The big daddy
No time for chit-chat this week, I have a lot of stuff to work through with our latest test car, the Range Rover Vogue SE TDV8. If you think that name is quite long, you should cast your eyes upon the car itself. I can’t recall when last I drove a car that is, mostly, taller than me.
Land-Rover has managed to retain the original 1970’s Rangie form with its simplistic proportions and blunt angles. The new car is an imposing shape in the flesh with only its light clusters falling prey to the contemporary halo LED glitz.
The hexagonal design of the front grill isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (or cucumber sandwich), nor is the majority of tinted windows. These attempt to hide VIP’s and celebrities; or in my case, Dad and his friend Albert. Any occupants are treated to a beautifully assembled and decidedly tricked-out interior.
Forget about humdrum electric windows and climate control, what you want to be fiddling with is the five customisable exterior cameras, radar-guided cruise control, 6CD/6DVD/ipod/AUX/TV/Nav harmon kardon LOGIC 7 entertainment system.
Its touch-screen operation requires quite a bit of experimentation, but is always highly entertaining. Check out the cameras’ trailer, zoom and kerb functions, or exploit the dual-view screen to show navigation to the driver and a DVD to the passenger. Or 4×4 settings. Or Isidingo.
Our Alaska White test vehicle was trimmed in pitch-black leather and matching piano lacquer panelling, which I found rather unfortunate. The chunky elements of the interior look infinitely better if they’re composed of brighter, more contrasting materials.
Nonetheless, I wasn’t about to give the Range Rover back because of that. Besides, I was bedazzled by its digital instrumentation. That’s right, the entire instrument cluster is an LCD monitor and greets you with a sunset image, the date and mileage.
Press the start button and it suddenly displays two big dials with plenty of warning lights, all digital. Multi-directional buttons on the steering wheel allow you to tweak a few more items, including some vehicle settings.
More toys are stacked on the electrically adjustable steering wheel, which can be heated. Voice control, audio functions, telephone and adaptive radar-guided cruise control are all at your finger tips.
Although the centre console of the Rangie is also groaning under the weight of buttons and big aluminium knobs, everything has a bespoke stylish feel to it. The front seats are electrically adjustable, heated or cooled, rather firm but still comfy.
Rear passengers can enjoy the twin-LCD entertainment system (with headphones) or make way for the backrests to fold flat. Range Rover doesn’t offer seven seats but cargo room is ample and the tailgate splits in the obligatory horizontal fashion for better Polo match seating.
Between the front seats sits Land-Rover’s Terrain Response dial and other drive-train controls which prepare the big Rover for anything from soft sand to rock crawling. The air suspension offers three heights (access, normal and off-road) and ambitious drivers may select hill descent control or low range as well.
These features allow the vehicle to pass treacherous terrain with the same blissful grace as suburban tarmac. Speed bumps and potholes are a thing of the past to Range Rover drivers and thanks to the sophisticated suspension it can even zip around tight bends if need be.
Its handling (and braking) belies the scale reading of 2.7 tons and a Vogue TDV8 will happily ruffle a few feathers at the traffic lights; with a beautiful, un-Diesel-like V8 howl. The claimed consumption of 14.5L/100km is exactly what we achieved, and astonishingly low for the performance and size of the vehicle.
High-speed cruising is just as exemplary, no thanks to the fantastic 3.6-litre twin-turbo Diesel V8 engine with a power output of 200kw (272hp) or an astonishing 640Nm. Stuck to a silky-smooth 6-speed automatic gearbox, power delivery is refined and almost relentless. 0-100km/h doesn’t matter, nor does top speed. Nobody does top speed with a horse box.
Driving a Range Rover is, caution – clichés approaching, a privileged and special experience. The combination of its sheer bulk and powerful finesse gently caresses your senses while its relative exclusivity mildly pats your ego.
The privilege of owning a Range Rover starts with the Vogue SE TDV8 at N$1.187m and continues through the Vogue 5.0 Supercharged at N$1.227m, the Autobiography TDV8 for N$1.354m to the Autobiography 5.0 Supercharged a snippet under N$1.4m.
These prices include a 5-year 100 000km Land-Rover Care Plan, which most owners will probably exceed as it’s a car that people tend to hold on to. And can you blame them? The Range Rover has just been crossed off my list of cars I’d like to drive… and straight onto the one of cars I’d love to own.