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Road Tests

Range Rover 3.0 TDV6 Autobiography

Fittingly, the new Chelsea tractor is a pricey star signing

Price: £87,895
Engine capacity: 3.0-litre turbo diesel
Power output (bhp @ rpm): 255 @ 4,000
Top speed (mph): 130
0-62 mph (seconds): 7.9
Fuel economy (mpg): 37.9
CO2 emissions (g/km): 196

There aren't many Chelsea tractors that you can drive down a steep Moroccan ravine, cross a boulder field and ford a river in, but that is exactly how Land Rover has chosen to showcase its all-new Range Rover. It's odd driving a near-£100k car with a soft-leather interior and all the luxuries of a Bentley or Roller past a camel herder's shack on a remote Atlas mountain track before diving off and bouncing across broken ground into the sunset. But Land Rover has a long history with Morocco. The original Range Rover was due to be launched there in 1970 before civil unrest caused a last-minute diversion to Cornwall and the firm is clearly keen to show just what its new toy can do.

Back in Britain you're more likely to see one in west London or Cheshire than tearing up turf in Wales or in the Highlands, but the new Range Rover is no soft-roader, whatever the duel-zone climate control, ventilated and massaging seats, DVD player, touch-screen display and host of hi-tech safety and luxury gadgets might suggest. In fact, it gets all the usual off-road bells and whistles and sensors to monitor wheel slip, steering angle, suspension travel, axle articulation and engine mapping. All this wizardry (I'm still inclined to think it stays upright thanks to black magic) means it detects the type of surface you are driving on to keep you stable. And whether you're crossing icy Cotswolds B roads (about as dangerous as most Range Rover journeys get) or drifting sideways along a sandy track in the Atlas mountains, you have to try very hard to get it to step out and misbehave.

Peace of mind in Chelsea (or California, which is still Land Rover's biggest market) is more likely to stem from the fact that the clever engineers at Gaydon have used a new light-weight aluminium body structure – the first of its kind in an SUV – to shed 420kg of weight. This, teamed with a new smaller V6 engine, has brought C02 emissions down to a very un-Range Rover 196g per kilometre. True, that's not exactly green city-car territory but the green lobby has had an effect on the Warwickshire firm. So much so that there is even a hybrid Range Rover in the pipeline and even the TDV6 I tested, its smaller-engined model, claims economy of 37mpg.

On normal roads all this weight loss means the Range Rover is surprisingly composed and nimble for what is a very large vehicle, while its oil-burning unit is smooth, refined and near-silent at cruising speed. Its air-suspension set-up irons out even the gigantic bumps of Moroccan roads (about the same as Britain's rapidly deteriorating highways) and increased leg-room edges it over into luxury limousine territory. At £70,000 for an entry-level model it is close to top-end pricing, too.

Not that this will bother most Range Rover customers (the company is hoping to shift 40,000 a year to reduce UK PLC's trade deficit), because the firm thinks the average customer will tick enough options boxes at the dealership to hit the £100,000 mark. This is serious cash, but there's still a certain slice of the country that wants a luxury car that will really go anywhere. If you're one of them, I doubt you'll want to risk it by crossing a Moroccan ravine, but you might like to try to convince people your new super-luxurious but British-built Chelsea tractor is much greener than they think. Good luck.