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Click for pictures“Range Rover:
  One of the finest
  vehicles on the
  road today!”


The latest Range Rover is, in the same way that Coca Cola
is far more than just a drink,
far more than just one of the world's most desirable vehicles. Both are premium global brands. And, like Coke, the Range Rover is undeniably the
"real thing". And, as we all know, nothing beats the real thing.

Apart from the new Range Rover's street presence — it imperiously dwarfs just about everything else on four wheels — the very first thing you notice about it from wherever you stand, is the flawless finish. Panel fit is reassuringly precise. Step up closer and peer inside and you'll find a beautifully crafted and ever-so-classy cabin that reeks of luxury. Our test car looked the business in Giverny Green Micatallic paintwork, with an Ivory interior, Ivory seats trimmed in high-grade Oxford leather and matt-finish Cherry wood trim.

You just have to cast your eyes over it to know in your bones that this Range Rover will drive majestically over the blacktop — any blacktop. But it will also perform as competently halfway up a mountain.

Of course, it is the world's most desirable and luxurious 4x4 — a mantle effortlessly inherited from its predecessor and one it truly deserves. This third-generation Range Rover boasts a monocoque body with integrated chassis that's two and a half times stiffer than the previous model. It also comes with independent air suspension on all four wheels that automatically selects the appropriate ride height and firmness on the move and returns to the lowest setting when you draw to a halt. Terrain optimisation software detects any change in surface and increases suspension travel and wheel articulation to maintain on-road levels of comfort and control. And together with a highly capable four-wheel drive system, this makes the new Range Rover staggeringly competent both on and off-road.

Land Rover's stylists deserve a lot of credit: not only have they managed to retain the essence of the Range Rover's iconic looks, but they have done so while subtly updating them. No easy task with a vehicle that is universally acclaimed. The handsome new front, with its distinctive shark-like Brunel power vents ahead of the front doors, retains the marque's trademark castellated clamshell bonnet and blacked out pillars, the whole being nicely set off by circular Bi-Xenon headlights atop the assertively squared-off colour-coded front bumper. Stylish 19-inch 6-spoke alloys complete 'the look'.

The new Range Rover is a substantial machine — 8 inches longer and
3 inches wider than its predecessor. To give you an idea of its actual size, it's bigger than a Toyota Amazon, and berthed alongside other SUVs such as BMW's X5, makes them appear almost toy-like.

All of which hints at quite a climb up into the commanding cabin. Fortunately, one of the benefits of the new height-adjustable air-suspension is that it lowers the Range Rover so that it's easier to get in and out when parked.

Like scaling Kilimanjaro, the view's worth it once you're up there. The vast interior is a truly fabulous environment: an inspired mix of sumptuous fittings and seats, objective functionality and genuine style. If Coco Chanel had done cars instead of dresses this would have been her defining 'little black number'.

In twenty years' of reviewing cars that include many of the world's finest we can safely say that the new Range Rover's Contour seats are right up there in the top slot. A real work of art. As well as cosseting you, these comfy seats provide first class support everywhere the leather touches you. And the soft leather touches in places you didn't know you had places. Unlike others, the upper section of the backrest can be electrically adjusted independently of the lower part of the front seat backrest, to fit the curve of your spine. In fact, if Range Rover ever decided to go into the luxury chair business it would clean up!

As you would expect there is a lot of quality kit, such as seat heating for all passengers, a leather clad steering wheel that carries an array of multi-function switches as well as cruise control, and which features a heated rim, a 6-disc CD autochanger, electrochromic powerfold door mirrors that dim photochromatically (along with the rear view mirror), electric tilt/slide sunroof, headlamp wash/wipe, Park Distance Control (front and rear), a wide-screen monitor for the GPS TV/Navigation System, which will pinpoint your position anywhere on the planet. It can be operated manually or via a voice recognition system. The cabin atmosphere can be tuned to suit each passenger's requirements using individual temperature controls provided for front, rear and side-to-side zones.

Alternatively you can let the computer manage everything for you by switching to automatic temperature control with air conditioning and automatic air distribution. And if music is your thing then you'll be moonstruck by the stereo with its harman/kardon active speaker ICE system and twelve speakers including a sub woofer and which offers different acoustic environments from 'Jazz' to 'Concert Hall'.

The front seats are electrically operated with full memory facility for the driver that sets seat, exterior mirrors and steering column positions. Memory settings can also be recalled remotely. Both front and rear seats are heated. Other pleasing tricks include programming the cabin (one of the few options on the flagship Vogue we tested) to pre-warm for you while you're indoors enjoying a traditional English breakfast.

Stainless steel has been used selectively to make everyday items — such as the selector lever, door handles, air vents and horn buttons — feel special.

In the spacious rear compartment — everybody goes First Class in this Range Rover! — the back seats offer genuine limousine levels of comfort. They also fold and tip to create a massive load area that's almost big enough to park a MINI in! Naturally, the boot is beautifully trimmed and carpeted. The upper and lower tailgate release is controlled from a push button on the dash as well as with the key.

Of course, sitting pretty is not much use without a smooth ride so it's fortunate that "wafting" is the Range Rover's middle name. Enhanced by excellent body control and its sybaritic interior, the Range Rover's ride quality is good enough to make a defector out of many a Mercedes S Class driver.

The manoeuvrable new Range Rover can be hustled along country roads with aplomb. Banished forever are the rolling and pitching of earlier models, thanks to the stiffer monocoque and the self-levelling air suspension. It doesn't take long to 'bond' with this car and discover that despite its girth it can, courtesy of its new speed-sensitive rack and pinion steering, be driven with gusto. Show it a fast, sweeping bend and the new Range Rover will show you what two-and-a-half tonnes of Land Rover's finest is all about. Relax — you'll adore it!

More importantly, there are no hidden vices in its handling, the independent suspension soaking up irregularities in the road surface without you even knowing about them. At speed it feels exceedingly stable, impervious to the usually disruptive slipstream of passed or passing juggernauts. Driving when the sun's gone down is stress-free, courtesy of the brilliant spread of illumination from the piercing blue Xenon headlights. And there's 'waterfall' lighting situated in the roof lining, to provide gentle background illumination during night driving and enabling both driver and passenger to operate controls safely without the distraction of bright overhead lighting.

And, no matter how briskly you are travelling, there always seems to be an ample reserve of grip. There's an impressive array of the very latest aids to traction that come into play, uniquely, in both high and low ranges to supplement the huge amount of grip that the full-time 4x4 system offers naturally. 4-wheel Electronic Traction Control distributes drive evenly to each wheel, adjusting individual wheel speeds via the ABS. The Land Rover-pioneered Hill Descent Control maintains a safe and constant low speed on slippery slopes, with aid on descents provided by the lowest crawling speed of any production 4x4.

HDC can also be used in high range as well as low, and in both forward and reverse gears. Dynamic Stability Control and the standard anti-lock brakes are enhanced by Electronic Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce distribution, all of which give the driver extra control and more stopping power. Seatbelt pretensioners and eight airbags are fitted as standard, including front, head and side airbags for both driver and front passenger, as well as rear outboard passenger head airbags. This is a car you can safely trust with your life.

Riding regally along on normal roads, you could be travelling in any of the best luxury saloons currently available. Could be? You most definitely are. The only difference is that none of them can ever begin to match what the Range Rover is capable off off-road.

As it happens, the all-independent suspension, higher ground clearance and semi-automatic gearbox with manual override — the five-speed automatic transmission is a first for full-time 4x4s, permitting shifts on-the-move between low and high — combine to make this new Range Rover even more competent in the rough that any of its legendary predecessors. Praise indeed.

Off-road, a two-speed transfer box further aids its mud-plugging ability. A Torsen centre differential automatically changes the torque bias between the front and rear axles, depending on available traction, and the Steptronic change can be also be used in low range for greater control off-road. Advanced 'drive by wire' electronics also provide superior vehicle control through the throttle, thanks to two throttle 'maps': one for on-road and the other for off-road.

The 281bhp 4.4-litre V8 is a thoroughly modern unit that comes straight from BMW, who will continue to supply them for the life of the model. A super-smooth five-speed Steptronic automatic transmission with programmed Sport and Drive modes plus CommandShift manual selection in low or high range, is standard.

Officially, the 0-60mph sprint is accomplished in 9 seconds, but thanks to plenty of get up and go from the V8's 324lb ft of torque, progress feel much quicker. Top speed is 130mph which is, to quote another well-known double-R brand catchphrase, "sufficient".

Made by Land Rover, designed and engineered by BMW, and overseen by Ford (Land Rover is part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group, as are Lincoln, Jaguar, Volvo and Aston Martin), the new, third generation Range Rover is not simply the best Range Rover ever produced, but is also one of the best vehicles that can be bought today — at any price.

It bears remembering that 33 years after the first Range Rover appeared, crossing deserts and negotiating mountain passes with luxurious ease, none of the host of SUVs who would be king has even come close to emulating its unique blend of off-road and luxury saloon qualities. And, more than a year after its European debut, there are still waiting lists in many countries.

Fuel consumption? We averaged 17mpg overall. Which, all things considered, has to be pretty damn good for a vehicle that combines indomitable all-weather abilities with the height of luxury. Anyway, if you're prepared to spend around 60,000 on the Range Rover does it really matter?

If it does there's always the 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled diesel Range Rover that we're due to test in July. And in case you don't get it, the new Range Rover is very high indeed on
our wish list.

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Range Rover 4.4 Vogue
| £59,995
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-60mph: 9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 17mpg | Power: 281bhp | Torque: 324lb ft
Visit Land Rover's website Click to go there now

------------------------------------------------------------------------ Range Rover