Range Rover SDV8
Monday 06 August 2012
Engine: 4.4-litre V8 turbo-diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Power: 313 PS at 4,000 rpm
Torque: 700 Nm at between 1,500 and 3,350 rpm
Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 30.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 253 g/km
Top speed: 130 mph
Acceleration (0-60 mph): 7.5 seconds
Price: from £84,320
Land Rover’s third-generation Range Rover is a magnificent car that still stands up well after a decade in production. Its looks, which hark back to those of the original, exceptionally handsome, 1970 Range Rover, have changed little over the years, and still appeal, while its beautiful interior, a modern reinterpretation of the traditional British wood-and-leather approach, is a lot nicer than anything you’ll find this side of a Bentley.
Under the skin, though, there have been quite big changes. The current Range Rover was launched with BMW engines, but by the time this happened, the Bavarians had sold Land Rover to Ford, and the engines were later changed too. The original BMW diesel, a (by today’s standards) comparatively puny 3.0-litre straight six, gave way to a 3.6-litre V8, which was itself replaced by a mighty 4.4-litre V8 pumping out over 300 horsepower and 700 Newton metres of torque. The original six-speed automatic has given way to a more modern and efficient eight-speeder. All that means that the Range Rover is a lot quicker and quieter than you’d expect a car that is still one of the best off-road vehicles you can buy to be.
And yet, for several reasons, the current car will shortly be replaced. The first is the strength of the competition. In the old days, the Range Rover could afford to rest on its laurels a bit because it was the only luxury SUV on the market. Now Audi, BMW and Mercedes have at least one strong Range Rover rival each and their model cycles are shorter. Another reason for doing a new car is that in-car technology is developing at a rapid pace and some of the new plumbing required is best incorporated via a clean-sheet design.
But the main reason for producing a replacement is something that you cannot see but can sometimes feel when you drive or travel in this car – its weight, which is a whopping 2,580kg. That’s broadly comparable with other big SUVs that appeared a few years ago, including Land Rover’s own Discovery 3 and the Volkswagen Touareg, but after decades in which cars got steadily fatter, they are now getting fitter. The new Peugeot 208 and Audi A3, to take two recent examples, are both lighter than their predecessors, and the latest Touareg has slimmed down quite a bit too. Even wealthy Range Rover drivers who can afford big fuel bills probably still worry about emissions-based company car taxation and the social acceptability of the cars they drive, and taking a few hundred kilogrammes out of the Rangie would help a lot with consumption and emissions. Land Rover can probably do it – the Jaguar Land Rover combine has a lot of experience of using lightweight materials, and the big Jaguar XJ weighs only as much as some smaller cars – but the trick will be to pull it off without taking away the powerful feeling of solidity and cross-country indestructibility that is one of the current Range Rover’s biggest pluses. As for the rest, I think Land Rover would be well-advised not to mess too much with the Range Rover formula, which has served it so well for forty-two years.
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