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Range Rover

Land Rover

Review

IMPROVING on a living legend is never an easy task, but the new Range Rover is bigger and better than its predecessor.

Launching the Range Rover amid the mighty landscapes of Scotland was a great idea, because when it comes to mighty and imposing, Land Rover's new colossus is very much at home.

The old Range Rover was large, but the new model is bigger still. Every panel seems to have been on a course of steroids. Each corner and crease has been pumped up and out and the result is that, much as the Vanquish is the best of Aston Martin amplified, so this model is for Land Rover.

The key elements are all there still: the upright nose which is the height of a wall, the castellations across the vast bonnet and the floating roof, but all are bigger and better than before.

If the body shouts power and solidity, the beauty is in the detail. The light clusters at the front overlap like hoops of refracted light and are gorgeous, and very bright, while the shark-like air vents down the side add some dynamism. The Range Rover also has the biggest, chunkiest door handles I have ever seen.

The brake lights - a cluster of tiny LEDs - are staggeringly bright and almost mask the indicators that ring them. Other details, like the design of the split tailgate so the lip does not get muddy and can be sat on, illustrates the immense amount of thought that has gone into the car.

Inside, things get even better. Although there is still some switchgear from the brief relationship with BMW, it really is very individual and special. The dash in our test car was a mix of aluminium, leather and wood, and according to the car's design director Geoff Upex took cues from yachts.

It just doesn't feel mass produced, unlike the interiors of many other top marques. Each dash looks like it has been built by a cabinet maker, with thick padded leather speared by trendy cherry wood, with aluminium inserts, such as vents and door handles. Allen bolts on the top of the dash add some classy function to the form. It is the ideal mix of contemporary and classical.

I suppose, being hyper-critical (and you have to be to find any faults) the sparkly central plastic insert felt a bit wobbly and cheap compared the high standards of the rest of the cabin.

The electrically adjustable memory seats are suitably sumptuous and the steering wheel zooms in and out as it should. Land Rover refers to the high view and all round visibility as the 'command' position. In this car it feels more like the 'master of all I survey' position.

There are also some great touches. The heated front screen has a separate section where the wipers sit that ensures they never ice up in cold weather and there is a heater that ensures it's never cold when you get in. Even the rear seats are heated, with two settings. The stereo, which has survived BMW's ownership like the air con, sat nav and many other parts, is awesome, with 12 speakers and a digital processor that can make the sound echo like in a cathedral.

As you would expect, the top-of-the-range 4.4-litre V8 Vogue SE has everything at a price.

Top of the range Vogue models will cost £59,995 for the V8 and £51,995 for the Td6. Entry-level SEs are £42,995 (Td6) and £49,995 (V8), with an HSE version at £45,995 and £52,995 for the diesel and petrol respectively. Behind the wheel

THE lucky chief executive or chairman driving the Range Rover will be paying tax at 35% for all models because of their high emissions, with a tax bill ranging from £6,019 a year for the cheapest to £8,399 for the dearest.

The engines, both the 4.4-litre V8 and the 3.0-litre Td6, have come from BMW and are used in the X5.

The 4.4 V8 averaged about 17 mpg driven conservatively, and on extensive off-road trials in low range in the first three gears, managed about seven mpg. Did you expect any more? The engine will whisper along at cruising speeds, but if needed will let out a great roar, although it takes a while to trust yourself to be able to carry that speed through corners.

But it handles decently - although no S-class or 7 series - and unlike its illustrious rivals, it will climb mountains. There is also much less tyre or wind noise than in its predecessor.

The 3.0-litre diesel is pretty much as expected. It is slower and more noisy than the petrol, but not terribly so being BMW's lauded lump, and it returned about 23mpg most of the time.

In the UK, Land Rover expects around 60% sold to be diesel, although the figure is often nearer 90% on the continent.

Off road the Range Rover is superb. Tremendous axle articulation means you wince as huge rocks appear, only to disappear as the car sails across them.

And with electronics like ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist and Hill Descent Control, relatively unskilled drivers could go where they didn't believe possible.

The Range Rover powered up, crept down, swam through and churned across everything the Scottish Highlands could throw at it with grace and elegance.

When you consider it weighs around two-and-a-half tonnes and was on semi-road tyres, its performance was all the more impressive.

This is due in part to the all-new independent electronic air suspension which works to level the car out, and can be lowered or raised depending on conditions.

In fact, pressing a button on the door a few yards before stopping makes the car sigh down low, allowing easier access.

Driving verdict

In my opinion, you can keep your Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Lexus. The new Range Rover has it all. It makes you feel lord of the manor, king of the road and top of the hill, which is just what every MD or chairman of the board wants.

Mike Wright, Land Rover UK managing director, claimed the Range Rover has reinvented the luxury sports utility vehicle market. He's right.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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