and Rover New Zealand boss Wal Dumper isn’t a man to mince words.
He tells it like it is – or at the very least how he sees it.
He made it his trademark in his previous role as Subaru CEO in New Zealand, and
he’s taken it with him to Motorcorp Distributors, the outfit that markets Land Rovers, Jaguars and Volvos locally.
So when the informal question and answer session was under way at the Range Rover
TDV8 (TD for turbodiesel), and motoring media pundits were waffling on about pricing, Wal had his say, in his usual direct way.
There was muttering from the media about the Rangie’s high pricetag and the high cost of accessories for it, and a general impression that was it all really value-for-money?
In steps Wal: “People buy Range Rovers because they can,” he said.
And Motorcorp delivers very few in standard specification. Most have added-cost extras fitted, most commonly custom wheels – 20-inch diameter on the TDV8, for instance, in place of the standard 19-inch alloys.
The implication is clear – price is likely not to be a key consideration in a new Range Rover buyer’s mind.
Buying a Range Rover makes a statement about who you are and your status, never mind that the price for the test TDV8 starts at $179,990.
Range Rovers are a symbol of conspicuous consumption, but now you can add a
third “C” – conscience. Because the TDV8 is kinder on the atmosphere and uses less fuel than its petrol-engined stablemate.
Land Rover quotes an impressive 11.3 litres/100km for the TDV8 on the combined cycle. We didn’t match that, though our driving was biased towards the city. We got 14.5 litres/100km with only hard open road and minimal motorway cruising added to extensive city running.
The twin turbocharged engine exceeds EU4 emission standards.
It’s some engine, delivering 54 percent more power and 64 percent more torque than the six-cylinder diesel it replaces, but yielding the same fuel economy.
Maximum power is 200kW and peak torque is a massive 640Nm, more than 400Nm of which is on tap from 1250rpm – even that figure is 10Nm more than the old model’s peak torque.
Acceleration is much improved – now 9.2 seconds to 100km/h, down from 13.6 seconds for the old model.
Top speed is limited electronically to 200km/h.
All four wheels are driven through a six-speed automatic gearbox.
On the road, the TDV8 delivers phenomenally-smooth performance, the six-speed auto gearbox totally unobtrusive.
You can shift it manually if you want to, but there’s so much torque on tap that there’s seldom any real reason to do so.
Handling, albeit assisted by various electronic devices, is surprisingly-agile for such a tall car (1863mm), and the Range Rover will change direction with aplomb.
Occasionally, though, you get a gentle – sometimes not so gentle – reminder that you are indeed driving a very large vehicle that weighs more than 2500kg.
Turn into a roundabout a bit too eagerly, and you’ll get some sledging but by and large the handling is totally benign. There’s crisp turn-in to corners and reasonable feel through the steering, though it’s fractionally vague around the straight-ahead.
Cornering powers are high, and the TDV8 scampered at 100km/h around corners that a decade or so ago we found more than moderately challenging in a mid-sized sedan.
You need to take into account the vehicle’s height and bulk when choosing cornering lines, but generally it will cover even demanding going at a clip that would be more than acceptable in a well-sorted car.
But the most satisfying moment comes when you roll back on to the throttle as
you exit an open-road corner and that seamless, creamy torque wells into action under your right foot. Few vehicles of any sort have such a slinky smoothness and velvet feel.
The brakes do a good job of hauling this big vehicle down from speed, although there was some softening of the pedal after a particularly hard thrash along a winding section of road.
The test vehicle came with the muted interior Wal Dumper favours for his new-look Range Rover and Jaguar lines – not a piece of woodgrain in sight, but if you must complement the leather
upholstery with wood you can order it as an added-cost option.
Generally we liked the more technical look, though the dashboard layout remained a little fussy for our tastes, especially after climbing out of a Volvo with that marque’s exquisitely minimalistic facia design.
The seats are superbly comfortable, the view from the driver’s seat commanding.
The cabin is a nice place to be, with road and wind noise minimal, and the diesel engine pleasingly free of clatter or harshness.
The Range Rover’s off-road pedigree is a given: this is one very competent vehicle when the going gets rough, despite the luxuries it’s fitted with.
The old slogan called it and its siblings the best 4x4s by far, and this most upmarket of models is as tough as they come, the archetypal British hard man in a Saville Row suit.
Not a lot of people can afford a vehicle of this sort, but after a week at the wheel we can understand why they’d buy one.
Few vehicles we’ve driven can cover the miles in such a refined and effortless fashion.
It’s still a symbol of conspicuous consumption, but with the diesel under the bonnet and the cleaner emissions and greater fuel economy that come with it, Range Rover owners can now drive their automotive status symbols with a greater sense of ecological conscience.