make", for example - which doesn't make any sense no matter how many times you read it. Nevertheless, after spending time with the engineers and designers behind the new Range Rover, the concept and its execution appear eminently sensible. And there's a quiet confidence that they know they've got it right. We'll find out whether that's true when we get to drive it but, from what we've seen so far, it's undeniably a Range Rover to its core. As they did with the L405, the firm has clearly listened to its customers. Yes, it's virtually all new, but the changes could hardly be more sympathetic or meaningful. Expect it to broaden the car's appeal even more.
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