Magazine article The Spectator

King of the off Road

Magazine article The Spectator

King of the off Road

Article excerpt

Everyone notices a Range Rover. Villains escape in red saloons or blue hatchbacks but witnesses are never vague about Range Rovers; if it was one, they know it. Having spent the past week with a new swimming-pool blue 4.6 HSE (48,500-odd on the road), I can testify to its having what you might call power of arrival. `That's another 100,000 on the price,' said the lady whose house I wanted to buy, as the Range Rover crunched the gravel drive. I should have offered the car in part exchange but by then, I'm afraid, I'd come to like it.

It's a good-looker, better by far than any of its rivals -- including Toyota's prestigious Landcruiser - and its more rounded edges disguise the fact that it's actually larger than the old-style Range Rover, now termed Classic. The interior of this top-ofthe-range model (you can trouser a less luxurious version for as little as 35,655) was comfortable and well set out, with more room than I'd thought and leather seats that should delight the back-sufferer. It passed the hat test and my racehorse trainer neighbour gave it full marks in his rigorous wine glass test - the bulky dashboard has a flat surface deep enough to accommodate an alarming number of samples (unlike the S class Mercedes, whose sloping dash failed at the first glass).

The durable V8 engine, which in various forms Rover have been using for 20 years, performed so discreetly that it was easy to forget it was there, until overtaking reminded me that the makers claim 0-60 mph in 9.3 seconds and a top speed of 125 mph, impressive for this shape, size and weight. A combined urban/extra urban consumption figure of 17.4 mpg is also pretty good by old-style Range Rover standards, though if you're shelling out 48 grand and still feel you have to ask, you can't afford it. The throttle has a long travel and, even with the unobtrusive automatic gearbox in sport mode, you had to extend the right foot some way to reach kick-down. This is more an observation than a complaint since you soon get used to it, or perhaps the car I had was out of adjustment - the radio certainly was, becoming incoherent with rage whenever I tried to coax it towards Radio 4 longwave.

It breaks wind every time you brake, a little hiss that after a while becomes a reassuring companion and is audible only because everything else isn't. The steering is very light -- presumably for the Sainsbury's carpark - and the self-adjusting suspension is an awesome mystery. …

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