If bigger is better, then this has to be
the best Range Rover yet, with Britain's next luxury off-roader set to
grow bigger even than the Toyota Landcruiser, challenging even some of
America's gross 4x4s.
According to the UK's Autoexpress
magazine the new BMW-designed monster Range Rover goes on sale in the UK
in December 2001 - and it will be one of the most expensive cars in the
country, overturning your bank balance to the tune of some £100 000
(which, for purely comparitive purposes, equates to R1 089 000!).
Will it be worth it? According to one
senior Ford designer the inside is "the best interior I've seen on
any car, ever". And the exterior has been given a brand new look,
with hints of the Defender in the overlapping round headlamps which are
set each side of the enormous grille, and the retro look side and
indicator lamps., as well as vertical air intakes to the rear of the
At the back there are retro-look round
tail lights, too.
But despite the all-new bodywork, there
is still no mistaking the car as anything but a Range Rover. The model
keeps its distinctive raised bonnet edges, familiar window line and the
trademark split tailgate mechanism.
The new Range Rover is 50 mm longer in
the wheelbase than the current version, and although this might well
make the vehicle too cumbersome for London's Chelsea set, it does mean a
lot morfe room inside, especially in the back.
The stylish look inside matches the mixed
themes of the exterior, with retro touches such as chrome-ringed dials
and angular facia edges reminiscent of the original car of 1970, mixed
with the latest in technology and highest quality materials.
Despite the new Range Rover's larger size
and added equipment, engineers have managed to keep the weight down to
near that of the old model by developing a new bodyshell using racing
car practices including composite and alloy sheet bonded to structural
foam and aluminium extrusions. This will give the huge body the strength
and rigidity necessary to cope with the extremes of off-road use.
Land Rover is anxious to make sure its
reputation for off-road prowess is maintained with the new car, and the
firm has been cautious not to 'soften' the model's capability or image
– even if most owners will never call on a fraction of its potential
in the rough.
Insiders say new technology has made the
vehicle as refined as a Mercedes S-Class on the road, yet still the most
capable Land Rover yet off the beaten track. Key to this is a newly
developed, all-independent air suspension system with electronically
controlled damper and spring rates and new cornering enhancement
As with the current model, the bodywork
will sink lower to the ground to ease passenger access and exit, rise up
on the move, then decrease in height again to cut drag at speed.
Body roll will be limited by
computer-controlled hydraulics, as in the latest version of the
Discovery, making the car more stable and easier to handle on the limit
than with conventional suspension systems.
Head on to rougher terrain and the
suspension takes on another role. Sensors detect extra spring travel and
wheel slippage then automatically raise the body height and soften
damper rates to improve the ride. At its maximum level of travel the
Range Rover will have axle articulation far in excess of any other 4x4
on the civilian market. This technology will ensure the wheels have the
best chance of finding grip in slippery conditions.
There will also be a sophisticated
traction control and ESP system to help the driver keep control both on
Hill Descent Control
A traditional low-ratio gearbox will be
retained, although the car will also feature the firm's Hill Descent
Control system which uses the ABS to limit speed down slopes.
The biggest change to the Range Rover's
hardware – and an area of some controversy – will be the engines. As
the car was developed under the control of Land Rover's previous owner
BMW, it is no surprise to find the German company's engines under the
The entry-level model – costing around
R500 000 – will have the 4,4-litre V8 currently used in BMW's X5,
while the top variant will feature a reworked version of the V12
destined for the next 7-Series. This will give the Range Rover the power
and refinement it really needs to be considered a true rival to the
likes of Mercedes and Bentley in the super-luxury sector.
But it's the diesels that will really
widen the car's appeal. The current model has to struggle with an
underpowered 2,5-litre turbodiesel, so this will be replaced with some
of the most sophisticated and desirable oil-burners around, including
BMW's new 4-litre V8 and its 3-litre six-cylinder. All engines will be
tuned for additional low-down torque, suiting the Range Rover's extra
weight and off-road torque demands.
However, it is understood Ford is keen to
slot in its own engines. Expect a gradual substitution of the engines
for Ford-owned units, starting with a move to the 4-litre Jaguar motor
and followed by swap, changing to the 6-litre V12 from the Aston Martin