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Highbred - we drive new Range Rover

By: Minesh Bhagaloo in Marrakech, Morocco

“What the Porsche 911 is to the supercar world, the Range Rover is to the SUV world.”

That, in summary, is where Land Rover believes its fourth-generation Range Rover – which it also describes as the world’s most refined and capable SUV – fits in. And I can’t blame them for the air of arrogance as the new Rangey I drove at the world launch in Morocco last week is certainly quite special.

Clearly, the brief was “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, and you’d be forgiven for having to look twice to spot the changes compared with the previous Range Rover. But the Tata-owned British carmaker assures us that the newcomer has received the once-over from the ground up.

FIVE ADULTS LIGHTER

It’s billed as the world’s first SUV with a lightweight all-aluminium monocoque body structure, which means a weight saving of about 420kg (or five adults, as Landy describes it) depending on engine derivative – making for better fuel consumption (an average saving of eight percent across the range), and sharper handling.

Tweaks to the metal include a slightly lower roofline (the newcomer is 10 percent more aerodynamic), different front (camera-lens design) and rear LED lights, and new high-mounted stop lights across the tailgate. The side vents have also been changed and are visual more than functional now.

Off-roaders will appreciate that ground clearance has increased by 13mm to 296mm, wading depth has increased by an impressive 200mm to 900mm, thanks to a new air intake system, and Land Rover promises best-in-class 3500kg towing ability.

Inside, there’s been a definite focus on clean and uncluttered design, with about half the number of switches as before, an improved audio set-up, and design tweaks to the dashboard and centre console. More important is space, and the 40mm longer wheelbase has released 120mm more legroom and 50mm more knee room for rear passengers. Headroom is slightly better too.

Easier entry and exit has also been a focus, with access ride height now 50mm and electric side steps an option.

LIMO FEEL

For that real limo feel, you can also order two individual rear electric seats. And, as you can imagine, only the best materials and metals are available to customers, with terms like twin-needle stitching and brushed aluminium being bandied about.

Not to mention the Autobiography spec-level, which really is fit for the queen, as well as cool toys like Park Assist and Reverse Traffic Detection.

Two very noticeable interior additions to the trained eye include the silver rotary control knob for the gearbox (from newer Jaguars and the Range Rover Evoque), and the little button marked Auto on the Terrain Response control – the latter of which is your introduction to Land Rover’s latest Terrain Response system.

Dubbed Terrain Response 2, it features a clever Auto setting that analyses driving conditions and switches between the terrain programmes on offer.

It’s capable of jumping between any of the five settings, which as in previous generation models include General; Grass/Gravel/Snow; Mud/Ruts; Sand; and Rock Crawl. It will even tell you when to select low range or activate the off-road ride height.

IMPERIOUS RIDE

The suspension has also been refreshed, and is not only lighter, but is class-leading in terms of wheel travel – boasting 260mm at the front and 310mm at the rear (compared with less than 200mm for most competitors). As before, four-corner air suspension is standard, but better air springs make for an imperious ride feel.

The world media launch in Morocco provided a fair amount of on- and off-road torture for Land Rover’s latest baby, and although on the surface it may not look like it, the engineers have definitely taken the Rangey’s abilities to the next level.

It’s hard to say whether the latest iteration is in fact more capable off-road, but that next level-ness comes in that Auto setting, which works amazingly well and keeps the Terrain Response system in obsessive-compulsive mode. If it smells a rock, it primes itself for action. Some buyers may feel this takes away the fun, but you may use the manual settings if you prefer.

AND IT HANDLES

Handling of this big SUV has also improved somewhat, and apart from the weight shedding, the Adaptive Dynamics are set up for less lean under cornering (by controlling the front and rear axles independently). The Dynamic Response technology also monitors movements 500 times a second for best ride and minimal body roll. Although not in the league of something like the Porsche Cayenne when things get twisty, I’d still give the handling in the new Rangey the thumbs up.

The latest Range Rover will be available in South Africa at the end of January in two familiar model guises. The 4.4-litre SDV8 diesel scores nine percent more power, with quoted outputs of 250kW and 700Nm, while the five-litre supercharged V8 petrol is good for 375kW and 625Nm – both of which are now paired to eight-speed auto ’boxes.

Pricing will be confirmed closer to the launch, but it is estimated the new Range Rover will cost about 20 percent more than its predecessor. -Star Motoring

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