First DriveA first glimpse at the new Range Rover PHEV highlights its rough edges, but with some polishing it will add a much needed string to Land Rover's bow
First DriveLand Rover's flagship SUV gains new semi-autonomous safety technology and an even plusher interior
What is it?
It's the Range Rover 5.0-litre V8 Supercharged. For the 2010 model year - which for buyers starts this month - the quickest Range Rover gets a new, supercharged petrol V8 engine that puts a mighty 503bhp under the bonnet.
It also gets some gentle interior and exterior changes, and some impressive equipment upgrades. The intention has been to develop everything for which Land Rover’s flagship is justly famous - luxury, comfort, refinement, versatility, craftsmanship and outright performance - without disturbing the model’s highly successful template.
What's it like?
The 2010 Range Rover looks much like its predecessors, with subtle changes to the bumpers and lights to give it a cleaner look and reduce the impression of size. The mesh grille is deeper, the bi-xenon headlights are shallower and the foglamps are relocated in a lower front air intake.
The bigger story is inside. The cabin gets even better-quality leathers, even more tasteful brightwork and a general reorganisation and simplification of the switches around a better central screen.
And following a major upgrade of its electrical architecture, the Range Rover now has an aircraft-style 12-inch TFT screen for the driver, on which a variety of virtual dials and graphical displays appear. When driving normally, the driver sees a speedo and revcounter as normal, the relevant speed and rpm readings highlighted with a unique 'spotlight' feature.
Off road, the revcounter moves aside in favour of a graphical drivetrain that shows which wheels are being driven, which diffs are locked and much more.
The new supercharged V8, shared with Jaguar, delivers its peak 503bhp between 6000 and 6500rpm, plus maximum torque of 461lb ft between 2500 and 5500rpm. These are improvements of 29 per cent and 12 per cent respectively over the old 4.2-litre V8.
Yet despite the new engine’s 16 per cent capacity increase, it still delivers 7.4 per cent cuts in both fuel consumption and CO2 output, following a variety of improvements such as better direct fuel injection technology, variable cam timing and reduced internal friction.
Other refinements? There’s an adaptive radar cruise control that works with Forward Alert and Emergency Brake Assist to provide unprecedented motorway security. Improved continuously adjustable dampers (by Bilstein) replace the previous model’s dual-rate items and there’s also a blind-spot monitoring system that helps to prevent you from pulling into a lane occupied by close-following traffic.
Five exterior cameras can provide a 'helicopter view' of the car for close manoeuvring, and Land Rover’s now-traditional Terrain Response system has improved rock crawl and sand driving programs. There’s even a towing stability system that can detect trailer sway and tame it with opposite-wheel braking.
Snick the silver-tipped lever into Drive and the car glides away from rest, almost silently. Gliding is something you soon discover the Range Rover does plenty of, at motorway speeds and well beyond. Range Rovers have always specialised in low road noise, even on 20-inch wheels, and this 2010 edition does it better than ever. Couple that with a supple, unhurried ride and more communicative steering and you have an inspirational driving experience.
Use all of the long accelerator travel and you’ll soon find yourself in Porsche Boxster performance territory. The 503bhp Range Rover can sprint from 0-60mph in just 5.9sec and has a governed top speed of 140mph. Despite all this performance, the engine is still quiet, the wind noise still controlled and at seriously high speeds the Range Rover is impressively stable. It’s all to do with the subtle action of the new dampers, which also improve chassis turn-in and tame the lurches that ordinarily result when a tall, soft-sprung vehicle abruptly stops cornering hard one way, to corner hard the other.
Should I buy one?
A Range Rover is never going to be all things to all people. Truth be told, the model can look forward to a future of polarising opinions far more than ever. But if you can accept the big, heavy supercharged flagship for what it is, this is undoubtedly the best Range Rover ever, and surely one of the world’s finest luxury cars of any shape or size.
Land Rover has successfully attacked every one of the RR’s foibles, and even improved some things (like the interior) that didn’t seem to need it. The good news is that this work flows through all four models - three V8 diesel editions (Vogue, Vogue SE and Autobiography) and the one and only supercharged 5.0-litre Autobiography - whose prices start at £64,700 and end just short of £80,000.