The latest Range Rover is touted as a luxury car. Those deep pile carpets would not take well to a hosing. But as a luxury car it has the unique feature that it can be driven to remote places in the harshest conditions where you would expect to drive a less salubrious Land Rover.
Whether you would want to drive a car to those places in those conditions when it costs upwards of £45,000 is a matter for debate and most drivers will have no need.
However, with a range that includes a six-cylinder common tail turbodiesel, the Range Rover has an entrant into the diesel luxury car sector, for years sewn up by the Mercedes-Benz S-class.
It is joined in the six-cylinder diesel class by the BMW 730d and the new Audi A8 3.0 TDI quattro. All of these cars are the sensible choices for running costs, because even if they place their drivers close to, or up to, the maximum 35% tax bracket, fuel costs are much more acceptable.
The current Range Rover was developed under BMW's watch. Although Land Rover was handed over to Ford before the Range Rover's launch in the aftermath of BMW divesting itself of Rover Group, an arrangement was reached for BMW to continue the final honing of the car.
It means the Range Rover is above reproach in terms of its build quality. Only the finest materials are used and the interior design combines the ruggedness associated with Land Rover and the style of an English country manor.
Everything that comes into contact with the occupants projects quality and the view allows them to survey the urban landscape from a vantage point shared only with bus drivers – a view that none of its rivals can offer.
The downside is it feels as big as it looks and that makes it a chore on narrow streets.
On the open road, despite the air suspension lowering the ride height at continuous high speeds, the Range Rover will lurch and wallow when tackling a challenging B-road.
One of the results of its BMW engineering is that the Range Rover comes with BMW engines. The Td6 uses a detuned version of the last generation BMW 3.0-litre diesel which makes it more suited to off-road work. The trouble is it can only muster 174bhp and 288lb-ft of torque compared with 218bhp and 369lb-ft for the current 730d, and when shifting two-and-a-half tonnes, performance feels merely adequate.
It also isn't that quiet, particularly on the frequent occasions where it has to kick down a couple of gears to maintain momentum.
So while it can easily compete with rivals on style, image and space, it loses out on dynamics, thirst and pace.
However, show it a muddy track and it demonstrates why so many buy into the 'Land Rover experience'. In this respect it treads a path that no luxury saloon can follow.
Range Rover Td6 HSE
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £48,792
CO2 emissions (g/km): 299
BIK % of P11D in 2002: 35%
Graduated VED rate: £165
Insurance group: 14
Combined mpg: 25.0
CAP Monitor residual value: £21,625/44%
Depreciation (45.27 pence per mile x 60,000): £27,162
Maintenance (4.62 pence per mile x 60,000): £2,772
Fuel (16.45 pence per mile x 60,000): £9,870
Wholelife cost (66.34 pence per mile x 60,000): £39,804
Typical contract hire rate: £971 per month
At a glance
Three rivals to consider
IT might have been cut from a different cloth than the three saloons here, but the Range Rover slots into the same price bracket. Its luxury car credentials include leather trim, an 11-speaker hi-fi system, electrically adjustable seats and steering column.
The S-class might look a little pricey at just the wrong side of £50,000, but it includes a unique pre-crash safety system as yet unavailable on other cars.
Land Rover £48,792
ALTHOUGH the Range Rover ties with the Audi on SMR costs at £2,772 over three years/60,000 miles, the winner by more than £200 is the BMW 730d. However, there is scope for the BMW to maximise its advantage by selecting the Service Inclusive pack for £1,250, which should save several hundred pounds by fixing servicing costs over five years/60,000 miles. The Mercedes is the most expensive to maintain.
Land Rover 4.62ppm
WITH the aerodynamics of a barn door, it's no surprise the Range Rover comes a last. Just 25mpg is quoted on the combined cycle and it isn't as if the Range Rover has the most powerful engine – it falls short of all three rivals for power and torque. Its fuel bill over 60,000 miles would be £9,840 compared with £7,524 for its nearest rival, the all-wheel drive Audi A8.
The BMW 730d is £90 better off, but Mercedes-Benz wins this round with a 60,000-mile fuel bill of £6,720.
Land Rover 16.40ppm
THE Range Rover comes top because it's helped by the used market's love affair with diesel 4x4s. With depreciation of £27,162, it gives the Range Rover a £1,356 advantage over the BMW. Cash lost on the Audi adds up to £28,950, but surprisingly the Mercedes-Benz manages to break the £30,000 barrier.
The combination of an extra £2,000 and a percentage residual value that is more or less the class average does it no favours either.
Land Rover 45.27ppm
RUNNING a Range Rover is likely to cost the thick end of £40,000 over three years/60,000 miles. But it is not far behind its rivals – the Audi works out at about £700 cheaper, while the 730d is about £1,500 less expensive. The S320 CDI was the first diesel luxury saloon in the UK and used to be a running costs champion in its sector.
However, rivals have now caught up, and even the thirsty Range Rover beats its three-year/60,000-mile cost of £40,410.
Land Rover 66.34ppm
Emissions and BIK tax rates
NO surprise here – the Range Rover is last. Its driver's tax bill is worked using the formula, heavy + thirsty = 35%. A driver can expect £570 a month in BIK tax. Mercedes-Benz has mastered the art of maximising economy of large engines and automatic transmissions, leading to a monthly bill of £484. Even the Euro IV compliant Audi A8 3.0 TDI quattro results in a bill of £503 per month, £40 less than a 730d driver.
Land Rover 299g/km/35%
THE Range Rover Td6 deserves to be looked at in the same way as the diesel luxury saloons in this comparison, but while its residuals shine, its fuel costs shame.
It's the 7-series which makes the strongest case in terms of costs and is a vehicle of immense talent. Perhaps for chauffeur fleets a 730d would lead to significant savings, especially over the S-class.
Subjectively, though, I prefer the simple elegance of the A8 over the self-consciously different 730d, and for a difference of only about £800 per vehicle, not to mention lower BIK, would award victory to the Audi.
WINNER: Audi A8 3.0TDI quattro Tiptronic