thumb_gw230113kia_thumbThe fourth generation all new Range Rover designed and built in Britain has arrived.

The first deliveries to UK customers began this week and around 10% of production will be allocated to the UK market, approximately 5,000 units.

Jeremy Hicks, Managing Director of Land Rover in the UK said at the press launch this week that their allocation of the new range is already mainly spoken for by their 120 strong dealer network.

Since its takeover by the Indian TATA industrial conglomerate, UK based Land Rover has flourished with record production for over 170 countries last year reaching 303,000 vehicles of which 27,500 were Range Rovers.  The production of Range Rovers for worldwide deliveries was slightly down last year due to the model changeover.   

Total UK sales of all Land/Range Rover models in the UK in 2012 were a record year at 54,480 units, a rise of 24.4% over 2011.

Prices for the all-new fourth generation Range Rover start at £71,295 and rise to £98,395  but traditionally UK buyers  will order extra cost options so in theory the top price for their top model could be close to £110,000.  Around 90% of Range Rovers UK sales go to retail customers but many of the owners use their vehicles for business purposes.

There are Vogue, Vogue SE Autobiography and Supercharged levels of specification depending on which engine is chosen. All units offer high power and torque outputs delivering swift and effortless performance.  Customers have a choice of a petrol 5.0-litre, 503bhp V8 Supercharged unit, a brand new 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel with 254bhp and a 4.4-litre  V8 turbodiesel  with 334bhp, all of which are now paired with a smooth and responsive eight-speed automatic transmission. A further power unit, a diesel hybrid version with CO2 emissions of 169g/km, will be introduced later this year as will a new Range Rover Sport.

Range roverLand Rover expects the new 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel with its CO2 emissions of 196g/km and Combined Cycle fuel consumption of 37.7mpg to be the main selling unit closely followed by the 4.4-litre V8 turbodiesel with emissions of 229g/km returning an official 32.5mpg.  The 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol engine will appeal to an expected 10% of UK customers not put off by the 322g/km of CO2 emissions or the 20.5mpg figure.  Potentially the best selling new Range Rover in the UK will be the 3.0-litre diesel with Autobiography specification priced at £87,895.

The Range Rover, first introduced as a two door model 43 years ago in 1970 priced at £1,998, has through three generations established itself as the finest SUV combining supreme off road capabilities with always improving on-road driving dynamics and more luxurious interior all supported by more and more electronic driving aids. Today the Range Rover is the vehicle of choice for Royals, the rich, the celebrities and the image conscious.  The latest new model takes it to another higher level and combines more than ever before supreme off road performance with limousine car ride, comfort and specification. Whereas previous Range Rovers could be said to have been the finest SUVs/4x4s of their days, today we could say the latest generation is not only the finest luxury SUV but the most all-round capable car in the world.

It combines the luxury, comfort, status, image, quality and technical refinement of a luxury car with the best 4x4 on and off road capabilities.  It can equally compete against the likes of Rolls Royce and Bentley models for luxury and will compete against previous Range Rovers for the title of best 4x4 ever.

It is not really likely that many Range Rover owners are going to start throwing their new vehicles into the undergrowth and go off-roading or allow a wet and smelly gundog back into the load area of the sumptuous vehicle at a ‘shoot’. But the new Range Rover will of course become a familiar sight at country events such as horse racing, polo, in the player’s car park at Premiership football clubs and motorsport events just as much as they will appear at the end of the ‘red carpet’ at celebrity events or at royal households, stately homes and being chauffer driven for politicians and business executives.

The new British designed and engineered Range Rover is the world’s first SUV with a lightweight, all-aluminium monocoque body structure which offers a 420kg weight Range Roversaving over outgoing models delivering more agility, better handling, improved fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions.   The new model still weighs nearly 2.2-tonnes in its lightest form but the bodyshell, not the complete vehicle, now weighs less than a BMW 3-Series bodyshell claims Land Rover. The new aluminium front and rear suspension delivers class-leading 597mm of travel for off-road work and the wading depth has increased 200mm to 900mm.  The braked towing weight is 3,500kg.The vehicle is manufactured at a state-of-the-art aluminium manufacturing facility at Solihull Birmingham and next year Land Rover opens a new engine plant in Wolverhampton.

The durability of the new Range Rover has involved 300 test vehicles covering thousands of miles during 18 months of arduous tests in over 20 countries with extreme climate and road surfaces. They cannot afford for unreliability issues to cloud this fourth generation ‘Rangie’.

The styling of the new model remains a true Range Rover at just under five metres in length, has a more swept back windscreen, swept forward rear tailgate window and a less upright front grille flanked by distinctive LED daytime running lights.  The signature twin upper and lower rear tailgate design is retained  and the roofline now lowers towards the rear and the glass area remain large giving the usual first class visibility from the command seating positions.  The four door Range Rover has five seats or it can be ordered in four seat configuration with the new Executive Class individual rear seating. 

Rear seat passengers now have over 118mm more legroom due in part to a 40mm longer wheelbase. The rear seats are also electrically adjustable and can even be folded by the push of a button. The interior is pure luxury including wood veneer which looks as though it is part of the structure of the car rather than a stick-on trim finish. Leather seating, fascia, and door panels are not just coverings but proper upholstery. Comprehensive instrumentation, DAB radio as standard, symphony sound system and touchscreen controls extend the luxury car finish.  Some of the many extra cost options include the largest sliding panoramic sunroof for any SUV at a mere £1,500 but I would object to paying £200 for the full size spare wheel, a must for any heavyweight SUV.

In addition to the usual full-time intelligent 4WD system with a two speed transfer box, Land Rover’s Terrain Response system is now in its second generation which analyses the current driving conditions and automatically selects the most suitable vehicle setting.  Despite it being a technically advanced vehicle, driving is exceptionally easy with most drivetrain functions automatically selected. The air suspension also has the usual ride height adjustment and the new version gives less body roll during cornering giving a more composed ride true to its luxury car status.

Range Rover Very noticeable is the hushed interior. There is virtually no road noise intrusion even from the largest 22-inch wheel option, little vibration from the wheels or drivetrain, no wind noise intrusion and the engine noise is minimal inside the passenger compartment because the vehicle has a double bulkhead.

 Land Rover couldn’t have wished for better weather conditions, deep heavy snow and ice,  that greeted motor journalists at the UK press launch for the new Range Rover in the North Cotswolds and at Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire, their long-term  and seriously challenging off-road test facility.

If ever there was a vehicle suited to arctic conditions it is the Range Rover which shrugged off the snow covered roads with its customary 4x4 ease. Off-road driving in the forests around Eastnor Castle is challenging in the dry, let alone 10-inch deep snow, 18-inch deep muddy ruts, over two feet deep icy muddy water hazards and once it became dark freezing ice covered near vertical climbs and descends.   Over several decades I’ve driven new Land Rover models in rain, mud and sun at this facility, including the original two door Range Rovers, but I’ve never driven the hazards in the dark and in very deep snow.  It was magical, glistening frosted snow from the headlights and done without mishap and without feeling daunting because the vehicle is so capable and the latest Terrain Response so easy to use with virtually no input from me.

During our on-road driving spell the new 3.0-litre, V6, 254bhp turbodiesel unit with an impressive 442lb ft of torque at 2,000rpm will fit the bill for most buyers.  The high torque makes it responsive to the right foot and it’s flexible and quiet to drive.  However its real-life fuel economy for our country roads driving route was just 24mpg, too far away from the 37.7mpg figure, even though the weather was cold. Perhaps this 3.0-litre engine has to work too hard at times and in so doing uses more fuel.

The better option during our test drive proved to be the 4.4-litre V8 334bhp turbodiesel with a massive 516lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm.  It was immediately noticeable that this is the perkier engine and probably the one to go for depending on budget. Interestingly the on-road driving fuel consumption was better at 27.3mpg than the 3.0-litre model driven over similar roads because this more powerful unit doesn’t have to work so hard.  The official figure is 32.5mpg. 

Range RoverWe also used this model during our serious off-road driving in deep snow, deep water, steep up and down tracks in terrain and conditions that would break many other 4x4s. Whilst this model is the supreme off-roader because of its power and torque and the sophisticated all wheel drive system, that wasn’t to say that our 4.4-litre Autobiography didn’t have a few reliability issues during our time with it.  On-road driving during two occasions it felt as though the engine suffered minor power loss, almost like a miss-fire. Driving off-road the inside of the vehicle smelt of diesel fumes and finally the exhaust particulate filter warning light came on saying the filter bowl was nearly full.  This was caused by the three hours of slow up and down hill off-roading I’m told, but it didn’t happen to other new Range Rovers also on the test at that time in the same conditions. Perhaps all three faults were connected but I hope Land Rover’s past problems with reliability do not reappear to tarnish the reputation of its latest and finest model range yet. 

MILESTONES. Range Rover 3.0L TDV6 Diesel Autobiography. (Potentially the best selling model). Price: £87,895. Engine/transmission: 3.0-litre, V6, 24-valve, sequential turbocharging, 254bhp, 442lb ft of torque from  2,000rpm, 8-speed automatic, permanent all-wheel drive, high/low ratios, centre differential and optional rear diff-lock. Performance: 130mph, 0-62mph 7.9 seconds, 37.7mpg 924mpg on test (on-road), CO2 196g/km, VED road tax £460 First Year rate then £250 second year onwards, BIK company car tax 33%. Insurance group: 50 (tbc). Dimensions/capacities: L 4,999mm, W 1,983mm, H 1,835mm, wading depth 900mm, boot/load space 550 to 2,030-litres, braked towing weight 3,500rpm. For: Iconic British built luxury car for on and off-road driving, probably the most capable car in the world, lightweight body, sumptuous interior, improved rear passenger legroom, fleet-of-foot and agile on-road, a giant off-road. Against: Costly to buy and run, not that fuel frugal, a couple of technical issues on our test drive 4.4L version.  Miles Better News Agency 

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