RANGE ROVER 4.6 HSE
The Range Rover has long been one of the brightest stars in the Rover firmament, nearly twenty five years old now and a huge worldwide success with massive sales in virtually every country in the world and with little real competition, it has an enviable reputation and is a key part of the Rover success story that was undoubtedly one of the features that attracted new owners BMW.
Time then to build upon that astonishing, quarter century, success story by launching an all new Range Rover but one that's not so wildly different as to deter the more conservative buyer.
The all new car is a massive improvement on it's predecessor and seems sure to continue this success story, against all comers, well beyond the end of the millenium.
More grandly prestigious than ever, the new look Range Rover is a tad larger than it's forerunner but visually very similar except in the new rear end treatment, a new look derided by some but which is far better in the flesh than photos might suggest and has released a fair amount of extraload space.
That big chunky body clothes a truly spacious cabin that allows vast amounts of head and legroom, truly the Range Rover is a limousine in space and quietness terms but with the ability to go just about anywhere on earth in luxury and comfort.
The sumptuous leather front seats on this top of the range test car are all electric, enormously adjustable - and heated for those really cold mornings - and face a widely variable steering wheel position for the perfect driving situation, high up with a clear view in all directions over the traffic, like Montie - or perhaps Rommel - on a tank.
Virtually the entire dashboard layout has been re-designed and re-positioned for the better, the whole now far more integrated than before, more easily located and much clearer to use.
The wood inserts nicely set the tone of the rest of the trim.
Equally comfortable as the front seats, the 3-a-breast rear seat folds, 60/40, to create a whopping 58 cubic feet of load space.
This grand cabin is as well fitted as any more conventional luxury car, the trim level of this HSE headliner is exceptional and the equipment spec more than ample.
As standard on the top of range car there are power roof, windows and mirrors, twin airbags, ABS, cruise control, airsuspension, longitudinally split airconditioning, remotelocking, an alarm/ immobiliser, front fog lights and a fine stereo with controls on the wheel, a huge feast of goodies, everything one would expect of a luxury car.
Top of 3 engine options, petrol and diesel, the test car was powered by the biggest mover, a 4.6 litre V8 petrolmonster, Rover's largest development of the venerable, Buick derived, 3500 cc aluminium V8, proof, yet again, of the American hot rodders old adage " there ain't no substitute for inches " for this massive lump provides a potent 225 bhp and, much more importantly, 277 lb feet of torque, sufficient to lazily propel the big car anywhere, remarkably quietly and smoothly, at up to 125 mph, with a bare 9 second 0-60 time, to out gun most hothatches.
The downside of this combination of body/engine size is an average fuel consumption figure such that only the most careful owner will ever get better than 20 mpg.
The new automatic gearbox is a great improvement, dualrange, 4 speeds and the old hi/lo ratio shift lever now gone, it's all now part of the main box, just flick the massiveshifter to the left to engage the lower ratios, the 4 wheeldrive system remaining, as before, permanently engaged. But the Range Rover is no sports car, or intended to be, such power in an offroad vehicle has to be used circumspectly, any vehicle driven beyond it's capabilities will bite but the benefits of 4 wheel drive and a big, strongbody are obvious. Much ill informed rubbish has been written recently about the safety of offroad vehicles yet, if driven sensibly, they are statistically much safer than a smaller box on wheels. Certainly, like any other vehicle, offroaders obey the laws of physics and, being taller, will roll more readily if provoked yet the Range Rover is one of the most stable 4x4's that I have driven with a sure footedness that inspires confidence, it has a well planted, foursquare, grip on the earth whatever angle it might be at.
The air suspension has 4 settings, the lowest for ease of access, the middle 2 which switch automatically between a normal and a lower, high speedposition for use above 50 mph and the highest to maximise suspension clearance for offroad use.
Big it may be but it's surprisingly nimble, easily driven with power steering that is just right for the task whether at speed on the motorway or parking, it certainly doesn't "feel" as big as before, it drives more like a mid sizesaloon.
The Range Rover has been the undisputed number 1 for nearly 25 years, it may not be the cheapest but, as ever, you getwhat you pay for. On this showing no-one can touch it.
First Published 1996 - Article © Graham Benge 2007