The fifth generation Range Rover offers a set of unique SU-VIP attributes for those who can afford them. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
So many cars claim to be unique but the Range Rover really is, continuing to set the standard in the super-luxury SUV sector. This MK5 model is larger and more sophisticated than its previous generation predecessor, as well as being smarter looking and higher-tech. It's also still unrivalled off road too. More significantly perhaps, new technology makes it better on tarmac. And it's also much more economical than you might expect, thanks to mild hybrid and Plug-in hybrid engine tech. The key qualities remain though, this aluminium-bodied luxury SUV finally good enough to properly combine the imperious qualities of a top luxury saloon with off piste abilities that would be limited only by the skills of its driver. A Rolls Royce in the rough, there's nothing quite like it.
This isn't just a new fifth generation Range Rover: it's the beginning of a new Land Rover era. Which is appropriate because the very first Range Rover signalled just such a thing at its launch back in 1970. Just over half a century on, this MK5 design sets the template for the brand's new electric era that'll see full-battery versions of each of its models available before the end of the decade - starting with a full-EV Range Rover in 2024. Before that though, right now, there are mild hybrid and PHEV plug-in engine options available as part of a model line that's been completely redesigned, upgraded and updated following a five year, seven million hour testing programme. Don't be fooled, in other words, by the familiar-looking front end. The car now sits on a completely new 'MLA-Flex' platform that's 80% aluminium; and as before, there are short and long wheelbase body styles, the latter now with a 7-seat option for the first time. Lots to talk about then.
Full EVs may be in the Range Rover's future but for the time being, the line-up is very much fossil fuel-based. Three conventional six cylinder engines offer 48V mild hybrid tech. Choose between a 3.0-litre diesel with 300PS (D300) or 350PS (D350) outputs; or a 3.0-litre petrol unit with 400PS (P400). If you need more, a 4.4-litre twin turbo petrol V8 P530 model (with an engine borrowed from BMW) sits at the top of the line-up offering 530PS and 750Nm of torque, powering you to 62mph in just 4.6s. There are two Plug-in hybrid options as well, both using the 3.0-litre petrol turbo unit paired with a 38.2kWh battery offering an impressive 62 mile all-electric range. Choose between a P440e model (total output 440PS) or a faster P510e version (total output 510PS). All the engines available are paired with an 8-speed auto gearbox with 4WD, low range capability and the brand's usual 'Terrain Response 2' tech offering different drive modes for challenging surfaces. The car can drive through water as deep as 900mm and the 295mm ground clearance can be raised further 145mm in the highest air suspension setting. On tarmac, a 48V anti-roll system counters cornering body roll. And standard four-wheel steering turns the rear wheels by up to 7-degrees in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds, reducing the turning circle to a family hatch-like 10.95 metres.
From a front or profile cursory glance, you might dismiss this fifth generation design as merely a gentle evolution of what went before. That's intentional. The stylists wanted traditional Range Rover styling cues - the 'floating' roof, the clamshell bonnet, the short overhangs and the rising shoulder line - to stay intact on both short and long wheelbase versions of this design. But both are very different at the back, which gains a large gloss black panel incorporating vertical brake lights at the side and indicators in a bar across the top, all of it invisible when not in use. Expect this to become a signature look for smaller models in the line-up. Up front, each headlight contains 1.2 million individual mirrors reflecting light from a rear mounted mirror. At the side, there are the pop-out door handles we first saw on the Velar. It's all different inside too, the front of cabin dominated by a new 13.1-inch 'floating' 'Pivi Pro' central infotainment screen with haptic feedback that gives access to 90% of functions in a couple of presses. While smartphone-mirroring, Amazon Alexa speech recognition and capacity for over-the-air updates are all built in. This is complemented by 13.7-inch instrument monitor and an uprated head-up display. In the rear, more screens can be fitted - a pair of 11.4-inch touchscreens for media and an 8.0-inch touch control panel for ventilation. Top long wheelbase models get the option of a limo-like two-chair back seat arrangement with larger 13.1-inch twin media screens. Thanks to a 75mm increase in the short wheelbase model's body length (to well over 5 metres), legroom is significantly improved. The long wheelbase version has 200mm of extra length between its axles and can offer over a metre of legroom. Plus, for the first time, this lengthier version can offer a third row seating option - and those rearmost chairs are capable of comfortably accommodating six foot adults. Boot capacity in the 5-seat Standard Wheelbase model is 725-litres to the window line, rising to 1841-litres with the seats folded.
Pricing now starts from just over £94,000 for the least expensive standard wheelbase model, but it's unlikely that many Range Rover customers going forwards will be paying much less than six figures for their version of choice. There are three body style formats - 'Standard Wheelbase', 'Long Wheelbase Seven Seats' or 'Long Wheelbase'. The first two options offer three main core trim levels - 'SE', 'HSE' and 'Autobiography' and you're looking at a premium of just over £5,000 to stretch from the 'Standard' model to the lengthier seven seat one (the latter priced at launch from just under £103,000). 'Long Wheelbase'-spec without seven seats is based around the plushest 'Autobiography' level of trim, so costs from around £120,000. All the body styles use the line-up's three core engines - the six cylinder D350 diesel and P400 petrol units, plus the V8 petrol P530 (which can't be had with 'SE' or 'HSE' trim). With the 'Standard Wheelbase' body shape, you get the additional option of a base, more affordable D300 diesel variant too. Key options include Digital LED headlights, a black contrast roof, ventilated front seats, 24-way powered front seats with a massaging function, 4-Zone climate control and Land Rover's clever Activity key, which you wear like a watch, allowing you to lock or unlock the vehicle without use the ordinary key. Boardroom buyers will want to add the 11.4-inch rear seat entertainment system and there's a thumping Meridian Signature sound set-up option too. Key extra cost features are grouped together in various packs.
This might be the most economical Range Rover line-up ever made but buying one still won't get you installed on the Greenpeace Christmas card list. Add on a few options and it could easily end up weighing over two and a half tonnes, which makes the improved 37.2mpg combined cycle fuel figure and 202g/km CO2 return boasted by the entry-level D300 diesel MHEV model all the more impressive. The P530 V8 petrol flagship variant is in quite a different league of course - think 24.0mpg and 267g/km of CO2. All variants are aided by an Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system which can decouple the front axle on-road between 21mph and 100mph to enhance efficiency, this reducing emissions by up to 4g/km. For real frugality, you'll need to talk to your dealer about the six cylinder petrol-electric Plug-in hybrid model, which has a 38.2kWh battery (31.8kWh usable) which can manage up to 62 miles on each charge - real world range is more like 50 miles and the CO2 figure is under 30g/km. Rapid charging capability of up to 50kW is included, which means an 80% charge will occupy under an hour. Use a home wallbox and a full charge will take around five hours. There's a choice of full-electric mode, plus a default Hybrid setting and a 'Save' option, which defers electric charge for when you might need it later in your trip.
From princes to politicians, from rock gods to rock climbers, from footballers to farmers, the Range Rover has always appealed to a more diverse group of customers than any other car. As you'd expect it would. This is, after all, far more than just the world's finest luxury SUV, instead unchallenged as four vehicles within one - an everyday luxury saloon, a weekend leisure vehicle, a high-performance long distance private jet and a working cross-country conveyance. Such perfection doesn't come without a price, in origin or in ownership. Or without compromise - in poorer handling for example against, say, a super saloon. And in tighter rear cabin space against, say, a luxury limousine. Perhaps that's why you've never considered one of these. And if so, consider this. Thanks to its enhanced aluminium underpinnings, four-wheel steering system and anti-roll set-up, this fifth generation version is now sharper to drive. While being ravishing in the rear and (potentially) vastly more efficient and affordable to run. It is, in short, a very different proposition. Drive it through a river, drive it to the opera: it's as happy either way, beautifully built, gorgeously finished and astonishingly quick. True, this car is never quite going to be all things to all people but it has perhaps moved as close to fulfilling that remit as any modern car is ever likely to get. Makes you proud to be British doesn't it.
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