It seems ages since the latest generation L405 Range Rover was launched – and yet, it’s only now that I’ve finally driven one. Four years on from its triumphant launch, and now a relatively common sight on UK roads, it’s great to be able to put some perspective on what for many of us could well be the best all-rounder in the world.
After a week behind the wheel of the Range Rover Autobiography, I reckon this lofty off-roader really does have a legitimate claim at this title – and, whatever your views, the fact we build a car capable of evoking these feelings, makes me very proud to be British. Funnily enough, when I stated this very fact on social media, one Smart Alec replied along the lines that, ‘Don’t you mean to say you’re a member of the proud Indian Empire?’
Maybe, but hey – given that Tata backed JLR so resoundingly, that Indian connection is very positive indeed. And all those British Engineers, Designers and others in the cast of thousands responsible for the company’s success mean this is as British as British can be. But I digress. Range Rover the best car in the world? Really?
Yeah, I know that’s a lofty statement. Not least because you don’t even need to look overseas for cars that have an equally legitimate claim to be the best. Consider the Rolls-Royce Phantom or Ghost, or perhaps the Bentley Mulsanne as astonishing luxury saloons, or the McLaren P1 as the most capable supercar money can buy, and you’ll see that us Brits build many, many superlative cars. And that makes me incredibly proud.
So why should the relatively humble Range Rover eclipse these cars at being brilliant?
I’ll not go too deeply into the whys and wherefores of the L405 Range Rover. You’ve read the reviews, and will know how good it is already. Needless to say that you’ll feel special the moment you climb aboard. And if you’re not a fan of SUVs or off-roaders in general, you’ll throw your preconceptions out of the window from the off. The lofty driving position affords you a great view over all you survey, and the seats are supremely comfortable.
The interior design is a triumph of good taste and elegance, and all of the materials used are a tactile delight. The leather is soft, the wood’s finish is lustrous and the controls are a delight to use. The kit count is seriously impressive, with essential toys that includes a head-up display for the instrumentation, active LED headlights, radar guided cruise control, and – my favourite – a heated steering wheel. Yeah, I know.
However, forgetting all that for the moment, where the Range Rover truly scores in how it makes you feel special. That wonderful view out is something you’ll never get from any other luxury car, no matter what the price, and the interior design – how it looks and feels – is classy as well as functional. The low scuttle for great visibility and super-logical control layout make it child’s play to drive in the city as well as out in the country.
What, then, really makes the Range Rover the best car in the world for me? It has to be its all-round usability. Consider a luxury saloon – most are the size of the USS Nimitz, and need several parking bays to fit into. OK, so the Range Rover is also on the large side, but at least you can see out of it, and you’re not going to struggle to park it, given the plethora of cameras it offers you as soon as you’re down to walking speed. As for trying to do anything remotely practical in a McLaren P1? Forget it…
Then there’s its image and the one it conveys about you, the driver. Unlike a Rolls-Royce Ghost or Bentley Mulsanne, you’re unlikely to attract too much seething resentment from other drivers. Try exiting a side road on a busy morning in your average British city, and you will get let out. Not so with the big saloons… It’s not to say that there isn’t a little ostentatiousness about the current Range Rover but, in the right colour and trim, you’d be a long way from thinking of it as a ‘Chelsea Tractor’ or ‘Footballer’s car’.
It is, in essence, the best of British, and all the more wonderful for it. No other car offers its all-round blend of class, usability and desirability – and, although they keep on trying to match it, the Range Rover is still the best at what it does, by dint of how it does what it does. And because of these intangibles, I’d consider it the best. Best in the world? Yes – although, as this Autobiography version comes in at £110,000, it’s not the best car in the real world. That honour probably goes to a well-used Range Rover L322.
Either way, I’m glad we build it, and – yes – I’m proud that we do.