How about a car to match black-tie and off-road alike? The answer given by Range Rover continues to fascinate since 1970.
The SUV is what actually the entire automotive luxury segment relies on. No matter what we like to think these days, owning a limo or a supercar is far more difficult compared with a high-above-the-ground utility vehicle. There are highways in this world but there are more deserts, mountains and new money routes. There are also more people thinking that bigger means better and automatically safer. Even in cities whose culture was built on small cars, now the SUV is the way to be. So you go to buy a Porsche Cayenne because everybody just LOVE the way 911 has passed the test of time. It becomes somehow logical to choose the sportiest SUV. When luxury is needed in bigger doses, the offer extends up to Bentley Bentayga or even Lamborghini Urus. And the word is out about an upcoming Rolls Royce Cullinan SUV.
Then, during a sunny spring day, I land in the historical flavoured Woodstock to discover the recently facelifted Range Rover. This is when I say, wait! The history tells us that 50 years ago Porsche was building 911s, Bentley was responsible for the most beautiful and fastest GTs and Lamborghini was reinventing the concept of Supercar while presenting the beautiful Miura. But who was laying the foundations of Luxury SUVs? 1970 was a special year for the world but even more special for UK as Land Rover presented a high above ground Range Rover Coupe. Indeed, the first Range Rover was a two door utilitarian auto vehicle with vinyl seats and plastic dashboard for to be easy washable with a hose. But soon after, the road to luxury began after Range Rover received posh equipment and precious details. All in all, the first generation of the first Luxury SUV was in production for 26 years, available as a 2-door body until 1981 and only with a V8 engine until 1984.
Four generations later, I am maybe the only guest at the international test-drive of Range Rover wearing a jacket and a shirt. And this would be while a Range Rover trainer just advised me to keep calm and cross the river ahead. Easy. Once on the other shore, I went out of the car, careful not to ruin my shoes. Something like James Bond getting ready to join a Royal Ball one second after he’s out of his diving suit. This would be the essence of the brand. Now for the future, the same brand takes the eco trend seriously and launches a plug-in hybrid platform to combine a 4 cylinder 2,0 litre gasoline conventional engine of 300 HP and an electric one of 116 HP. The result of over 400 HP is just amazing as crossing the river might be done in total electrical silence. The manufacturer promises an electric only mode with a maximum range of 51 km which feel so real after seeing how smooth everything goes.
One day later, the same Range Rover spirit comes to greet in its more compact shape known as the Sport model. The facelifted edition is upgraded in every detail but especially in terms of sensations and adrenalin mood. So one minute we are in front of a typical countryside hotel and the next we are already at the Range Rover testing ground, speeding behind the wheel of the new RR Sport SVR. Obvious a more rigid and tight Range Rover, with a carbon hood and sporty seats. And this would be a 560 HP V8 monster able to jump from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4,5 seconds.
How does this evolution feels like? Besides the redesigned headlights and rear lights, the interiors of all models proudly wearing the RR logo have the power to amaze even more due to its digitalized centre console. Initially presented for the futuristic Velar, the two 10 inches displays infotainment solution, known as Touch Pro Duo, translates into an intuitive touch and feel experience. Useless to explain how to operate it, but I can only say that, once you get inside these cars, you will know how to set your universe in order. The right order might be set also through a smart phone app that locks and unlocks the doors, starts the engine or arranges the seats.
Before heading home, there is one trip to go, this time on the back seat of the long wheel base Range Rover. Just in time to finally experience a much more quieter and finished to perfection interior, covered in light cream and blue leather that I will remember for the rest of my life. While still feeling like travelling on the wrong side of the road – as most of the non-British person – I can admit Range Rover has everything to deserve the privileged position of being ”the first of its kind”. And yes, the guys working there were right. This is a car you choose with your heart and this would be the reason for which clients are waiting for an evolution with each new model. Not more. A significant change would be a deliberate crime for everything a ”Luxury SUV” stands for.
Range Rover Autobiography P400e short wheel base (SWB) with a length of 5000 mm and long wheel base (LWB) with a length of 5200 mm, 2,0 litre, 4 cylinder Petrol engine and electric motor under the bonnet, 0-100 km/h in 6,8 s for SWB and 6,9 for LWB, top speed 220 km/h.
Range Rover Sport SVR V8 Supercharged, 5,0 litre V8 Supercharged Petrol engine under the bonnet, 560 HP, 0-100 km/h in 4,5 s, top speed 280 km/h.