There is nothing quite like the Range Rover for versatility, this fine British Leyland product combining Land Rover off-road capabilities with the comfort of a proper 95-100 m.p.h. luxury car. I know it well, having done some fairly severe testing of one back in 1971 and later being able to persuade a Range Rover (with occasional use of an electric nose-winch) almost to the summit of Cader Idris, in order that the Motor Sport banner could be planted at an altitude which Autocar, using a variety of lesser off-road vehicles, had been unable to reach – a challenge which has never been taken up! However, all this is in the past and when I wished to follow the Welsh Two Days International Motorcycle Trial at the end of June I thought again of the relaxing reassurance which such a car would provide, no matter how tough the going. British Leyland’s Press Office at Redditch were willing to lend me a Range Rover, so that is the vehicle we used. It has not changed much since I first met it, except in price, which has soared to £7,483.
This remarkable four-wheel-drive utility vehicle, propelled by the well-proven Rover 3 1/2-litre light-alloy V8 engine, and running on beam axles scientifically suspended on coil springs and making good use of Boge Hydromat self-energising levelling devices under the direction of designer Spencer King, took us swiftly and very comfortably along normal roads in the high gear-ratios, required “low” only on the trials’ course, and we locked the centre differential only once, when wading through the rocky shallows of the river near Lleustdoguail, on the Montgomery-Radnor border.
When route-checking over mountain passes, across long stretches of grassland, and up precipitous slippery gradients the Range Rover not only never faltered, it never so much as scratched itself, and it continued all the time to give us a feather-bed ride. The very supple springing makes this possible, along with the excellent low-speed pulling power of the quiet multi-cylinder engine. The only disadvantage is that, while Spen King has contrived the suspension so that a Range Rover can be cornered fast without loss of control, it then rolls somewhat excessively, so that if elderly passengers or animals are being carried it is kinder to ease-off a little. The only other factor which detracts from the peace and serenity of motoring long distances in a Range Rover is the whine which is never entirely absent from the transmission, on drive and over-run. There is also some snatch in the drive-line. There is also the petrol-thirst to consider, although the wealthy farmers to whom the Range Rover so strongly appeals are hardly likely to regard around 14 m.p.g. under severe conditions and a two-star consumption of 15.6 m.p.g. in all-round driving, Motorway cruising included, as excessive. That splendid one-time-Buick V8 engine used no oil, in a hard 1,000 miles. The transmission losses and the big frontal-area must increase fuel thirst but wind noise is commendably low.
Personally, I was captivated, and would much like a Range Rover in the stable. There are so many occasions when it is the ideal vehicle, and it has so few disliked aspects. Indeed, the only mild complaints I have are the fact that the bonnet is very heavy and has to be propped-open (the dip-stick couldn’t be more readily accessible), the radio was mediocre, and that the fuel-pump ticks all the time, which was at first disconcerting. The fuel tank, with clip-filler cap, holds 18 gallons. The power steering is good, and is geared 3 1/2 turns from lock-to-lock, with a usefully small turning circle. The gears are changed decisively but notchily, with a man-sized lever and the selecting of low or high ratios and the diff.-lock are very easily done, by subsidiary lever and a button (with warning light on the dash), respectively. The tiny hand brake is nicely placed. The tail-gate, split horizontally, has excellent locks. I can think of nothing else that needs to be said, except that the Range Rover is a great British achievement, deserving the highest praise. –W.B.
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Vauxhall VX2300 Comments
Elsewhere I referred briefly to the Vauxhall VX2300 estate-car I used over the highly memorable Jubilee Week-end – memorable for the Queen’s Jubilee itself, rather than for the transport I employed. If that sounds derogatory to the big Lutonian, it isn’t intended to be. Indeed, this Vauxhall is one of those essentially-usable, self-effacing cars which one tends to take for granted. It’s not a sports-car, so I will be brief. Very well Vauxhall’s VX version has been notably up-rated and improved. The engine isn’t particularly smooth when pulling but it smooths out and becomes quiet at speed and gives excellent, surging acceleration. The gears change nicely, with a man-sized lever, the knob of which soon “came off in me ‘and”. The suspension is a thought lurchy but the Ambla-covered scats are very comfortable. Lots of simulated woodwork in the interior might be better replaced by more convenient stowages, although the non-lockable drop-cubby will absorb as much rubbish as any lady’s handbag.
This VX2300 hurries when it is called upon to do so, in an easy, unruffled manner, yet it returned 28.3 m.p.g. of 4-star, thus driven and approx. 600 m.p.p. of oil. The seats are smart and quite comfortable but it’s a pity the light-coloured upholstery intrudes into the estate-area of the body, where dirty objects are sometimes carried. The heavy tail-gate rises automatically, once encouraged; but, having no lift-handle, its basetrim, used in lieu, is apt to suffer. The spare wheel intrudes a bit on the very commodious load-space. The engine ran-on when switched-off and sometimes needed a bit of starter-grinding to commence it. The throttle seemed reluctant to close fully, which may have aggravated the latter problem. The heater quadrant-controls were unpleasantly stiff, the action of the driver’s vizor horrid, and the well-placed hand brake needed a good tug if it was to anchor safely this impressive-looking Vauxhall. The bonnet-release was also impossibly stiff, and the heavy, front-hinged bonnet has to be propped open.
That said, this VX has some very good aspects. I liked the small steering wheel, controlling steering that is light until much lock is applied, but insensitive. It needs four turns, lock-to-lock, yet does not feel low-geared. So easily does this Big-Four 2,279 c.c., o.h.c., 108 b.h.p. car run thal its ito m.p.h. speedometer (with total + decimal mileometer, but sans a trip) seemed always to real slow. That is the theme of this very likeable load-absorber, which represents excellent 1977 value at £3,659.76. The test car was on Pirelli tubeless radials. – W.B.