Land Rover finally gets to launch a new vehicle in Morocco, and it has been worth the wait as the latest Range Rover raises the premium SUV bar, writes The Wheel Deal
It has taken Land Rover four decades to get this launch right. Seriously, back in 1970, these captains of the British SUV industry wanted to unveil their very first Range Rover to the world’s motoring press right here in Essaouira, Morocco.
Please don’t ask me why it didn’t happen, I’m not au fait with all the politics, but the idea was placed on the backburner and shelved for a future model of equal, if not greater, importance. Something special like this all-new, fourth-generation Range Rover that, due to the success of its predecessor, now has some giant designer trail boots to fill.
Now of course the global media hype surrounding Land Rover’s aspirational newcomer has been right up there with the Romney/Obama ballot war and, standing next to a supercharged LRV8 example here in the parking lot of the Sofitel Hotel, it is obvious this stately beast can live up to its enviable Google-trending statistics; well, at least in the aesthetic stakes anyway.
You see, after numerous customer survey sessions, the consensus of the world’s Range Rover faithful was, “don’t change it, just make it better”. Consequently, the exterior has been treated to a subtle makeover that brings it in line with the firm’s latest design language. The most noticeable nip/tuck is evident up front, where the combination of a new grille and LED-equipped headlamps helps give the fourth-generation Range Rover just as much presence as its baby brother, the smash-hit Evoque.
It sits some 20mm lower than the outgoing model too and also benefits from a longer (+42mm) wheelbase. But, even though it is sleeker and speaks more of the future than ever before, all those traditional Range Rover design cues remain very much intact — the clamshell bonnet, that floating roof, those stacked rear taillights that sit either side of the signature split tailgate (now powered). Yep, you cannot mistake this machine for anything other than what it is.
Peel away the skin, however, and you’ll find that all links to the past have been severed with a very sharp blade. Previous Range Rover models were always hulking great slabs of pig iron and military-grade steel. But this one reaches a new SUV milestone, thanks to the extensive use of aluminium. In fact, utilising all the experience garnered by the chaps over at Jaguar, the Land Rover engineers have been able to give their latest range-topper a revolutionary, all-aluminium monocoque chassis.
Add in the feathery-light aluminium body panels and this means that Range Rover version 4.0 can weigh (depending on the derivative) up to 420kg less than the third-generation model. In these strange days in which vehicular evolution is normally accompanied by an escalation in weight, well, this is certainly one hell of an achievement.
Not only does this epic feat of fat-burning give the new Rangie better eco credentials (less lard means that engines can be downscaled to improve economy and emissions), it also promises to deliver a superior driving experience to whoever is ensconced behind the wheel. But more about that a little later.
With the morning sun slowly clawing its way up past the horizon line, I follow the satellite navigation system to a stretch of remote beach that runs next to a heavily duned nature reserve. This is my first chance to get acquainted with the revised innards of the all-new Range Rover and, as with the exterior, it manages to carve an equally good impression into the tissues of my mind.
I’m told that the development team actually bench-marked the Rolls-Royce Ghost and Bentley Flying Spur when they went about penning the new Range Rover interior. And to their credit, it does come impressively close to both of them in terms of quality, luxury and attention to detail.
From the simple layout of the trimmed down switchgear (there’s now 50% less clutter on the centre console) to the exquisite wood veneers and Bridge of Weir hides that clothe the seats and dashboard, the new Rangie is now more of an executive limousine than it has ever been.
There is more space to stretch out, too. Thanks to that longer wheelbase, occupants behind the driver can look forward to 118mm of extra legroom — nice if you’re one of those people who prefers being chauffeured. Other highlights include the optional 29-speaker Meridian sound system. How you can cram so many speakers into one car is beyond me. But they have done and it sounds absolutely brilliant.
Detailing all the other technology spliced into the cabin would take another 1000 words. But stuff worth mentioning before I run out of ink include the Blind Spot and Closing Vehicle sensors built into the side mirrors; Adaptive Cruise Control with Queue Assist; a plethora of cameras to aid in manoeuvring, plus an updated touchscreen infotainment system that controls everything from seat ventilation to the customisation of interior lighting.
Don’t expect BMW iDrive levels of intuition because there is still a lot of finger poking to be done when it comes to accessing menus and changing settings, something that can really frustrate at times.
Having arrived at the beach, it’s time for me to find out if the fourth-generation Range Rover still has a wild side. I mean, what’s the point of having an SUV that rides and feels like a luxury saloon, if it can’t rip its shirt off and go all Bear Grylls every once in a while?
Land Rover, being Land Rover, know this better than anybody and have consequently equipped the new Rangie with some formidable bundu-bashing driver aids. Even though I am no Kingsley Holgate behind the wheel, features like the new Terrain Response 2 system are helping me make light work of these sand dunes.
How does it work? Well, by altering the characteristics of the engine, gearbox, centre differential and chassis systems, Terrain Response 2 optimises the vehicle to tackle specific off-road conditions. There are five preset modes available (General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand, Rock Crawl) plus a new auto mode that, through analysing a number of digital parameters, enables the system to pick the most suitable preset for current driving conditions. It will even tell you to engage low-range if it senses conditions are getting too gnarly. Great for 4×4 meatheads like me.
Adding to this hefty offroad armour is Land Rover’s now familiar Hill Descent Control, Gradient Release Control and Hill Start Assist. But perhaps the most useful — and most noticeable — is the adjustable air suspension system that can be lowered or raised on the fly. Stuck in full off-road attack mode, it endows the Range Rover with 303mm of ground clearance (an increase of 17mm) that, with the dunes now behind me and a river crossing lying dead ahead, is making me feel somewhat more courageous as we carry on our Moroccan road trip.
Even if you have an irrational fear of the unexplored, improved approach and departure angles plus an enviable wading depth of 900mm mean that the fourth-generation Range Rover can, and will, go almost anywhere on the planet. So how does it fare out on regular tarred roads? Thanks to that lighter, all-aluminium architecture, the new Rangie is now a much better steer through the bends.
Besides seeming tighter and more responsive, most of that nose-heavy “I’m-a-tank-out-of-control” feeling you used to get through faster corners is now a thing of the past. The flagship V8 petrol and diesel models are even less roly-poly due to the fitment of something called Dynamic Response: a two-channel electro-hydraulic stabilising system that reduces body roll during bouts of hard cornering.
Look, it’s still no sports car but it’s a damn side better than it used to be. The big switch to aluminium has also lifted the performance of the engines. In fact the power-to-weight ratio has improved so much that you’ll never need anything more than the lovely 4.4-litre SDV8 turbodiesel.
Packed with lots of torque and mated to a smooth eight-speed ZF auto box (standard across the range) it blends adequate grunt with reasonable real-world economy figures. I averaged 12.5l/100km. There is also a 3.0-litre TDV6 turbodiesel (not confirmed for South Africa) available plus two 5.0-litre LRV8 petrols, one normally aspirated and one supercharged.
Even though the latter provides intergalactic thrust, I can’t really see why anybody would pick it over the SDV8. It just seems rather pointless.
But regardless of what engine derivative rocks your boat, there’s no denying that Land Rover has delivered a peach of a car with the launch of this fourth-generation Range Rover. The very fact that — in this automotive era choked by downscaling and compromise — it can be all things to all men is a real testament to how much effort has gone into engineering it.
This is indeed a watershed moment that puts the Range Rover marque, much like the original 42 years ago, back at the top of the luxury SUV pile. The competition better up their game; fast
The Facts: All-New Range Rover
Engine: 2993cc V6 turbodiesel (TDV6); 4367cc V8 turbodiesel (SDV8); 4999cc V8 petrol (LRV8 and LRV8 supercharged)
Power: 258kW at 4000rpm (TDV6); 339kW at 3500rpm (SDV8); 375kW at 6500rpm (LRV8); 510kW at 6000rpm (LRV8 supercharged)
Torque: 600Nm at 2000rpm (TDV6); 700Nm at 1750rpm (SDV8); 510Nm at 3500rpm (LRV8); 625Nm at 2500rpm (LRV8 supercharged)
Top Speed: 209km/h (TDV6); 217km/h (SDV8); 209km/h (LRV8); 225km/h (LRV8 supercharged)
0-100km/h: 7.9-seconds (TDV6); 6.9-seconds (SDV8); 6.8-seconds (LRV8); 5.4-seconds (LRV8 supercharged)
Fuel Consumption: 7.5l/100km (TDV6); 8.7l/100km (SDV8); 12.8l/100km (LRV8); 13.5l/100km (LRV8 supercharged)
CO2: 196g/km (TDV6); 229g/km (SDV8); 299g/km (LRV8); 322g/km (LRV8 supercharged)
Pricing: TBC when launched locally at the end of January 2013
Slick new styling and exquisite interior
Aluminium architecture delivers a better drive
A fabulous all-rounder both on- and off-road
Expect that price tag to rise a little
V8 petrol engines still very thirsty
Touchscreen infotainment lacks finesse