Land Rover Range Rover SUV (2012 – ) review
The Range Rover competes with other huge luxury 4x4s like the Audi Q7 and Mercedes GLS. It has a rugged appeal all of its own, though, and it can play the limousine card better than any of its rivals.
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A car this big is never going to be aimed at the shy-and-retiring folk among us, but it’s not just the Range Rover’s sheer scale that makes it command attention. The huge wheels, chunky mesh grille, lashings of chrome, big, brash light units and the vertical ridges in the front doors all conspire to make this one aggressive-looking, in-your-face car. You get more and more styling enhancements as you progress further and further up the range, but let’s face it, even the most basic version will look mean enough for most.
The armchair-style front seats, top-mounted window controls and imperious driving position – which are Range Rover trademarks – are all present and correct. The mixture of wood, leather and high-grade soft-touch materials on display give an overall feeling of luxuriousness, even if the plastics in one or two areas (the wiper stalks and gearshift paddles are both guilty parties) betray the outright quality. The touch-screen infotainment system is reasonably easy to work out, but it’s not the most intuitive system of its type and the graphics and responses can be a little clunky. The steering wheel is covered in small, fiddly buttons, too, but otherwise, the various switches and dials are simple to to work out. What’s more, your visibility in all directions is wonderfully clear, making it slightly easier to handle the car’s gargantuan proportions when tip-toeing through car parks.
The fact that some chauffeur companies run Range Rovers as limousines tells you all you need to know about how roomy the car is. Four tall adults will travel in supreme comfort, and a fifth will also squeeze in when needed. The rear legroom isn’t quite as generous as you find in a Mercedes S-Class, but if your budget will stretch to it, that can be remedied by going for the long-wheelbase Rangie (only available in the top two trim levels). The boot is as massive as the car’s dimensions suggest, so it’ll easily cope with golf bags, flatpack furniture or the plentiful luggage of a wealthy owner plus their entourage. All models come with a split tailgate that has gesture-controlled power opening. The bottom section can sometimes help and sometimes hinder depending on the size and weight of the thing you’re loading, but it also doubles as a picnic bench for when you’re out in the wilderness.
Ride and handling
The Range Rover has always been famed for its ability to provide a cosseting, limousine-like ride one minute, and then scale a mountain pass the next. Things are no different with the latest version. The standard air suspension effectively mops up pretty much any rut or pothole the road can throw at it, wafting you along in serenity and luxury. The handling is sharper than you might expect. You can’t fling it around corners aggressively (frankly, why would you?), but it feels lighter than it is and the body roll you experience isn’t unsettling. With permanent four-wheel drive and all sorts of electronic traction aids, you’re never short on grip. Even the basic Vogue-trimmed Range Rover has the company’s famed Terrain Response off-roading system, but Vogue SE cars and above have a more sophisticated system that also has an automatic mode. It makes the car capable of some pretty incredible feats in the sticky stuff. Seriously, if you get stuck in a Rangie, you must’ve been attempting to do something exceedingly ambitious.
Quite a few engine choices are available for the Range Rover, and of the ones we’ve tried, there’s not a single slouch among them. The entry-level is a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine with 254bhp, and with its mighty slice of low-to mid-range pull, it’s more than muscular enough to haul this leviathan of a car around with serious purpose. There’s also a hybrid version that pairs this engine with an electric motor to give 349bhp, but while it blends its two power sources smoothly and adds a little extra pace, the difference isn’t as great as the numbers suggest. Upgrade to the 334bhp 4.4-litre V8 diesel, and the performance becomes frankly bonkers, with a level of acceleration that feels absurd for a car of this size. The same - but more so - goes for the version powered by the 542bhp 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8, but while no Range Rover is exactly cheap to buy or run, this version is positively ruinous. Rather more sensible is the entry-level petrol version, which has a 335bhp 3.0-litre supercharged V6. It provides a very decent turn of speed, but needs working harder than the V6 diesel, which has more pulling power. All versions come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which slurs through its ratios smoothly and unobtrusively.
There’s no skirting around the subject; the Range Rover is an enormously expensive car to buy, even when compared with its large 4x4 rivals. Resale values are about par for the course in the class, but when you’re talking about such vast sums of money, your depreciation losses will still be decidedly steep. The same goes for your other running costs. Even the cleanest version – the hybrid – only does 45mpg, while the V6 diesel is the only other version that can bust 40mpg. The V8 petrol only returns an official figure of 22mpg, and you’re unlikely to ever see that even if you drive it like an absolute saint (which, of course, you won’t). What’s more, the correspondingly high figures for CO2 output also mean you’ll get absolutely clobbered by the tax man.
Hmm, how to put this tactfully. It’s no secret that, in the recent past, Land Rover’s reputation for reliability has been about as woeful as it gets. With such complex systems on board, faults have occurred with cringe-worthy regularity, and have proved very expensive to fix. You only need look at Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index for proof. These days, the brand’s reliability performance is said to have improved with models like the Range Rover and the Evoque. We’d love to believe that news, but we’re yet to see any cast-iron proof.
The multiple modes of the Terrain Response system will deal with pretty much any surface or situation you can throw at this car. For the road, all versions have lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking, not to mention a whole heap of airbags and stability control. Vogue SE cars and upwards also get blind spot monitoring, reverse traffic detection and a system that reads traffic signs and adjusts speed accordingly. Autobiography versions and upwards also have adaptive cruise control that will automatically do the work your feet would be doing when plodding along in traffic jams. The car has been awarded a five-star rating from Euro NCAP in its crash tests.
Even the most basic Range Rover is anything but, with a huge amount of luxury equipment provided as standard. Then again, for the money you pay, you’d jolly well expect that. The Vogue trim includes niceties such as automatic lights and wipers, leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, a panoramic roof, a heated and electrically adjusting steering wheel, keyless entry, front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, and a touch-screen infotainment system that incorporates Bluetooth, DAB, sat-nav and a television. The upgrades as you climb the range are largely cosmetic, but there are one or two bits of extra luxury kit provided, too. Vogue SE cars have soft-close doors, mood lighting and a more powerful stereo, while Autobiography cars have four-zone climate control and a surround view camera system. SV Autobiography Dynamic cars also get a parking assistant and an even more powerful stereo.
There’s absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the Range Rover is a truly brilliant car. It’s luxurious, comfortable and practical in equal measure, and it’ll perform diverse roles with exceptional polish and accomplishment. You’ll absolutely love owning it. Providing, that is, you can afford the steep amount it costs to buy and run, and also providing that the Rangie’s traditional reliability issues have been sorted.