Range Rover: Backseat driver

By David Wilkins

The Range Rover is 420kg lighter than its predecessor.

Range Rover. Photo / Supplied
Range Rover. Photo / Supplied

Can you really tell how good a car is without driving it? My own view is that travelling in a car without taking the wheel doesn't normally allow you to make much of an assessment at all but I found a partial exception to the rule.

On the eve of the Paris Motor Show, I had the chance to join a small select group of journalists to experience the soon-to-be-launched fourth-generation Range Rover as a passenger.

One of the big changes to the new Range Rover is the adoption of an advanced aluminium body structure that addresses one of the few significant points of criticism of the old car - its weight. The fourth-generation model is 420kg lighter than its predecessor, and the impact of that change can immediately be felt when the car is under way.

The old model could wallow a bit but the new one has much better body control and also picks up speed under acceleration with an ease that was absent before. The previous car was fast, but there was always the feeling it was having to use brute force to punch a big square SUV-shaped hole through the air and overcome quite a bit of inertia before it really got into its stride.

This lighter, lower and aerodynamically slipperier vehicle is different.

And the back-seat passenger experience? The wheelbase has been stretched by 42mm and all of that and more has gone towards improving rear-seat leg room, which increases by 118mm.

If the standard back seat, which is very comfortable, doesn't do the job for you, you can opt for the what Land Rover calls the Executive Class seating option.

This provides two individual, separately adjustable rear seats, with a massage function and a centre console that is fully extended into the rear section of the passenger compartment.

The company says this car provides a "new level of material quality"; the out-going model, even towards the end of its decade-long life is a standard-setter when it comes to cabin ambience, but it's fair to say that its successor still manages to nudge the game forward quite a bit, with a cleaner, less cluttered dash layout, for example, although the underlying look is quite similar.

What motor industry types call NVH - or noise, vibration and harshness - is also improved, thanks to measures such as a stiffer body, better engine mounts, aerodynamic fine-tuning and an acoustic lamination applied to most of the windows. Ride comfort is impressive too - and speed bumps barely register.

The new car builds upon the already formidable systems of the old, with a new automatic version of Land Rover's Terrain Response technology promising to make cross-country driving - untested on this occasion - even easier.

I can hardly wait to get behind the wheel myself but on the evidence we have so far, the new Range Rover could be very good indeed.


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