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Performance of TDV8 and eight-speed transmission, stylish appearance, opulent interior
Room for improvement
Some minor dash rattles, feel of transmission selector dial operation, digital guages not as classy as conventional dials
9 Feb 2011
WITH 700Nm of torque from the new TDV8 engine on tap under the accelerator pedal, there is nothing else on or off road like the top-of-the-range Range Rover Vogue.
No other vehicle comes close to melding the mix of performance, luxury, on- and off-road ability and style that the Range Rover does so well.
With 40 years of evolution behind it, the Rangie has the pedigree to stake its claim as the ultimate luxury off-roader, but the quality of its trim, features, refinment and equipment levels put it on par with the upper end of luxury sedans from Europe and the UK.
With all that torque, the TDV8 Vogue was always going to be a supurb drive. Forget that fact that it weights 2.8-tonnes or that the engine is super economincal toque talks and this mill speaks volumes.
It might be the slowest-accelerating variant of the three engines in the range Rover line up, but the new TDV8 is no slow poke.
Mash that long-travel pedal and the engine bellows like a wounded bull, sounding nothing like a diesel SUV but more like a V8 saloon car.
100km/h sweeps up on the Playstation-like digital dashboard in just 7.8 seconds and the Rangie doesn’t show any signs of slowing down before we ease off the power.
Want more? The supercharged petrol V8 gets to 100 in just 6.2 seconds, while the naturally aspirated V8 does it in 7.6. But neither of the petrol engines can match the TDV8 for fuel efficiency and relaxed gait.
With combined cycle diesel consumption claimed to be just 9.4L/100km, the TDV8 Vogue is the most fuel-efficient Range Rover ever, although on our single-day drive, the on-board computer indicated an average in the low 10s. That’s better than you’ll get out of most average Australian six-cylinder family sedans.
Driving the 2011 TDV8 is a new experience from the time you climb in to the plush interior, with so much premium hide inside the Autobiography that we wonder how long it will be before Range Rover’s Indian owners take offence and ban its use.
The seating position is still commanding giving a great view through the big glasshouse over a low waistline and the heated steering wheel is adjusted electronically for both reach and height.
The difference for 2011 starts once you press the button, and the 4.4-litre engine rumbles into life. It’s a loping growl with just a hint of diesel tick.
Gear selection in the new ZF eight-speed transmission is via a dial that raises out of the centre console where you would normally expect the shift lever to be.
The dial is simple to use but it does not have the solid feel of its detent that makes the rest of the Range Rover feel so bullet-proof.
The dial selects Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive or Sport modes with individual forward gear selection available by operating the shift paddles at your fingertips behind the steering wheel.
This shifting method is used only on the new eight-speed transmission, and the six-speed ZF behind the petrol engines uses a more traditional shift lever.
Up to highway speeds, the sound of the engine disappears and the only thing heard is the air moving over the large wagon body. A problem of creating such a refined drive line is that you hear the sounds of something else and in this case it is the wind noise, although it is whisper quiet. The premium Harmon Kardon sound system soon puts that out of your mind.
The transmission slips seemlessly though its close ratios to the highest gear to achieve the best fuel economy.
Just squeeze down the throttle pedal and the Rangie ups the pace without kicking back a gear.
Quicker acceleration comes by either stomping the go-pedal or tipping back the left-hand gear selector paddle a couple of times to chose a lower ratio. With so many gears to chose from, you find yourself tipping back a couple more times than you expect.
While the gear shifts are inperceptible at low throttle percentages, they become quicker and sharper as more is asked of the engine and transmission. A more aggressive driving style prompts the clever transmission to hold gears longer for more spirited performance, but this seems to be equally impressive if you manually shift earlier though to a higher ratio and ride the engine’s 700Nm to its fullest.
The big heavy Rangie corners like it has no right to. Plenty of body roll is in evidence as the air strut suspension does its best to manage the weight shift, but the massive low profile tyres hang on and the driver can turn in harder than you thought possible, and the Vogue powers through bends aided by further application of the throttle.
The 20-inch alloys wheels envelope monster 380mm brake discs with the Range Rover moniker emblazoned on the six-piston Brembo callipers. The brakes are shared with the superchaged model, doing an amazing job of reigning in the velocity of such a large mass and they do it without fuss or complaint.
The Vogue does not turn or stop quiet so well as an BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne, but neither of those vehicles could keep up with the Range Rover once the sealed road runs out and the track deteriorates.
Few people will take their $200,000 4x4 off road, but Range Rover owners like to know their vehicle will take them anywhere they dare and further than any other luxury vehicle.
If you can get over the idea of taking such a vehicle in the bush, the only thing that restricts how far you go is the road-biased low-profile tyres that are needed to manage the vehicle’s exceptional on road performance.
Terrain Response selections for mud and ruts, grass, gravel, snow: sand or rock are now make via a rocker switch at the back the console beside the switches for the height-adjustable suspesnion and low-range botton, but this drive did not venture off road or require any of these features.
The forest trails that we did traverse were covered with grace and ease, the supple suspension isolating the occupants from the rocky tracks.
The Vogue might be at home in the bush, the desert or on a snow-covered mountain, but most of them will wear out their big tyres on city streets ferrying heads of business and industry between multimillion dollar homes and their high-rise office buildings, in style.
The big heated and cooled seats offer multitudes of adjustment to give the best driving position, and for those who choose to be chauffer-driven, the rear seats can be optioned with power adjustment, cooling and heating.
A brief stint in the rear pew revealed plenty of space in the back, but the seat itself was firm compared with the comfy cushion up front.
The Vogue feels big, delivering a sense of command and authority.
From behind the wheel of the Vogue you feel like you own the road and nothing can stop you, yet it remains easy to manoeuvre and the turning circle feels tighter than the 12.6-metres quoted by the manufacturer.
The ease of use is aided by the excellent view around the Rangie either through the windows or via the cameras and clever two-way TFT screen.
The small gripes we had such as the feel of the transmission selector dial and the look of the digital gauges are really only clutching at straws because the Vogue is such a complete vehicle. One that offers the optimum of luxury, style and refinement, the pinnacle of off-road ability and the on-road performance to keep up with the best sports SUVs.
The dash rattle we experienced was annoying but was only evident of gravel roads and should have been easy to rectify.
The new-found efficiency affored by the new TDV8 engine and eight-speed transmission only improved what is a highly polished package.
It is difficult to believe that the Range Rover could be improved, but the all-new replacment due toward the end of 2012 promises even better performance and eficiency though lighter weight (and the current Vogue has plenty of weight to lose).
Until that vehicle arrives, the L322 Vogue is still the king, a fitting tribute to the creator of the original Range Rover Charles Spencer ‘Spen’ King, who died last year after a bicycle accident.
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