What is it?
And so to the serious stuff. After months of anticipation, a circus of static launches and an elaborate US-based international drive programme, we’re at last able to test the 2023 Range Rover where it matters most.
This week, we’ve driven Land Rover’s brand-new flagship on the ancient, pockmarked roads of Britain, widely acknowledged as the most difficult in Europe; and on the steep, rutted, muddy slopes of the Eastnor Castle estate where both this latest Range Rover and every one of its four predecessors, reaching back to 1970, was developed. It's the essential evaluation.
Happily, we have the right Range Rover for the job. Our test car is a standard-wheelbase D350 HSE diesel, a version selected several weeks ago by our man Matt Prior as potentially the most capable and most practical model of a complicated line-up after he drove no fewer than five petrol and diesel, standard and long-wheelbase versions in the US.
Ours is an uncomplicated mission: to drive a day-long route involving 150 miles on the roads around southern England, punctuated by about 90 minutes’ much tougher testing at Eastnor, in the same vehicle, wearing the same tyres as it tackled A-roads and motorways.
Demonstrating road-tyred vehicles on a wide variety of terrain at speeds from mud crawl to motorway cruise has always been Land Rover’s special way of demonstrating their versatility.
To recap, the new Range Rover, codenamed L460, sits on a new-design, mostly aluminium chassis called MLA Flex (curious name for a structure “up to 50% stiffer”). It's strengthened by strategically placed steel components, notably across the front bulkhead and in the body pillars.
At 5052mm overall, the standard-wheelbase model is 75mm longer than before but still around 90mm shorter than the Bentley Bentayga. Its 2209mm maximum width makes it one of the widest cars on the road.
There's a slightly bewildering array of 3.0-litre straight-six diesel and petrol engine options. All are turbocharged Ingenium units, but only some are mild hybrids. Also offered is a pair of six-cylinder petrol-electric plug-in hybrids, plus a big-power version featuring a 4.4-litre V8 that JLR now buys in from BMW.