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A gentleman's club on wheels.

Byline: Steve Orme

RECENTLY one of those earnest wildlife programmes was lamenting the hard times of whales. One species suffers as it migrates and another breed lies in wait to pick off youngsters.

Think Salford under water.

Now while this is very sad news for whaleists, nature is red in tooth and claw and eventually a species will succumb to the end game. And whales have been around a long time without modification.

It's not as if they have been especially creative, either. I mean being good at song is not the same as inventing the motor car, a better vacuum cleaner or even the George Forman grill. Clearly, however, they do generate a lot of emotion among humans. As indeed do large 4x4s like today's specimen under the microscope, the Range Rover.

If you think Range Rovers are still just something farming types spend their EEC grants on forget it. This is serious limo luxury encased in technological advancement, not a creature staring Attenborough's lament in the face.

For a start it is the world's first all-alloy monocoque 4x4 which means the Rangy has been on a diet to the tune of 420kg. It's still a two-tonne lump of a car but no longer Mr Creosote, the road show The clever stuff incorporates the latest terrain response off-road system and new suspension which increases wheel travel for coping with tough ground as well as aids like adaptive cruise control, closing vehicle sensor, reverse traffic detection and surround camera. Q has been busy, Mr Bond.

However there would be no point unless this simply and silently underpinned the most cosseting and confident 4x4 drive in the world. Frankly, I cannot understand how we lost an empire. Not while there is the 4.4-litre SDV8 Vogue SE in the world.

For sports car performance you would want the 5.5 second to 60, V8 petrol. You would also want the big chair in an oil rich state. The diesel is still not abstemious at 32mpg, but if you can afford the PS82,750 asking price there will be little problem with that especially with sub seven seconds to 60mph acceleration.

However are you really buying this to rag around the mean streets? No. The latest Range Rover is remarkably agile and precise, but driven vigorously it starts to pitch and roll.

On the other hand it exudes a suppleness and smooth refinement most top saloons can't manage.

Refined? No noise, no lumps and no bumps.

It gets no better than this. And despite its size - it's around five metres long - there's no feeling of grossness.

Right, so it goes fine, handles fine and the ride is smoother than a rub down with a greasy mink but what do you get for the money? Well not quite everything. The sound system can be upgraded and a detachable tow bar is PS780 but the telly is standard and so is just about everything you have ever wanted on a 4x4.

That does not mean the cabin is cluttered. This is elegance personified. More cow skin than an episode of rawhide, functions are via easy to control nobs.

Space? Yes, as in enough for a small planet, all of it covered in the best of quality trim. Even the dog wiped her paws. The split tailgate remains, thankfully.

Anything I did off road with the Range Rover is of pale significance after having driven the new models on a Land Rover experience course at Coniston Cold, near Skipton.

Look, I was closer to throwing the towel in than the car was. Don't even begin to doubt it can cope with river, panic-inducing steepness and sludge up to the wheel arches.

And while this is a gentleman's club on wheels, the crucial difference is that unlike rooms of leathery somniferous calm, technical evolution means it is not the waiting room for extinction.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jan 31, 2014
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