Looks the same to me – what's new about this Range Rover?
Land Rover keeps tinkering with the Range Rover, in a bid to maintain its spot as the pinnacle of SUVs. It's an extensive overhaul for the 2007 model year car, with the Terrain Response off-road optimsation gadget fitted and a cabin overhaul to improve safety, ergonomics, air flow and stowage. But the most significant change is the launch of a twin-turbo 3.6-litre V8 diesel engine, which Land Rover expects to power 85 percent of the Rangies it sells in Europe.
Only 3.6 litres? But there's no replacement for displacement...
With Audi's V8 TDi displacing 4.2 litres and VW's Touareg running a 5.0-litre V10, Land Rover's diesel looks like it's turning up to the party very late and without any booze. So why is it only 3.6 litres in capacity? 'We did the performance and economy sums, and it's adequate,' says a bullish Paul Walker, chief programme engineer. Landie's first ever V8 diesel is equipped with the latest combustion technology, including a third generation common rail injection system, to boost power while reining in consumption and emissions. Twin variable geometry turbochargers respond quickly to eliminate lag, delivering hefty low-end torque (295 lb ft is on tap from just 1250rpm) and more top-end power. Peak power is 272bhp, peak torque 472lb ft. That's just 7lb ft off the Audi lump, and 61lb ft down on the VW V10. Or, put it another way, adequate. Combined fuel consumption is 25.1mpg, which Land Rover vows is easily attainable in real-world driving conditions. The TDV8 replaces the ancient, BMW-sourced TD6. To compare them, the Land Rover propaganda team dished out more percentages than a maths GCSE course. The V8 has 54 percent more power, 64 percent more torque, it's 32 percent quicker from 0 to 62mph and it's 75 percent quieter. All no doubt true, but somewhat overlooking the fact that it's an unfair comparison, like pitching Mr Muscle against Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Enough stats! What's it like on the road?
Fire up the TDV8 and you are greeted by a deafening...silence. It is the least diesel-sounding engine around: no chatter, no reverberations, just a barely audible hum. Even with the windows down. Land Rover claims the extremely stiff, compacted graphite iron block boosts refinement, but it's fitted a triple-laminated windscreen just in case. Nail the throttle and there's a metallic growl as the Range Rover surges forward. Mid-range acceleration from 60mph is relentless. You become acutely aware of the Rangie's bulk, because you feel like you're surfing a runaway elephant. Brembo brakes, though a little gummy initially, soon haul the 2710kg SUV back. The dash from standstill to 62mph takes 8.5sec, just 1.4sec slower than the supercharged petrol. Which returns 17.7mpg, if you have featherlight feet. It may be powerful but the TDV8 is more refined than Pimms on the lawn at the Burghley Horse Trials. Pootling around at urban speeds is extremely relaxing, but it's on the motorway that the TDV8 impresses most. Even at three-figure speeds, there's barely any tyre noise on impeccable Spanish roads, and wind noise isn't too intrusive. And the Range Rover's legendary ride comfort isn't hampered in the heavier diesel model. It still wafts along smoothly, riding crests effortlessly at speed. The TDV8 is so genteel, you may forget it's a diesel. So there's a special valve which shuts off the fuel tank, in case you get confused and stick a longer petrol nozzle into the neck by mistake.
Okay, so it's grunty and refined. What else?
The rest is trad Range Rover, which is shorthand for pretty damn good. The steering is light and flows nicely, and it's good fun to chuck the TDV8 down a twisty road. The diesel has the same spring and damper rates as the supercharged flagship (15 percent stiffer, percentage fans), which means it's far less roly-poly than CAR's 2002 long-termer. Throttle response is snappy, and the six-speed ZF automatic remains as intuitive as ever. There's no hunting for gears, rendering the manual over-ride an unnecessary risk of repetitive strain injury.
Talk me through the other changes...
Externally, the 2007 model has the same stately, handsome look as last year's car's. But it's makeover time inside. The air-con is overhauled – vital for markets like the Middle East and North Africa – with two new vents atop the dash, and better air flow to the rear. It's also five decibels quieter. The passenger airbag now resides in the more raked, leather dash top, freeing up space for an extra glovebox containing the CD changer and off-roading camera (Venture Cam). The airbags are smarter, knee bolsters are fitted and the side impact protection is bolstered. New materials make an appearance, freshening up the car industry's undisputed world champion cabin. The two most obvious changes are the introduction of an electronic parking brake (which intervenes more quickly than the glacial Range Sport's), and Terrain Response. So, let's off-road...
What's it like off-road?
The Barcelona launch route took in a stretch of perilous off-roading, through a Spanish pine forest perched precariously on a loamy hillside. Epic rain, where the night sky looked neon-lit due to endless lightning, had made the route treacherous. Engage Terrain Response though, and the Range Rover is soon primed for off-road attack. Choose from four settings in addition to on-road: snow/wet grass; sand; mud and ruts; and rock crawl. The colour screen tells you which mode is engaged, and informs you of ride height changes, whether the automatic braking system (Hill Descent Control) is activated and graphically shows the wheels' position, so that you know how much lock to wind on or off. The throttle can be remapped, too, providing greater control over acceleration. It makes conquering hillsides and gulleys effortless. The TDV8 inches its way through the slippery clay in heavy rain, down steep rock-strewn gulleys, hauling itself out of channels 300mm deep. It's like a goat picking its way up a mountain, pausing to gain its footing, and then scampering away. You feel the wheels – standard road tyres – bite as one or other gains traction and hauls you out of trouble. It's hugely impressive, especially as an hour earlier we had been pulling 100mph in comfort on a motorway. Unbelievers may question the need for such awesome breadth of capability. But some 40 percent of Range Rover owners off-road at least once a month, even if it's only to traverse a field with a horsebox.
The Range Rover TDV8 is the world's most capable luxury car. It feels as solid and hushed as a bank vault to drive (and it's about the same size), and offers sublime levels of power and comfort. With prices from £55,100 for the HSE trim, the TDV8 model is an undisputed bargain. If Bentley made a diesel off-roader, it would be this car. And praise comes little higher than that.