What is it?
Simple, it’s a stretched Range Rover. It may sound crazy to suggest that some owners find a five-metre SUV rather short, but to the (mainly) Chinese and American buyers — already queueing around the block to buy the new, stretched Range Rover revealed late last year — the standard model always lacked rear legroom. In those markets, well-heeled owners are inclined to travel in the rear and hate not being able to stretch their legs.
To accommodate these people, Range Rover engineers have let 200mm (7.9in) of extra length into the wheelbase — all of it visible in the extended rear door. They’ve taken care to reinforce the basic aluminium monocoque structure to concede very little in torsional rigidity. The result is a rear compartment with genuine sprawling space, and the bonus of commanding rear seating, which no Rolls or Bentley can currently provide. As a bonus, you can now recline a Range Rover L rear seat twice as far as in the short wheelbase model. It all costs, of course — around £7400 extra, model for model.
In Britain, you can only get the long wheelbase as a TDV8 (diesel) or the full-fat 5.0-litre supercharged V8, although the 3.0-litre diesel V6 is to be sold in some markets where tax breaks favour smaller engines.
What's it like?
First up, it looks just as well proportioned and perhaps a shade more imposing than the standard model, which has been much praised for its own shape. This is a major achievement: it is far more common for stretch models to lose their sense of “rightness” but as Land Rover design boss Gerry McGovern made clear, the two versions were designed at the same time, so neither is a mere modified version of the other.
On test, the stretched TDV8 felt very similar indeed to the standard wheelbase version, though with careful assessment you can just about detect a slightly flatter ride, a slightly larger turning circle (because of the longer wheelbase) and a slightly smaller rear window in your mirror (because in the L-model you sit further from it).
Driving the L-model is the same calm, reassuring experience you’re likely to encounter in any other modern Range Rover. It is composed, smooth, powerful soft riding and especially torquey. There’s no detectable difference in performance between short and long models even though the bigger model’s weight rises around 80kg; and fuel consumption is the same, too, model for model. Neither do you lose anything significant in agility, though the extra length does add to the standard Range Rover’s problem with reverse parking at the kerb, despite all its parking sensors and surrounding cameras. In the average British parking spot, it’s very, very large.