Monday, 04 July 2022

Range Rover is every bit a ‘Player’

MY Range Rover “moments” have been numerous and varied since this truly iconic car was first

MY Range Rover “moments” have been numerous and varied since this truly iconic car was first launched in 1970.

It is a car that rates universal approval matched by global sales. Indeed, the Range Rover contributed significantly to its makers, Jaguar Land Rover, reporting its best ever retail sales earlier this year — closing off a record-breaking quarter and financial year.

But my immediate memories — that is, my aforesaid Range Rover “moments” — are ones that are far more prosaic than cold, hard sales factsheets.

Because of its intrinsic Britishness, the Range Rover has come to represent not only an ongoing bright future for sales at JLR but also a reminder to those with longer memories of a time when genuinely British-made cars were in their pomp.

The latter are pretty thin on the ground today, yet backed with money injected by owner Tata, the mighty Indian conglomerate, JLR is developing its model range at a rate of knots.

So Range Rovers on the horizon, I’m sure, will mirror in every aspect, technological and design “musts” for 21st century motoring. In the meantime, my first memories of the Range Rover were those of seeing its boxy, almost awkward first appearance on our roads in 1970.

There is no doubt it wowed motorists from the start. Early in the decade of its launch, the Louvre in Paris exhibited a Range Rover as an “exemplary work of industrial design”.

That assessment was not wrong and subsequent models have proved successful design-wise (though I suspect purists prefer earlier versions).

My father, like a lot of drivers of his generation, coveted the Range Rover in the Seventies. The white Range Rover he drove during part of that decade was one of my earliest “moments” of recognition and admiration of this car.

It guzzled gas as far as I recall and had an all-imposing road presence. But that was part of its appeal.

The Range Rover rang true and registered in a big way on the motoring ego-meter of many drivers at the time, especially if you were male. I recall another memorable image of the Range Rover was the smart black model the actor Tim Robbins drove around Hollywood in Robert Altman’s 1992 film, The Player.

Really, that car said all you needed to know about Robbins’s character — the Hollywood hotshot exec, the ultimate Tinseltown “player”. And he went about his business in this must-have British 4x4.

I decided it was time to reacquaint myself with the Range Rover after a period of perhaps three years since I last drove one.

Models now in the range include a popular Sport version, a diesel-powered hybrid electric model unveiled at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, and the fourth generation 2016 Range Rover, which I have been driving this week.

According to Autocar magazine, there might be an “ultimate” Range Rover in the offing — a “super-high end version, powered by a V12 engine and wearing a six-figure price tag”.

Whatever the future brings for Range Rover, its place in the pantheon of classic world-class automobiles is assured. I have been driving the Range Rover Vogue SE — a car that so envelopes you in its seductive luxury that you could quite happily exist in your own little motoring world. Indeed, one passenger said this car was so comfortable he was quite content to sit in a static traffic queue we found ourselves in “for as long as it takes”.

The equipment and sheer ingenuity of design in this car is too numerous to record here. Suffice to say that its Meridian Surround Sound System (825W) with radio and single slot CD player, MP3 disc and file compatibility with 17 speakers and subwoofer was a joy.

(Actually, part of the “joy” for me was that I could work my way through my CD collection without having to “pair” my smartphone.)

Other standout features were: the sliding panoramic roof including power blind; the power tailgate; rear seat entertainment (includes two eight-inch screens, two sets of WhiteFire headphones, rear media panel with one additional USB port and one additional 12V power socket and remote control).

Engine-wise, the 3.0L TDV6 diesel was demonstrably good for those who wish to run a car of this size more economically than one employing a petrol engine: in Sport mode this big car flew.

This was motoring on a grand scale. Down the years, these large 4x4s, SUVs (sport utility vehicles), call them what you will, have come in for some stick for their audacious appearance.

But it remains the case that a bad driver is a bad driver and can be lethal in charge of the smallest hot hatch to the largest SUV.

Certainly, in a car as big as the Range Rover, you have a lot more weight to throw around.

But as you’ll know if you are a regular reader, I hate arrogance in all forms — but especially in drivers.

There is absolutely no need for it. The Range Rover can be such a gentle, big beast that it is easy to drive with due consideration for other road users.

Its engineering actually makes it fluidly and smoothly manoeuvrable for such a big car. If you have the space, it’s a peach to park.

On motorways, it positively purrs along: the V6 diesel engine of this model, the Vogue SE, lapped up motorway miles. It might be juicy overall (though I found the diesel could be sipped at moderate speed), it was certainly pricey — the test car came in north of £90,000 with all that kit — but it was the consummate, perhaps the ultimate luxury car.

You might say it ought to be at that price. And you would be right. But make no mistake, the Range Rover is one of the great automobiles of our time — not because of what it costs but because of what its designers and engineers have achieved in manufacturing it over the years.

I go along with the Louvre — not a bad judge when you think about it of iconic items produced by human endeavour — and humbly endorse the view that the Range Rover is a car of “exemplary design” overall.

Vogue SE factfile

Price as tested  (including options): £92,865

Fuji white/black contrast roof, ebony seats, ebony interior, with ebony macassar veneer

20in alloy Stormer Sparkle Silver (B) wheels

Features include:

• Vogue SE badge

• 3.0L TDV6 diesel

• All-terrain progress control (ATPC)

• Fixed panoramic roof including power blind

Optional features include:

• Adaptive xenon  headlamps (£300)

• Heated wood and leather steering wheel with multi-function controls (£465)

• Electrically deployable towbar (£950)

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