I'm not about to suggest the Range Rover as one of our 'Guilty Pleasures' series because I know there's a lot of love for the big beast in all its forms on PH. Speaking personally I'm not much of a fan of SUVs though, be they big and posh like the Rangie or the more generic faux-by-faux crossover types that now seem to be taking over the world.
But after some pretty undignified grovelling I managed to secure a Vogue SE V6 diesel to transport me to Wales for my drive in the Defender Challenge the other week. If nothing else it was an illustration of how far apart the two ends of the Land Rover spectrum now are - bouncy, rattly stripped out rally Defender to lush, leather-lined Range Rover in one step and - damn - I've got mud on the carpets as a result. Sorry.
Moves well for a big lad; mud adds character
Anyway. From curious ambivalence to all things Range Rover to full-on lurve took barely a few miles. What a wonderful vehicle it is and in a completely different league to the Sport I'm much more familiar with. The thing is massive though, a size and half over any other comparable vehicle I've driven. Obviously this has implications when you eventually have to stop driving it and put it somewhere. But other than that I think it's one of the finest conveyances a man could ask for.
Let the Sport do the pushy aspirational thing. There's something far more assured, grand and regal about a proper Range Rover. It's not just the surroundings that are pleasant - these things are bloody good to drive too. If I can be pushed to raise a criticism I'd say there's perhaps a degree of harshness to the secondary ride over sharper bumps. But given the mass and forces the chassis shrugs off along an enthusiastically driven and twisty B-road the damping is nothing short of remarkable. You don't even need to turn a wheel to know how good it's going to be either - you only have to hold one. Praise be to the Rangie's steering wheel. It's big, it has a slim rim and no stupid thumb cutouts or contouring. It's fingertip light but completely faithful and positive in weight and the delicacy with which you can thread this enormous machine along a twisty road is absolutely astonishing.
And I think I know why it's so good. Call it the voice of experience. The Range Rover isn't a 4x4 trying to be a coupe and failing to convince as either. It isn't a muscle car with extra ride height or a sports saloon with delusions of off-road ability battling unfavourable weight distribution with overly stiff suspension. Nor is it a perversion of - cough - sporting brand values coerced into the SUV age to help the bottom line. It nailed its brief from the start decades ago and has simply been refining its act over the years to the point it now seems effortless.
I know it's rather ostentatious. And I'm not really attracted to such obvious displays of wealth and standing. But if my numbers ever come up, sod it, I'm having one. With rubber floor mats and the best of intentions to keep the worst of the mud on the outside.