Time for the long-established SUV king to make a statement
This is called getting your towels on the deckchairs early. Land Rover has known for as long as anyone that an all-new class of super-luxury SUV is being created as we speak, involving blue-blooded brands who’d hitherto never have considered getting mud on their wheels. Companies such as Bentley, Maserati and even Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini. Can Range Rover compete with them for pure brand strength? Probably not. Can it get its offer in early and stake a claim to the turf before anyone else is even out of bed? You bet.
You might goggle a bit at the idea of a Land Rover product costing £165,000, but perhaps the single most important thing its marketing people have learned over recent years is that every time they think Range Rover has hit the limit of what people will pay for the name, it just pushes right on through.
This, then, is the second Range Rover to be given the Special Vehicle treatment, after the Range Rover Sport SV R, and I’ll say now it has been executed with far greater success. You can have one with a long or standard wheelbase (though why anyone would choose short eludes me) and with V6 or V8 diesel power, or a supercharged 5-litre petrol motor.
It’s a toss-up between whether to travel in the front or back because the rear seat – I should almost say suite – package, with acres of legroom, incredible visibility, individual rear chairs and all the usual refinements like a refrigerator, televisions, picnic tables and so on, has been brilliantly realised. Some of the fittings are not quite Bentley quality and, for a true luxury car, it is limited by the fact the rear seat does not recline, but the look is stunning and commensurate with the purchase price.
I’ve driven both the V6 diesel and V8 petrol in other Range Rovers and, despite the fact that the latter motor will attract almost all SV sales, it is as ever the V8 diesel that is the unsung hero.
I don’t want to rev a Range Rover nor hear its engine very much – I want to sit on the motorway at 80mph with just 1500rpm on the clock and a bottomless pit of torque beneath my foot. And that is what the big diesel provides.
Now as ever there is too much unsprung mass to give the Range Rover a true limousine ride, but a limo can’t tow 3.5 tonnes, go off-road or provide a view of the road so imperious most normal SUVs look like MX-5s.
Land Rover knows its days as the undisputed top-of-the-range SUV king are over and that this ultimate flagship Range Rover will be priced against some of the cheaper offerings from new-found rivals. But it knows also that Bentley is not about to start selling Bentaygas for under £100,000, where the meat of Range Rover’s business lies. So this is just Land Rover saying, “We can do this too.” And do you know what? It can. The bar for the Bentayga has been set high. I shall tell you next month whether or not it is able to clear it.
Engine 4.4 litres, 8 cylinders, turbodiesel
Power [email protected] rpm
Torque 546lb [email protected] rpm
Transmission eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power to Weight 132bhp per tonne
Top speed 135mph