Car reviews - Land Rover - Range Rover - Vogue range
Land Rover models
Brilliant new Jaguar V8s, six-speed ZF auto, driveability, exterior styling, interior space and design, quieter cabin, body control, steering, brakes, build quality, new equipment - especially adaptive bi-Xenon headlights and rear DVD system
Room for improvement
Bulky kerb weight, fuel consumption, fussy grille design
5 Aug 2005
WHEN Land Rover released its third-generation Range Rover three years ago, it lacked for very little.
Stylistically its creator, BMW AG, captured the essence of the beautiful and evocative original with exquisite finesse.
Although its size and weight understandably ballooned with the demands and expectations of our times, the RR III's proportions were spot-on. Not an angle jarred. No details detracted. Nothing disappointed.
And BMW got it right inside too, with arguably one of the loveliest cabin architectures to ever grace a modern vehicle: traditional yet progressive elegant yet sumptuously excessive spacious yet cosseting warm yet super cool.
It was no fluke either, as the 1998 Rover 75 - another BMW highlight - oozed a similar deep understanding of the intrinsic nature of what the model should be.
But underneath that ridged bonnet beat the heart of a sporty yet refined Bavarian luxury sedan.
Which was fine except that for a 2.5-tonne luxury SUV a 'mere' 210kW of power and 440Nm of torque meant that it wasn't really going to be "Above It All" - to use the model's advertising tag.
Not when the Rangie was meant to rival seriously quick SUVs like the 250kW/420Nm Porsche Cayenne S (let alone the Turbo version's 331kW/620Nm) or VW's monster 750Nm Touareg range-topper.
Of course BMW doesn't own Land Rover any more - Ford does.
So in went a version of the supercharged 4.2-litre AJ-V8 (the only variant GoAuto drove on the launch) that Jaguar uses in its woefully underrated XJ.
And so the Range Rover - fully complete in so many different ways as the definitive luxury SUV - finally gets the horsepower it deserves on the occasion of its first facelift.
Harnessed - like its SUV competition - by ZF's superb six-speed automatic gearboxes, the AJ-V8's 291kW and 560Nm is more like it.
Now the RR charges forward regardless of incline with a mountainous thrust, sweeping past slower traffic with none of the silky inertia of the previous BMW V8.
It's a case now of muscle-over-matter as the RR falls into the category of being a really fast beast. It also makes the right whooshing noises, up-changes without sweat and tracks completely straight and true.
In a nutshell, it's the engine the rest of the car always deserved.
Because - for the RR's mass and girth - the hugely impressive handling and surefooted roadholding remain in the 2006 facelift. As do great steering, high levels of body control and strong brakes.
Obviously the driver is aware of how heavy this vehicle is - particularly when coasting down a steep hill or when threading through tight corners far faster than an SUV like this should - but then that's the whole point. The RR can.
Those worried about fuel consumption need not apply - or if they do, they shouldn't unleash the performance potential too often.
Everything else major about the RR has been pretty much left alone.
Sure, there are improvements like adaptive bi-Xenon headlights and the availability of Jaguar's excellent DVD rear entertainment system.
And now the 2006 RR is significantly quieter than today's already fairly hushed outgoing model due to some trick and effective aerodynamic, soundproofing and re-glazing work (plus the AJ-V8s are just less noisy anyway).
The grille treatment is a little too fussy for some, however.
But the core of what makes the current RR a modern classic and a true luxury vehicle - space, design, control and quality - are there in spades.
It's one of those rare luxury vehicles over $100,000 that actually seems like it's good value for money.
After a stint in this, the newer, Discovery III-based Range Rover Sport also launched at the same time (and previewed elsewhere) somehow didn't feel as tight or as taut despite being smaller, lighter and nimbler.
Even the standard 225kW/440Nm 4.4-litre AJ-V8 (not driven) is meant to be gutsier where it counts - although the 130kW turbo-diesel that BMW still supplies doesn't exactly supply supercar performance.
Roll on 2007's 3.6-litre turbo-diesel V8 then. In the meantime, today's RR lacks for even less than it did yesterday.
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