I’ve just spent the weekend bouncing around the new Land Rover Experience at Eastnor Castle, in Herefordshire. It’s rather unusual that they use Defender’s for the exercise – a vehicle Land Rover doesn’t make any more.
Perhaps part of the reason is that currently, there isn’t a ‘proper’ Land Rover that could handle the Eastnore course – used for decades to test Defenders to the limit.
I doubt the Discovery Sport would get that far either, even though it is more than capable in the dirt. Who would have to scuff those 20-inch Aeroviper alloys, or risk a mud bath around the leather cabin?
Until the new Defender arrives, the Landie fleet is rather lacking a rufty-tufty model. The Disco Sport is very much an urban mobile – but its for parking on the pavement rather than a full-on off-road experience…
The only chance I get to drive off-road these days is taking my lawn cuttings to the farm compost heap. Today I did it in luxury – gliding down the rutted track in the Range Rover.
Sometimes you forget how good this vehicle is in the dirt. The Rangey is classed as ‘luxury SUV’ and shamefully, few owners will ever engage the Terrain Response off-road software.
If they did, they would discover just how far off the tarmac you can travel in such a large and heavy machine. You will lose your bottle way before the land Rover gives up.
All this is done inside a beautifully appointed cabin, listening to The Archers on the radio and relaxing in sumptuous leather seats. Farmers never had it so good.
Nothing comes close, wherever you want to drive it…
Sixteen years ago I decided to live in a car for two days. Unfortunately, it was a Ford Focus estate and my company was a particularly smelly journalist with bad teeth.
It was as difficult as you can imagine – everything had to be ‘done’ in the car for 48 hours. I mention this because I can say that goday, there is no other vehicle I’d rather spend 48 hours in than the Range Rover.
Headroom in the cabin is so high I can almost walk about. The Autobiography has a TV system in the rear, the seats recline and are heated. I mean, what else could you want?
It’s much more comfortable that flying long distance to Australia – and with a drive-through Costa near here, the food isn’t too bad either.
You can’t claim the Range Rover Hybrid is green enough to help save the lush fields of England. No, no, no.
It is, after all, equipped with an electric motor so small that it would barely power an electric toothbrush (by the way, one of the few features not fitted as standard to this Autobiography model).
Instead, the real grunt of the Hybrid comes from the same 3.0-litre TDV6 fitted to the standard Rangey, which without the £10,000 hybrid technology, returns 40.9mpg and emits 182g/km of nasties.
The Hybrid by comparison returns 44.1mpg and emits 169g/km. Slightly better but nowhere near good enough to beat the London Congestion Charge – and only saves a meagre £20 on your annual road tax bill.
But you wouldn’t believe the amount of interest I’ve got in this particular Range Rover over the weekend. It’s like driving an SUV powered by a wind up elastic band.
I suppose we’ve always thought of Range Rovers as gas-guzzling monsters. But while the Hybrid version may not be perfect, it does show the direction Land Rover is travelling.
And you can bet your last few acres that somebody at Land Rover in Birmingham is already perfecting the first all-electric Range Rover too…
There are few clues that this Range Rover is equipped with electric technology. A discreet badge on the boot reads ‘Hybrid’ but otherwise this looks like a standard diesel version.
And that’s just the way Land Rover want it. The Range Rover is the company’s most conservative model – any change is greeted with scepticism.
In truth, it’s also hard to tell the Hybrid is being powered by a 47bhp motor when driven too. It may start silently but any pressure on the accelerator swiftly brings the 292bhp V6 engine in to play.
To really get any benefit from this model then you need to live in a stop-start city environment, long for improved fuel economy and have a strong will to be greener than other Rangey owners.
A longer electric range of more than just one mile would make it a truly great car…
Bolt may have another gold to hang on his bedpost today but the story that caught my eye was a hotel in Lapland offering a dream job – watching the Aurora Borealis.
More than 200 people applied for the position in Finland last year and now it’s up for grabs again. Sadly it doesn’t come with a Range Rover as a company car.
Shame because even I would be tempted if that was so. Few Range Rovers hit the dirt these days, even though we all know it is THE machine for handling the rough stuff.
There’s tons of onboard technology to cover any terrain but unlike many rivals, the Range Rover cabin doesn’t scream about them.
It’s a classy place to sit, beautiful in all areas and better than a Mercedes S-class. If only they had one on offer in Lapland…
Let’s get one thing straight. The electric motor in the Range Rover Hybrid isn’t designed to pull the king of SUVs along at a smart pace. It very much works in tandem with the V6 diesel engine and can only move the Rangey for one mile under electric power alone.
The battery is recharged under engine deceleration and working with the diesel unit offers the same kind of performance as the larger, V8 diesel. Plus much better economy.
It’s also rare to trundle around the streets in silence in the Hybrid because even the slightest acceleration makes the diesel unit kick in. If you drive most of the time in the country, opt for the standard V6 diesel instead because the Hybrid will offer no benefits.
Still, the 44mpg economy is impressive for such a large car and those rare moments when the electric motor does take over are almost worth the wait…