The new Range Rover enhances the sublime

Of all the varied tasks in the automotive world, being asked to improve an already completed model more than likely serves as the biggest challenge for even the most experienced engineer or designer.

And when the product in question also comes with an iconic reputation dating back more than fifty years, saying yes is anything but easy. Case in point, the new Range Rover.

The founder’s criticism is nothing to worry about

Introduced in 1970 as a plusher version of the Land Rover, it quickly became the benchmark luxury off-roader that stayed true to its heritage despite its appeal, changing from a simple mud machine to a luxury status symbol, much to the chagrin of its designer, Charles Spencer King.

In what has become a famously documented anti-SUV tirade, the man better known as Spence King told the BBC in 2004, “4×4 has become an alternative to a Mercedes or BMW for the cocky, self-sufficient driver.

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“[It] it was never intended as a status symbol, but later incarnations of my design seem to be intended for that purpose.

“Using a 4×4 for the school run or even in cities at all is complete nonsense. I find people who use it as such deeply unattractive”.

New Range Rover road test South Africa
Although it pays homage to the original, the rear of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is perhaps the most controversial aspect of the new model

The merits of King’s criticisms, perhaps no better illustrated than today, presented further challenges as the emphasis on luxury and technology had to be balanced with off-road capability despite a shift in buyer focus.

For the team led by Jaguar-Land Rover design chief Gerry McGovern, the stakes couldn’t be higher, but the first all-new Range Rover in nearly a decade made an immediate impression at its global launch last year. So much so that the waiting list is now twelve months back.

A story about evolution

Unveiled at a gala debut in South Africa earlier this year, the new, internally badged L460 Range Rover is not only lighter and stiffer than before, but also more imposing and intent on rewriting the definition of impressive.

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The first two models to ride on the MLA-Flex platform, the other being the new Range Rover Sport, Land Rover has taken what can be seen as an evolutionary step in front-end design.

New Range Rover road test South Africa
Despite being the same length as the standard model, the L has a 200mm longer wheelbase

Best described as subtly restyled, the still rounded front features the same headlight and grille design as the previous Range Rover, but refined to look as imposing and elegant as before. For the record, the lights themselves are now digital rather than conventional LEDs.

More controversial is the rear, which, while paying homage to the original concept, echoes that of the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, as the vertical LED taillights are thinner and the clusters are blacked out.

New Range Rover road test South Africa
Despite its extra mass and length, the L doesn’t let its luxury side get in the way when it comes to getting dirty

As before, the split tailgate remains, albeit now electric and fitted with what Land Rover calls an ‘event package’, in which the floor panel rises to prevent luggage from rolling away or acts as a backrest, like the seats are evidenced by the lower back door.

In addition to automatically retracting the trunk lid, speakers are integrated into the trunk lid and can be programmed to be the sole functional audio providers of the Meridian sound system with up to 35 speakers.

Inside and out

On the inside, however, the Range Rover becomes truly advanced. In addition to the new 13.1-inch Pivi Pro infotainment system, 13.7-inch digital instrument cluster and optional 11.4-inch dual rear displays, it also features speakers integrated into the headrests as part of the active noise cancellation, soft-close doors and a digital rear-view mirror.

New Range Rover road test South Africa
The interior features the new 13.1-inch Pivi Pro infotainment system and a 13.7-inch instrument panel

The tech fest extends to the chassis, where the Range Rover comes standard with all-wheel steering designed to aid low-speed maneuverability, a 48-volt mild hybrid electronic air suspension called Dynamic Response Pro, and an active locking rear differential.

New Range Rover road test South Africa
Headroom and legroom in a standard wheelbase Range Rover won’t cause any complaints…

Along with Driveline Dynamics, which varies the torque between the axles, Land Rover has also fitted the Range Rover with new anti-roll bars, twin-valve dampers and an improved Terrain Response 2 system, still with a low-range gearbox.

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New Range Rover road test South Africa
… but for the full effect is the long wheelbase

The technology doesn’t downplay the equally new power methods under the bonnet, two of which were given an official ‘first drive’ in Cape Town last week.

A new heart of the Range Rover

In total, the Range Rover range spans four trim levels; HSE, Autobiography, First Edition and SV, a choice of standard or long wheelbase with five or seven seats and three engine options, all mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox with shifter.

First up was the P530, which tops the petrol range with 390kW/750Nm from its BMW-sourced 4.4-litre bi-turbo V8.

New Range Rover road test South Africa
Probably for the first time, no cheap or discounted materials were seen inside

Replacing the venerable Ford-sourced 5.0-litre AJ supercharged V8, the unit is the same used in the M850i, X5, X6 and X7, but for South Africa, ditches the 48-volt mild hybrid setup used in Europe.

Although it lacks the supercharged whine that has been part of the Range Rover’s character for so long, the bi-turbo V8 is anything but eager for pace.

New Range Rover road test South Africa
As part of the long wheelbase, the center console lowers electrically

Burdened with a guttural growl that turns into a snarling roar at full throttle, it needs no second invitation to raise the 2,510kg P530’s noise when provoked, while pushing its occupant back into their heated and ventilated seats with a debilitating rush of endless spraying that becomes completely addictive and intoxicating.

At the other end of the scale is the D350. Although all powertrain versions were in Autobiography specification, which Land Rover expects to be the best seller, the oil burner was placed in the long-wheelbase five-seat L, whose wheelbase stretches 200mm longer than the standard model.

New Range Rover road test South Africa
A new eight-inch display integrated into the rear console controls a number of functions from the rear seats

Unsurprisingly, it’s not as intuitive or immediately responsive as the P530’s V8, the in-house developed 257kW/700Nm 3.0-litre Ingenium inline-six, which replaces the old 3.6 TDV8 and is also without the mild hybrid system, is smooth and quiet. but he can still turn his nose up when asked.

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Despite being noticeably slower from 0-100km/h, 6.1 seconds versus 4.6 seconds, the lower power output, the 50Nm torque deficit, the added length and 2,495kg mass, 55kg more than standard, didn’t affect the D350 much as it remained as refined on and off-road as the P530.

New Range Rover road test South Africa
Dual 11.4-inch displays are part of the rear seat entertainment system

A third powertrain arrives next year, the P510e, which combines a 3.0-litre Ingenium inline-six turbo petrol with a 38.2-kWh lithium-ion battery driving a 105kW electric motor for a total system output of 375kW and a claimed range of 113km.

Unlike its siblings, the P510e won’t come with the long wheelbase that suited the relaxed nature of the D350, as opposed to the sporty intentions of the P530.

Finding bugs is a struggle

In addition to the aforementioned rear display, the long-wheelbase option comes with an electronically adjustable center console that contains an integrated eight-inch touchscreen unit and reclining seats that give the feel of a business jet while also having a massage.

New Range Rover road test South Africa
In a Range Rover first, the floor panel folds down to serve as a backrest, while the lower tailgate functions as a seat

Despite the standard fitment of 23-inch alloy wheels also fitted to the P530, the D350 just floated down the road and felt at ease on the stretch of gravel road where my driver and I both doubted whether we were actually on gravel.

New Range Rover road test South Africa
Integrated into the trunk lid, the rear speakers for the Meridian sound system can be adjusted to provide the only audio source

The quality and finish was stronger. In a case unknown to most scribes, not a single cheap or inappropriate piece of plastic or material was spotted.


Bar exotics like the Aston Martin DBX and Lamborghini Urus, the Range Rover probably rates as the best and most capable mass-produced off-roader currently on sale, one of my colleagues said at the end of the two-day luxury jaunt.

New Range Rover road test South Africa
The Autobiography is expected to account for the largest share of Range Rover’s domestic sales

It is a feeling that simply cannot be argued with or questioned, as the enhancement of the sublime is indeed possible in the most dramatic and incredible way possible.


Standard across the Range Rover range is a five-year/100,000km maintenance plan.

  • D350 HSE – R2 947 000
  • D350 CV – R3 409 000
  • D350 CV L – R3 494 000
  • D350 Autobiography L seven-seater – R3 525 000
  • D350 First Edition – R3 537 000
  • D350 First Edition L – R3 621 000
  • D350 SV – R3 973 000
  • D350 SV L – R4 407 000
  • P510e CV – R3 633 000
  • P510e First Edition – R3 689 000
  • P510e SV – R4 081 000
  • P530 HSE – R3 117 000
  • P530 CV – R3 579 000
  • P530 Resume L – R3 664 000
  • P530 Autobiography L seven-seater – R3 695 000
  • P530 First Edition – R3 688 000
  • P530 First Edition L – R3 773 000
  • P530 SV – R4 038 000
  • P530 SV L – R4 473 000

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