PERFECTION is a difficult thing to attain. Think about it. You think you have found the perfect partner – until the first night under the covers, and he or she snores. You think you have discovered the perfect holiday destination – until you order a pina colada and need to take out a second bond in order to foot the bill.
You reckon you’ve uncovered the perfect outfit – but maybe your butt does look a little bit big.
You are under the impression you have found the perfect meal. But maybe it would be better with a bit more zing? Get it?
But – two days and some 450km later – I think I have actually experienced the perfect vehicle.
The new Range Rover isn’t just the world’s finest luxury SUV; it’s also the most well-rounded car I’ve probably ever driven.
Now I know exactly what you’re thinking. There she goes. One freebie trip to Morocco and she’s gushing ad nauseam. The vehicle can’t really be that good – and it certainly cannot be perfect.
So I am going to deliberately find fault with the new Range Rover (call me devil’s advocate if you wish). And I am going to kick off with the styling.
I conducted an utterly fascinating interview with Gerry McGovern, Land Rover design director and chief creative officer, and he will platz in his porridge when he reads this article – because he was at pains to point out that the vehicle really is all-new.
McGovern is clearly exceptionally proud of his new creation, which he describes as “thoroughly modern” and “taking a significant step forward with a bold evolution of the model’s iconic design language”. Call me stupid but I disagree. If you look very carefully, you will see the changes – things like the smoother and more aerodynamic shape, the lower roofline (it has dropped by 20mm), the more sculpted corners, the faster A-pillar angle . . .
But it’s subtle. McGovern says this was intentional.
“Designing the next generation Range Rover, following over forty years of success, came with a huge responsibility to protect the DNA of such an icon,” he insisted during our chat in Morocco. I get it. But I think the occasional radical introduction would have been a good thing.
Okay, so now I have done a sensational job of trashing the exterior (although I adore it; but please don’t tell a soul). What about the exterior? This is going to be hard. Probably my favourite feature of the new Range Rover is the fact that it’s simple.
The designers actually tossed 50% of the switches – so you’re not greeted by tons of clutter when you enter the cabin. Instead, you’re ensconced in luxury.
I am becoming more and more of a bunny hugger by the day and so I was also delighted to discover that the leathers and veneers that predominate the interior are fairly green.
For instance, the leather comes from a leather producer called Bridge of Weir, which uses low carbon manufacturing processes, while the real wood veneers are all sourced from sustainable forests. So I cannot knock the car’s green credentials.
But I can just hear the more ardent bunny huggers weeping and wailing – huge SUVs generally equate to monster amounts of emissions . . . So let’s move onto the lumps of metal under the distinctive clamshell bonnet.
Well, the Range Rover is – once again – pretty hard to criticise in this department.
The designers achieved a 420kg weight saving over the outgoing model, which translates into improved fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions (starting at 196 g/km). This was largely thanks to the all-aluminium body (which, we were told, is even stronger than a steel bod).
They’re also working on a hybrid with a CO2 target of 169g/km developed for introduction later in 2013.
When the new Range Rover arrives in South Africa at the end of January next year, we will get two engine options: a 4.4-litre TDV8 and the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 (both paired to eight-speed automatic transmissions).
Thankfully this gives me the opportunity to criticise the powertrains because (okay yes I know I am grasping at straws here), neither are actually new. Having said that, there are improvements. For instance, the weight savings have resulted in even better performance from the utterly sublime supercharged derivative (it gallops from standstill to 100 km/h in just 5.1 seconds, a reduction of 0.8 seconds over the outgoing model.
Fuel consumption, however, has been reduced by 9%.
Finally, what about the vehicle’s off-road prowess?
It’s utterly impossible to criticise the Range Rover in this regard. The Range Rover will turn any novice driver into a Dakar-conquering maestro.
Remember Land Rover’s Terrain Response? Well, it required the driver to identify he was on sand – not rocks, for instance – and then identify the appropriate off-road driving mode.
Now the vehicle does this for you – automatically.
It can also now wade to a depth of 900mm (an increase of 200mm over the previous model). We truly put this feature to the test in Morocco – and we didn’t drown a single Range Rover.
Sod the partner, holiday destination, outfit or meal. I’ve discovered perfection. And it’s wearing a Range Rover badge.
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