Highly recommended. The world's best SUV? Unquestionably. The world's best luxury car? Quite possibly
The industrial history of Britain is littered with inventions that were taken over and perfected elsewhere, from the jet airliner to the microwave oven. Not so with the Range Rover, however. It created the market for the luxury SUV in 1970 and, apart from a wobble with the Mark Two in 1994, it has been unassailable ever since.
The fourth-generation Range Rover is being presented as being as big a step forward as the Mark Three was in 2002. Key to this promise is the all-aluminium bodyshell - claimed as a world first for an SUV - which influences every aspect of the new car. First of all, it provides a huge weight saving: the Range Rover has a lighter body than a BMW 3 Series. Overall, the lightest Range Rover diesel now weights 420 kg less than the previous model. That means it can achieve the same performance with the 3.0 V6 diesel as the previous 4.4 V8 diesel, but with far better fuel economy. Official fuel consumption improves from 30.1 mpg to 37.7 mpg, and CO2 emissions drop from 253 g/km to 196 g/km. In fact, the new 3.0 V6 has emissions one-third lower than the 3.6 V8 diesel of 2009.
The second benefit is apparent on the first corner. The lighter body eliminates the slight lurch-then-settle cornering behaviour of the old model, which was inevitable in a car that weighed over 2700kg. When fitted with the adaptive suspension, body roll is virtually absent. At first, your brain struggles to cope with conflicting messages: your eyes tell you that a car this large and this tall must lean a long way in a fast corner, but your body tells you there is very little roll and that the car is tracking in a smooth arc around the corner. It feels more like a Jaguar XJ that has been suspended a foot above the tarmac.
Not all the improvements are focused on the driver. Aware that the Range Rover is increasingly used as a chauffeur-driven limousine (not least by the British Royal Family), the new model has 12cm more rear legroom, plus the option of a four-seat layout with a large central divider to give a semblance of business class seating in an aircraft. Separate rear air conditioning with air vents in the roof and between the seats is also available. Thanks to the superior visibility of the taller Range Rover, plus the more natural seating position, it is hard to think of a saloon which is more agreeable in the rear.
Amazingly, it is also hard to think of a saloon for the same money which is quieter. On a motorway, the V8 diesel is barely ticking over (75 mph is just 1500 rpm) and is virtually inaudible. Even wind noise is undetectable. If you want to travel more quietly than this, you are going to have to go by TGV train. In fact, the Range Rover is so quiet and stable, it feels rather like a private TGV on the motorway.
And if you were wondering if all this refinement has been bought at the price of off-road ability, think again. With wading depth up 200mm to 900mm and suspension travel longer than ever, this Range Rover is actually the best off-road production car to come out of Land Rover. It may only be used by the third owner 10 years hence, but the off-road ability is truly awesome. We waded rivers and crawled over boulders with no off-road skill required. An expert in a Land Rover Defender could have done the same, but the average driver will get much further in this Range Rover than they would in any other car to have come out of Solihull.
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