Only in its fourth edition in as many decades, the new Range Rover is unquestionably a product of its time. The new Range Rover 3.0 TDV6 sheds up to 420kg (350kg for other versions) in bodyweight thanks to a new, lighter 3.0-litre V6 engine and looks much leaner, too, due to some absolutely top class design (naysayers may even have to find a new nickname for the infamous Chelsea Tractors). If you can wait long enough you will even be able to compete with the best in class CO2 emitters towards the end of 2013, when the hybrid version is released. Statistically, at least, this British cultural leviathan will attempt to emit a mere 169g/km of CO2. In the meantime, I got behind the wheel of the most efficient model in the range (for now) for a befittingly British all-weather all-terrain first drive at the UK launch.
DRG more imperious than ever
There is a lot of design to soak up in the new Range Rover. Actually it's the first thing that hits you. The design is so vastly different, and evident, in its refinement that you almost want to visually dissect the car instead of being able to appreciate it in its entirety. The Range Rover’s package has always been defined from the front, side, and rear because of its boxy nature. Now, the new design wants to break away from this standard by attempting to wrap light graphics around the body and add curves to traditionally linear areas of the surfaces to create a more complex, or maybe decorative, form. These restrained transitions are ultimately overshadowed by the striking shark-like profile. It is here we find the elegant visual lines that have been used to disguise, and also the new volumes that tailor the outgoing model’s utilitarian box figure into a more slender celeb lifestyle icon.
Taking a gamble by breaking away from the mold with formed lights and square graphics in the tail lights
By disguise and tailoring I mean that, much like a well-designed suit or dress, the designers have used the car’s fabric and lines favourably to reduce volumes and proportions to the max. Take, for example, the black section that runs the whole length of the lower body, it visually reduces the body section by 5- 8cm. Yeah, this is an old-school trick but consider then the satin aluminium blade that starts at the front door (with a curve - gasp!) and follows to the back of the vehicle as another visual separator of mass and material, and a psychological reminder that this car has a special aluminium ‘lightweight’ skeleton. As for the vertical gills, they no longer have a function on this ‘contemporary’ Range Rover yet are there to remind us and connect your mind to what came before, to heritage, which is a quintessential part of any Land Rover experience. Finally, I would add the floating roof and the glossy black flush finish of the glasshouse as elements that really seal the horizontal design weight loss execution. Truly refined.
The weight loss is of course not just skin deep. Land Rover, as we have mentioned in other stories, have embraced sustainability in a truly holistic way. As much as that sounds like a cliché you will be hard pressed to find another company that through and through consider every millimeter of material and manufacturing process with such due diligence; its not just a numbers game to them. It would be so easy to dismiss the new Range Rover as another vain luxury car if it were not, like all of their other new cars, designed with a fully green life-cycle in mind. The big PR headliner about the new Range Rover is the aluminium body that radically reduces the vehicle’s weight up to 350kg, but add to that the little known fact that up to 75% of that is sourced from recycled aluminium content including content from Land Rover’s own closed loop recycling of waste from the manufacturing process, then the plot thickens. Bridge of Weir’s low carbon leather is used throughout the vehicle as well as sustainably sourced natural wood veneers for the interior and steering wheel. I can't honestly report I have come across this same level of overall commitment from any other major car company to date.
The lightening of heart and of mind is also evident in the new Range Rover’s interior. Everywhere you look you can find details of masterful craft and finish, with double stitching throughout that has been designed by the team as well as the needles made for purpose. Lovely wood veneer lacquered to an immaculate finish, and colour palettes that are a quiet revolution in themselves. You won’t find luxury redefined with such modern flair that's firmly in touch with its customer’s desires elsewhere - there is definitely an interior for every highflying client that could land at their doors.
Subtle but radical interior colour combos
Technical graphics make the main beam look like a camera lens!
The car is so automated that from a driver’s perspective it may no longer be an interesting proposition. Don’t get me wrong - the car can handle everything you can throw at it - but I don’t know what to throw at it as that visual level of interaction has been removed. Without guidance, I mean, who actually reads the instruction manual these days? I wouldn’t have spent ages finding the functions of the 50% of the buttons (don't try this while driving!) that have been removed for design purity and simplicity to a more digital level. Even the IP is digital, I like it, but car purists of yore don’t appreciate it very much. As it turns out, the visual pollution of buttons has been replaced by the digital confusion in the user interface area.
And that brings me to what struck me the most about the new Range Rover. Yes, it is easier to handle thanks to a lighter body, four-corner air suspension, and adaptive dynamics but I think the most dramatic shift is from a once utilitarian machine to the most desirable accessory in the world. Has this car become such an icon of uber-luxury that it forgets to be what it is meant to be? A car. So much attention has gone into designing details that what is the feat of engineering that lies beneath this veil of elegance is overshadowed and ultimately underutilized.
Climbing dizzying heights is a no brainer
I wonder then if this new Range Rover has lost some of its heritage in terms of function and purposefulness, and is a victim of its own celebrity status and become less of a car and more of an accessory. Driving one certainly felt that way, when someone actually has to point out to you (because the car is so easy to use) that should you be so inclined there are paddle gears subtly placed behind the steering wheel for a more dynamic and actually efficient driving experience then it makes you wonder who will be driving this car more - the yummy mummies or car enthusiasts.
Range Rover 3.0 TDV6 Autobiography
Engine: 3.0-litre turbo diesel Power: 255bhp @ 4,000 Top Speed: 130 mph 0-62mph: 7.9s CO2 emissions: 196 g/km Combined economy: 37.9 mpg Price: £87,895
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