“If they could see me now,
That little gang of mine,
I’m eating fancy chow
And drinking fancy wine…
They’d never believe it
If my friends could see me now”
Let me be clear. The likelihood of me driving a Range Rover with an odometer reading under 200,000 miles rivals the 80–1 odds of Rich Strike winning this year’s Kentucky Derby. Check that – even less. So when JLR invited me to their Global Media Drive to experience the new Range Rover, I accepted within nanoseconds – before they could change their minds!
JLR chose California for the Global Media Drive to introduce the 5th generation Range Rover. It proved the ideal setting to show journalists from around the world the Range Rover’s stunning new design, improved driving capabilities and enhanced interiors – and to elevate my living standards for a few days.
Five years ago, Land Rover’s design and engineering teams faced the unenviable task of creating the newest Range Rover; I mean, was there anything “wrong” with the L405? With this newest generation, they succeeded in terms of both design and engineering. Its stunning proportions, tightly hewn design elements and striking lines might be the best since the Range Rover Classic. Its specifications looked alluring in its press releases [See Winter 2022 issue -ed.] and its performance exceeded expectations during the test drives.
JLR brought journalists through San Francisco to the stunning landscapes of Sonoma County. We arrived at the Charles M. Schultz Sonoma County Airport [Yes, named after the cartoonist who created the “Peanuts” gang -ed.], stepped off the plane and found ourselves staring at over $750,000 worth of Range Rover First Editions. One of them would be shared by Michael Harley (Forbes, Autoblog, KBB), a Porsche enthusiast who looks like he belongs in a Range Rover, and me, who looks like the attendant who would wash your Range Rover.
Range Rover owners have been spoiled by the presence of a V8 engine throughout the different iterations and the 4.4L twin turbo (523hp / 553 lb-ft torque) did not disappoint. Land Rover claims 0–60 in 5.1 seconds; I can attest that when you shift into Sport mode, the acceleration pushes you back into the encompassing driver’s seat and by the time you exhale, you’ve broken the speed limit. The “base” P400 (Mild Hybrid 3.0L Turbocharged I6 with 395hp / 406 lb-ft) was hardly a sluggard, and I found driving either one a pleasure. Regardless of the engine, the 8-speed transmission responds precisely and seamlessly. Even the stop-start when idling engages smoothly and without the usual “clunk.”
New engine options will arrive in the future. For 2023, Land Rover will offer a 434hp mild hybrid that will have a 62-mile electric range and a 0–60 mph time of 4.4 seconds. Even more exciting will be the all-electric powertrain promised for the 2024 model year.
Land Rover trumpeted its “Integrated Chassis Control with Dynamic Response Pro” that uses electronic air suspension to ensure crisp handling. The Range Rover comes in either a SWB (118 inch, 199 inches overall) or LWB (122.9 inches) version; overall, the length grew only two inches from the previous model. Whether driving the SWB or LWB, you can maneuver the Range Rover without sway; only in the tightest corners does physics win out, but never leaves you doubting its handling. “EHorizon Data” actually anticipates road changes and sets up the suspension ahead of the vehicle’s arrival. Also, the rear suspension for the new generation is a five-link setup, which makes rear-wheel steering possible and reduces turning radius. The combination sharpens the handling further, eases concerns about parking and actually gives the Range Rover the smallest turning circle (36 ft) of any Land Rover model.
Ignore the marketing-speak – the engineering really worked in real-life driving. From the airport, JLR’s events team curated a drive that took us on narrow, winding two-lane roads past Sebastopol to the coast at Bodega Bay. (If you’re a certain age, you might remember Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which was filmed there.) State Route 1 winds its way along the cliff sides with spectacular views of the Pacific. At any speed, you could fling the Range Rover into corners without the slightest discomfort. Its acceleration and braking enabled it to go from 0–Ludicrous Speed and back with aplomb. I also appreciated that while the software-driven suspension features gave the Range Rover superb handling, they never masked the tactile road feel; you always knew the composition of the road surface. Driving it along this stunning route pushed Michael into clenched-teeth negotiations with me as to who would drive next.
Nigel Blenkinsop, a 30-year veteran of automotive manufacturing, explained to me the extraordinary build steps required to achieve the panel fit, glazing and chamfering that give the structure such elegance and fluidity. Real adults can fit comfortably, with ample leg room, in the third-row seats – once they climb the doorway. You can order seating for 5 in either SWB or LWB, with a three-row, 7-seat option available in the LWB. Door handles retract into the doors, which in turn have an electronic assist for tight closure. Aside from its obvious beauty, the Range Rover has an amazing .30 cD, quite remarkable for a vehicle of its size.
The new Range Rover SV, arriving at 2023 model year, will come in a SV Serenity or an SV Intrepid version. Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations has created the four-seat Signature Suite interior, in which the rear seats recline as footrests rise up. Should you require one, a center table elevates electronically and flips open to provide room for your phone (complete with wireless charging), tablet – or the chilled glasses you pulled out from the center armrest/cooler. Michael found this so relaxing that he made me chauffeur him about during our entire one-hour drive between wineries.
We did experience a mild off-road course, which involved narrow, winding trails that ascended and descended through a pine forest. With its standard electronic rear differential and all-wheel steering, the Range Rover handled it easily, using the Terrain Response 2 settings that enable its all-wheel drive to behave like the former, permanent 4-wheel drive.
The new Range Rover should spread fear and angst through the executive suites of competing auto companies. JLR has raised the bar for what it means to manufacture a “premium SUV.” The Range Rover’s style, engineering, wheelbase and seating options have resulted in moving it even further ahead of its supposed rivals. Honestly, it has no competition.