I finally managed to bag myself a close look at the Range Rover (L460) after months of waiting. Normally, I’d have been intimately familiar with one of the UK’s most influential cars by this point in its lifecycle, but thanks to a combination of COVID-19 last year, and a packed work and travel schedule, I missed all of the pre-launch activities – something that has me kicking myself. Hard…
However, they say that all good things come to those who wait, and getting behind the wheel and actually taking the L460 somewhere nice – for your benefit – will be one of those nice moments to look forward to in 2022. Right now, though, I’m in the position of an interested and concerned bystander. My colleagues, who have driven the new Rangie, are absolutely raving about it…
But then, you weren’t expecting anything else, were you? Jaguar Land Rover is going through some interesting times right now. The ‘J’ part of JLR is about to go through an existential reinvention of itself, and Land Rover is still struggling to fulfil its bulging order books because of the ongoing semi-conductor shortage leading to an eye-watering £455m loss in 2021. It’s an embattled organisation, no mistake, and it needs good news. Getting the Range Rover right, therefore, and building the perfect luxury all-weather, all-conditions car, is hugely important.
Why, you ask, when it has a £100k starting price, and we’re about to enter the toughest economic period since the end of World War II, possibly before, should it matter? Well, the rich are going to remain rich, and they will continue to buy cars – so Land Rover will gratefully receive their coin. Rural middle England is groaning under the weight of Range Rovers, and their owners will need to have a brilliant replacement come the time. More than that, the Range needs to be good because its tech will trickle down, and the halo that it casts needs to sprinkle stardust over the rest of the line-up.
So, the good news is that it’s scored that all-important bullseye. AROnline‘s first experience of the new Rangie in the USA was very positive, but we’re far from alone. CAR Magazine concluded: ‘This new Range Rover has taken great strides over the outgoing car, itself no slouch. Easier on the eye inside and out, the L460 is also infinitely more capable and rewarding to drive on the road, no less capable off it, roomier, more practical and quieter.
‘Its place in the world is much the same as that occupied by its predecessor, but it now has imperious confidence that borders on swagger. Yes, the Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne handle better, but few cars are as comfortable as the Range Rover or quite so well rounded. Welcome to the new luxury SUV benchmark.’
Autocar echoed that view: ‘It’s the versatility that impresses us most. On our day’s acquaintance with this D350, we experienced near-Rolls-Royce luxury and Land Rover Defender off-road ability within 15 minutes of one another. Chuck in much-improved rear space, the practicality of a huge boot, a tailgate you can sit on and a new level of city manoeuvrability via the four-wheel steering and you have one of the most versatile cars on the planet.
‘Small wonder Range Rover has had so many serial owners in its 52-year history. Small wonder, especially, that JLR already has 10,000 orders from owners keen to switch to the new model. They’re making a good decision.’
In terms of design, I reckon Gerry McGovern’s team has made the right calls. Stripping away the jewellery and minimalism (difficult on such a gargantuan car) and concentrating on the exterior surfacing has really done wonders for the L460. The way the light teases its flanks and arcs elegantly to reveal the car’s subtle curvaceousness is very effective. It’s turning fashion on its head, and weaponising good form by eschewing the ‘bling’ which had been creeping into luxury car design for too long.
Instead, the L460 returns to the ground-breaking elegance of the original L322’s interior transformation over the P38, where less was more – and class meant minimalism, not the addition of more for the sake of it. So, it’s a job well done, but can Land Rover sit back and congratulate itself on a job well done?
Yes, if creating the perfect luxury SUV for 2021 was the intended goal. However, we’re in a period of unprecedented change, and the motoring landscape is shifting beneath our feet alarmingly quickly. What was right in 2021 will find some very interesting challenges by 2025. Firstly, the lightest model in the range weighs 2505kg – and that’s with the benefit of its aluminium underpinnings allied with considerable experience gained in weight saving over the years.
Secondly, Jaguar Land Rover was in a brilliant position to capitalise on electrification with the launch of the I-Pace in 2017, where it stole a march on all of its competition. But here we are, five years on, and the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are now carpet-bombing the market with (increasingly good) EVs, while JLR still only offers the I-Pace, which has received only cursory updates in that time. Where is the all-electric Range Rover? They’re saying it’s going to be 2024.
There you have it, then – Land Rover has created a new benchmark luxury car that we can all be proud of. However, I can’t help but feel a slight uneasiness that, in getting the pinnacle of the model range perfected, they’ve missed a greater prize of producing something far more in tune with the incoming storm…