“ICONIC” is a word so overused today — and never more so than in the world of cars — that
“ICONIC” is a word so overused today — and never more so than in the world of cars — that we’ve almost forgotten what it means. One definition is, in classical terms, having a “fixed conventional style”, particularly with regard to art.
Classic cars are often referred to as “iconic” as a sort of job lot and I find this puzzling mainly because I do not believe every single classic vehicle should be thought of in this way. Many of them were simply workaday motor cars. However, certain cars do mirror the higher aspirations of a particular age — those marvellous Cord and Auburn automobiles capture perfectly the heady days of the Roaring Twenties and the fabulous winged beasts of the Fifties, the Cadillacs and their kin, equally reflect an age of conspicuous consumerism.
But what about the age we live in — the era of the internet, social media and such like? Can a car manufactured today be an icon, with a “fixed conventional style” yet somehow be regarded as a modern classic?
There is one car for me that fits the bill: this week’s drive, the New Range Rover Sport. Whatever misgivings one has about the very large road presence of the Range Rover, with its haughty height and majestic bearing, and however one regards some of the poseurs — let’s not mince words here — who drive these kinds of vehicles, this is a fabulous car that anyone would be proud to own. What better way to celebrate Christmas in the Cotswolds than to sink into the Range Rover’s Mariana Black with Ebony leather seats and go fetch the Christmas tree? It would be swallowed in this 4x4’s cavernous load space along with the turkey and all the trimmings.
The new Range Rover Sport I have been driving is the latest manifestation of a car that began life in the Seventies. It was then actually called the Range Rover Classic, so its designers must have been confident they were on to a good thing.
The 2014 New Range Rover Sport is a magnificent culmination of all that went into that original Classic version and the vehicle’s development since. This new embodiment is Land Rover’s most technology-packed vehicle to date and includes a number of new features.
For a luxury vehicle it has a quality that many luxury cars do not have, that is, a go-anywhere capability. Some years ago I drove a Range Rover around the “jungle track” at its East Midlands works and enjoyed taking the car through deep water. Technology on the new car now allows drivers to use the Wade Sensing feature, which monitors depth when driving through water (the new model also gains an extra 150mm in its wading capability, to 850mm). Those worried about parking will get all the help they need from Land Rover’s park assist feature, including new ‘Park Exit’ and ‘Perpendicular Park’ features.
But what I really liked about this particular new version of the Range Rover Sport was its engine. Too often in the past, the sheer size of the engine in large 4x4s has proved onerous in the petrol money department. The 3-litre SDV6 diesel engine on this Sport achieves startling performance for such a big car — top speed of 130mph and 0 to 60mph in 6.8 seconds — yet it can return 37mpg on the combined fuel cycle.
Of course the Range Rover is a car with global appeal, so it caters naturally for those with the deepest pockets: on the power front there are apart from the V6 diesel engine other unit options. The initial model line-up comprises five equipment grades — SE, HSE, HSE, Dynamic and Autobiography Dynamic and a choice of three engines: TDV6 with 258hp, SDV6 with 292hp and the 510hp supercharged 5l V8 petrol. The latter is not for the faint-hearted.
So by combining luxurious road manners with the toughest off-road capabilities, this new Range Rover Sport could become a colossus on the global car stage. Which might be just going one better than saying it is merely iconic.
New Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic Spec with Sliding Panoramic Roof and 22in Alloy Sparkle Silver Wheels
– On the road price: £64,995 vat, excluding options
– Engine: 3 litre SDV6 diesel engine
– Transmission: ZF 8HP70 8-speed automatic with stop/start technology